Here’s a quote a friend shared with me this morning from a great Paul Graham essay:
Use difficulty as a guide not just in selecting the overall aim of your company, but also at decision points along the way. At Viaweb one of our rules of thumb was run upstairs. Suppose you are a little, nimble guy being chased by a big, fat, bully. You open a door and find yourself in a staircase. Do you go up or down? I say up. The bully can probably run downstairs as fast as you can. Going upstairs his bulk will be more of a disadvantage. Running upstairs is hard for you but even harder for him.
Substitute “career” for “company” and the same applies. Especially on the job hunt.
If you’re doing the easy thing – mass blasting resumes and following job postings with standard apps – so is everyone else. The odds that your resume is the best are incredibly low. There’s always someone in the pool of 100’s of applicants who looks better on paper. Especially if you’re aiming up at a cool job that would stretch you a bit.
But jobs aren’t about paper, and applications aren’t the only way to get noticed. If you head upstairs while everyone else takes the elevator down, you’ll do what they can’t. You’ll get the attention of hiring managers even if you lack credentials, experience, or fancy paper.
When faced with the choice, go after a job the hard way, not the easy way. Take the time to research the company. Find the email address of the hiring manager. Create a project to show your skills. Send a tailored video pitch.
You’ll spend maybe a few hours on this while everyone else spends a few minutes sending a resume. You may not have the resume they have, but they can’t compete with the work you put in.
You’ll win better jobs faster. The hard way is the easier way. Or as the Stoics say, “The obstacle is the way.”