CareerLaunch

I landed a great job during a pandemic in an industry I knew nothing about. Here’s how I did it.

Anne Butcher
November 2020

1. I had more than just a resume.

Imagine if I came into a business to put together a marketing plan and this was my pitch:

“Okay, I’ve got it. We’re going to write up a 1-page Microsoft Word document. It’s going to have bullet points about all the great things your company can do. Then we’re going to send that document out to people. That’s it. That’s all you get.”

That business would rightfully tell me that’s dumb. Surely in 2020 you need a website? Some social media accounts? Maybe incorporate video or other media to catch a buyer’s eye?

Of course it’s painfully obvious that a business needs those things. So do you.

As an individual job seeker, there’s a lot of platforms available where you can strut your stuff. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not using them. If you’re aspiring to a marketing career like I was, I would say it’s unacceptable NOT to be leveraging those platforms.

LinkedIn is perhaps the most obvious one, but many people simply post their resume and cross their fingers that the right person will see it. Instead, use LinkedIn the way you’d use any other social media site. Follow other people at companies you’re interested in; engage with the content they post; use work-related anecdotes to connect with them; share links to work you’ve done for other companies. LinkedIn can be a great tool if you actually use it as more than a digital resume.

I’ve known other people who love using Twitter to establish themselves in their desired professional circles. That’s especially great for people trying to get into journalism or media relations careers.

Personally, I’m an advocate for WordPress, and have had an e-portfolio there for several years. It’s a user-friendly way to build a web presence without the rigidity of social media sites. People not only see my resume, but my video work, photography, writing samples, and links to other sites where I have published work.

I also made a BuzzFeed listicle of reasons to hire me. With that post, I could highlight other reasons why I’m cool to work with that I would never put on a resume. For example, I like baking cookies for people, and I have an arguably unhealthy obsession with competitive trivia. 

When you stop limiting yourself to a resume, you’re able to paint a fuller picture of who you are, rather than just ‘yes, I am capable of doing the tasks you have described.’ That means the companies that end up expressing interest in you are more likely to be good cultural fits in addition to needing the skills you offer. At my new job I get to participate in monthly Zoom trivia with other trivia nerd co-workers, and I look forward to it every month!

2. I turned obstacles into opportunities.

One of the funny B-plots of my interview process is that my phone stopped working around the time I got an email inviting me to a phone interview. Due to COVID-19 concerns, all the Apple stores were still closed and so I was without a phone for more than a week. Knowing I had put that number down on various job applications added to my anxiety.

However, there was one company that wanted to interview me, and they were probably busier than I was, so I wanted to accommodate them the best I could. I took the interview and gave an alternate number where they could reach me.

Fast forward to that Friday at 1 p.m. The phone didn’t ring. My heart dropped, knowing it was probably a case of somebody calling the number for the phone at the repair shop. After 5 minutes or so, I took a deep breath and emailed my interviewer. I reiterated that the phone number on my original resume was out of service and also assured him that we could reschedule if now wasn’t a good time. Around 1:10, the phone rang and I had a fairly successful interview.

This minor hiccup gave me a great excuse to follow up more often than I usually would. I had already sent the routine “thank you for your time, it was great talking” message immediately after interviewing. I also sent a writing sample the following week. It might’ve crossed the line into desperation or nagging if I came back the week after that with nothing more to say than “Hey, remember that girl you interviewed? She still wants this job. Can we talk more? Pretty please?”

But it did make sense to say “Hi! I’m just reaching out because I promised to let you know when I got my regular phone number working again. It’s working, and I’d love to talk further about what I can bring to Contact Discovery.”

I like to think that being proactive about the phone issue helped demonstrate my tenacity. When faced with a problem, I could solve it without having someone hold my hand through it. If I had let the broken phone stress me out enough to put off the interview, or not emailed my interviewer almost immediately after the mixup happened, I might not have gotten the job.

3. I didn’t restrict myself to what the employer asked for.

That first interview went well enough to get me excited about the job. Some people might have said “okay, I’ve filled out the application and had a good interview. The ball’s in their court now!”

I was scared that wouldn’t be enough. I knew that on paper, I didn’t have all the experience and technical skills that other candidates might have, so I had to market what I could do.

When in doubt, I write. That’s been my competitive advantage since I was a kid, and I still have the dorky “writergirl” gmail address from middle school to prove it. So I researched this company’s website and wrote them a blog post.

I was trying to get into an industry that I didn’t know existed a week prior. I knew that no other byline or portfolio piece could demonstrate my full potential the way that something I wrote just for them could. The strategy also aligned with the company’s emphasis on customized approaches towards their clients. With that blog post I was able to prove that:

  1. I know how to write.
  2. I could learn enough about their niche industry of eDiscovery to write meaningful content in a short amount of time.
  3. I cared enough to put in extra work when other candidates didn’t.
  4. I wasn’t going to be confined to what they expected from employees, but would actively look for ways to help the company without external pressure. 

I would not have my job if not for that blog post.

My interviewer/current boss said my blog post went a long way with him and his partners, and that it was this energy and initiative that ultimately sealed the deal. They could’ve picked someone with more experience who looked better on paper. Instead, they went with the less experienced (but still intelligent, charming, and talented) candidate who took the time to prove her potential without being prompted.

***

Ultimately, it was my refusal to play by traditional rules of job hunting that helped me. I didn’t just fill out applications, send resumes, and beat my figurative chest in interviews. I actively looked for ways to show off what I could do for this company. So if there’s a job you really want, get creative. Find a way to put your best foot forward even if the employer is too busy asking for other foot.

This is a guest post from Anne Butcher, originally on LinkedIn.