I played “Dear Abby” earlier this month offering guidance to college grads on how to differentiate in their resumes and cover letters.
It generated a fair amount of feedback, including a comment — actually comment does it a disservice; let’s call it a “treatise” — from my friend and colleague James Strohecker, a senior marketing manager at Honeywell.
James gave me the OK to republish his letter to “Collegiates.” The blend of humor and wisdom makes for a good read.
By James Strohecker, Senior Marketing Manager
RAE Systems by Honeywell
Unlike President Lou Vonderhoff, I no longer get approached for jobs, or see your resumes. But similar to Sir Loumeister, I do have some recommendations:
1. True dat — tell me you’ve worked a job. A real job. If it was at Nordstrom during a holiday break or summer, OK. Manual labor is better. I don’t care if it was being a counselor at summer camp. Schlepping for the Man is how you learn what’s important, and that work is about getting stuff done, not empty promises.
Story time: We had a couple interns one summer at XYZ agency. One person showed up every day, asked a lot of questions, listened, learned and grew. She became indispensable in the daily operations — we relied on her and liked her commitment. The other person, a dude, blew off days and went to the beach. He usually called in from the beach or didn’t call at all. At the end of the summer, guess who got the job?
2. Be your own person. Email at a point is digital-schmigital. As Professor Hoffman once said, “You can’t negotiate/follow up and re-pitch a story on email. You don’t sell the idea on email. You do that on the phone.” (OK, I embellished what Lou really said, but it’s true). Email is something to hide behind. If you can’t sell yourself, or the idea of a meeting, why should someone hire you? Get on the phone. Get rejected. Find the insight and sales pitch that gets YOU in the door. Then go have the conversation.
Story time: One graduate’s dad — yes, his father — actually called me to try to schedule his lazy kid for an interview. I said, “Why don’t you have him call me himself? You have my number.” The son never called. But a candidate who did pick up the phone, asked for the interview, did her research, followed up, and demonstrated that she really wanted the job was the person who got the position.
3. “It sounds so simple, but if you just be yourself, you’re different than anyone else.”
— Tony Bennett
I think Herr Hoffman is a little different from me on this. Personally, and professionally, I prefer the unique person and idea. And I’m looking for the idea that nobody has thought of (or used for a while) and the innovator who has the passion to put it into action. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of research: “Have you thought about doing this with XX product or client?” Or, “I asked a couple business owners in the last few days what they’d respond to. Here’s what they said …”
Story time: There was an agency that was recently talking with us about a project. One of the new agency team members chimed in and told the group about what she’d learned from stopping in and talking with firefighters in two separate stations near her house. “They really think your products are good, but they don’t get your messaging. Here’s how they’d say it and where they want the info: on their phones …” We listened, and the agency got the project. Plus, we were lucky enough to get this inquisitive person on our account.
4. “I think there was an awful lot about him that I thought I knew, but the truth was I was just coloring in the missing parts with colors I liked.”
Be respectful, and confident. Don’t be cocky. Keep your eyes open. And wait for signs.
Chances are, you didn’t build a business or marketing operation, so you don’t know what you don’t know. At the same time, don’t take a shitty job just to have a job. It’s OK to tend bar, pour coffee, serve tables and work part time or do a baseline job while you’re looking for something in Lou’s marketing arena that can get you going. Just do a job well — one that makes you happy and teaches you something at the same time, such as customer service. NOTE: There are plenty of asshole bosses out there. You’ll have to work for a couple. It just happens. So, don’t be too hasty to take a job at a place with high turnover. There’s a reason for that turnover (and you’ll find out soon enough).
Story time: I took a job once that I knew was wrong from the first interview. The personality was off; it was dictatorial; they’d had incredible turnover that I thought I could fix. I couldn’t fix it. It was just a nightmare. And my family, friends and soul suffered. Don’t do that to yourself. There are great people out there who will support, coach and enlighten you. Find those peeps and tune into them.
5. Oh, and one more thing. You’re probably smarter than me. Maybe smarter than Lou as well. But I may know a few more tricks than you. So will people above and around you. As Bob Dylan eloquently wrote, “So take heed, take heed of the western wind …” In other words, pay attention. You will know it all soon enough. Just don’t act like you do now. If you find the right hiring person, they’ll recognize your intelligence, help you grow and let you fly. Never stop looking for new methods, coming up with ideas, listening or reading.
Story time: I was lucky to work with some of the best people in Lou’s marketing business — people who now run their own businesses/operations: Ossi, Stanbee, MAGpie, Suzi, Judy, et al. Every one of these people is unique. Each has her own approach. Oh, and they’re all smarter than me. A LOT smarter. I am humbled by them. You’ll find out there are people who’re smarter than you and better than you at certain things. Listen to them. Learn about what they know. Apply the principles of patience, Grasshopper. Oh, and “Be the ball.”
Good luck to you. And if you do want help or ideas, I’d be happy to lend a hand. Lou knows how to find me. You can do it.