Tonight as I was driving home I realized that in my head the new job was just a series of vacations I’d get to enjoy and write about for the next couple years. It’s like the idea that I’ll actually be working while I’m in all of these places kinda escaped me in the excitement of it all.
Sure, when I was shopping for new clothes my head was in cute professional mode – kinda. Really what I was often thinking was “Ooooh! This Brooks Brothers button-down will look great with a black pencil skirt and my 5″ zebra and pink heels when I’m walking through the airport on my way to who knows where” and not “I really want to look nice and professional when I walk into a financial advisor’s office to audit his/her branch.” My bad.
So it hit me. I’ll be doing actual work, too. I will have a job and not just be the official yelp reviewer for various restaurants around the country. Oh, yeah. I won’t just be having glasses of wine in the hotel bar in the evening, checking in to random places and meeting other travelers from near and far.
And as I sat here reflecting on the fact that I’d be doing actual work – work I’ve never done before – I realized that I haven’t thought much about that because after 14 years in this industry, and a well-rounded career including many different positions within it, I know my shit. I have the utmost confidence in my ability to do this job and do it well.
Hell, that’s how I sold myself in the cover letter that pretty much guaranteed I’d be hired. So much so that when I met with my new boss he barely had any questions for me and took the time to praise said letter, saying he’d never seen anything like it in his life. I knew it was good. I’d been pleased when I’d finished it and sent it off. But I also wasn’t just looking for a new job. I’d waited – very patiently – until THIS very specific job I wanted opened up and then I gave it my all.
I should go back and read that cover letter now in order to offer more insight and some tips into the cover letter writing process, but I’m a wee bit too lazy for all that. I do remember one of my main points in the letter, though. I’ve held many different positions in this industry and each one has taught me a lot, but the most valuable thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can teach pretty much anyone to do any job and what really matters in the end is personality. Being comfortable interacting with c-levels, financial advisors and operations personnel equally and – most importantly – leaving each one with a smile on his/her face at the end makes me valuable.
It wasn’t fluff. It wasn’t bullshit. And I fully believe my interview was just their way of confirming I meant and could back up every claim in that letter. And I did. I was genuine. I didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear, but instead the truth. When the VP asked me a question I couldn’t answer I thought for a very brief second and then said “You know what? I can’t come up with that answer right now. I’ve been out of that position for 6 years and I’m sure I could if we sat here for a lot longer, but right now I am drawing a blank.” And he accepted that and moved on.
One big thing I’ve learned in my career – and life – is being genuine and honest is ok. People can relate to it. Surely that VP had interviewed people who could make up answers on the fly and had the “right” answer for everything. And surely that VP can read through bullshit just as quickly as you and I. Being able to admit when you don’t know something, but selling it properly in the “I don’t have the answer to that, but I’ll find out and get back to you” fashion has saved me many times. People are ok with you not having the answer every time and it takes a confident person to admit that, I’ve realized.
Follow through. My unofficial offer came to me less than 2 hours after I sent a heartfelt thank you to the head of the department. Yes, I asked for the job in the end. But in my email I also made sure to express – genuinely, not blowing smoke – how refreshing it was to me to meet a compliance professional with such a dynamic personality who could surely teach me a whole lot. Again – not blowing smoke. I knew when I met him that I’d learn a lot from him in the next few years.
As an experienced professional, I don’t approach job interviews the way many do. I don’t have the rigid, scared, give-you-the-right-answers attitude. I always see an interview more as me interviewing them. Do I want to work for this guy? Will I learn from these people? What will this company do for me? BUT – this is important – I don’t present it in that arrogant way. I feel it out. I evaluate. I ask questions that help me find out if I could work for the person and what I’ll gain from the experience. My background sells me, so I get to look to the interviewers to sell themselves. I don’t want to work for an Old Uncle Marvin. But Former Boss? I’d work for him again in a heartbeat. And I knew that from the interview with him.
I didn’t set out writing this post as such. Really, I was just reflecting on the fact that I’d forgotten I’ll be working as I’m venturing out into the world. But since landing this great job I’ve had many people ask me for advice. They have asked for my cover letter – or for me to help them write theirs. And as I’ve thought about it these were my thoughts. I can’t give you MY letter because it’s me. It’s not you. I can’t help you write yours (yes, I can proofread and offer suggestions), but in the end if what you say doesn’t match who you are in the interview you won’t win. Period.
I work in a very uptight industry. My personality and therefore my cover letter and interview persona are nothing even close to rigid. I was ok with that because I didn’t need A JOB. I needed a new place to add value to and a group of people who respected me as the individual I am. Would my approach work for everyone? Maybe not. I recognize that. But – and I say this not to be arrogant, but because it’s true – I’ve gotten pretty much every job I’ve interviewed for in 10 years. When I interviewed for my last job the HR Guy told me I’d be successful no matter what I wanted to do for one reason – my personality.
The lesson? Connect with people. This is natural for me, so it doesn’t take work. I thank my dad for teaching me about people and honesty. Two things a lot of people don’t understand. In the end you sell YOU. Not your skills. Not your resume. But as I told the friend who recently asked my advice on her career – become well-rounded! I’ve held so many different positions over the years that you can’t question whether or not I can learn something new. Anything new you’re asked to do? Do it. Learn. Listen to everything that goes on around you and suck in that knowledge.
When I was 21 I worked for a woman who was in a position I wanted to be in. She told me during my first week “I listen to everything going on around me. I just listen and process. And learn from it. Listen to everything.” I wish I could find her now to tell her how much this little piece of advice did for me in my career.
I’ve gotten every single license my companies over the years would pay for. Industry certifications (in my industry) are a big deal and I jumped at every opportunity. You want me to take over a department I hate? Sure! It’s all learning.
Ok, lecture off. Point is – make yourself marketable. Become well-rounded. Be genuine. It pays off in the end unless genuine for you is total asshole and then you need to work on yourself ;)
In two days I board a plane to Chicago with someone I’ve never met. I don’t know anything other than the time of my flight. I have no idea who my travel companion is, what he looks like, how to find him once I get there. But am I nervous? Nah. It will all be ok.
When I was 16 I boarded a flight from O’Hare bound for Rio de Janeiro with nothing more than the “guarantee” that some random family I’d never met would meet me at the airport. It was my first time on a plane and I was alone and a little scared. I didn’t speak Portuguese (yet) and I had no idea what would happen once I got through customs in Rio.
This? Patty-cake compared to that. And since I survived that I’m fairly certain this will be no big deal.
So Monday morning I will again get on a plane with no idea what will happen when I arrive. I’ll also be writing in a new blog – one that I’ve created to capture the stories of my new adventure. I hope you come along for the journey, but please do leave your judgments behind. If you can’t? Well, I invite you to not join me in this new adventure.