Break the Rules To Get the Job You Deserve, with 
Liz Ryan

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Transcript

Mac Prichard:

Hi, this is Mac from Mac’s List, before we start the show, I want to let you know about my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. I’ve been helping job seekers find meaningful, well paying work since 2001, and now I’ve put all my advice into one easy-to-use guide. My book shows you how to make your resume stand out in a stack of applications, where you can find the hidden jobs that never get posted, and what you need to do to ace your next job interview. Get the first chapter now for free. Visit Mac’s List.org/anywhere. (http://macslist.org/anywhere)

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host, and publisher of Mac’s List.

I’m joined by my co-hosts, Ben Forstag and Jessica Black, from the Mac’s List team.

This week we’re talking about how to break the rules to get the job you deserve.

Every employer has rules it wants its job applicants to follow: common directions include “use our online form,” or “don’t call our Human Resources office.” And as job seekers, we’ve learned other rules. We stuff our applications with keywords and we fill our resumes with professional jargon.

Our guest expert this week is Liz Ryan.  She says the people who ignore or break the rules get the best and most satisfying jobs. Liz and I talk later in the show.

Every job seeker wants to stand out. Ben Forstag has found a blog post about the most outlandish steps people take to land a job. He tells us more in a moment.

Do employers who offer unlimited vacation time actually expect you to use it? That’s our listener questioner of the week. It comes from Nicole Wilson in Portland, Oregon. Jessica Black offers her advice shortly.

First, as always, let’s check in with the Mac’s List team. And this week, Ben, Jessica, we’re talking about breaking the rules to get the job you want. When have you two broken the rules during a job search and what happened?

Jessica Black:

Well that’s a great question; it’s kind of a stumper, I feel like. I don’t know if it’s considered “breaking the rules,” but sort of going around the traditional model, I would say, just, I’ve used a lot of connections, or a lot of models of making connections to get the job.

Whether it’s volunteering and making those connections, or just friends of friends, and various networks. So those are the only things that I can think of. What do you think, Ben?

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, much the same. You know, I have a personal rule when I’m job seeking, which is: never fill out an online form unless you’ve got some other way to access the company or the hiring manager, because you could waste days just filling out those LONG online forms where they want to know your high school GPA, and your best friend’s name from third grade, and all that stuff.

I think it’s a waste of time, unless you have some other way to reach out to the company. And so I’ve found all kinds of different ways to find the hiring manager’s name and either reach out to them directly, or through a shared contact, or, once, when I was feeling particularly brave  I just called them up on the phone, kind of cold called.

Jessica Black:

Wow.

Ben Forstag:

That one didn’t work out so well, but I think the other options of sort of working through your established networks always helps.

Mac Prichard:

What I’m hearing both of you say is that you’ve taken an unconventional path, and I think Liz is gonna talk more about this. Many of us think there is only one way to apply for a job, and that way is: look at company websites, check for job listings, go to job boards, and then follow the rules. Fill out the forms. Wait for a callback. And basically wait to be pegged.

And I’m hearing both of you haven’t done that.

Jessica Black:

No, or in reference of what you’re saying, of… the traditional model is, you know…handing out resumes, a stack of resumes and taking them around kind of a thing. And no, I think that it’s, in my experience, a better model to use the connections.

Mac Prichard:

Good. Well, I know we’ll talk more about that with Liz. And for me, one example, I too have used informational interviews to uncover hidden jobs, and then actually get in front of hiring managers who were going through formal hiring processes.

And sometimes when I followed the conventional model, thinking of once, and I may have shared this in an earlier show; I sent in an application for a job with a  public agency, and I saw someone from that agency right after I applied and she made it pretty clear that I was gonna get a call. I wasn’t gonna get the job, but I was gonna get an interview.

I didn’t hear anything for weeks, and I called the agency and spoke to the HR office, and I said, “I just haven’t heard back is anything happening?” And the lady I spoke with said, “Well you didn’t fill out the essay questions.” I said, “I never received a request.” And I could hear the panic in her voice, because it signaled that maybe they had made a mistake in their formal hiring process. And so she said, “Oh, I’ll get right back to you.”

She called me an hour later, and she really couldn’t hide the triumph in her voice, which was, “Gosh, you said your address was 1729, isn’t that your address?” On the street I lived on, and I said, “No, it’s 1829.” And she said, “Oh, well, no wonder you didn’t get any…. Well it’s not our fault you didn’t get the questions; you made the mistake.”

Of course, and I think Liz will talk about this, do you really want to work at an agency where they don’t think about “How do I get the best people in front of our hiring managers?” but, “Do people follow the rules, and cross their T’s and dot their I’s? So, in any event, let’s move on, and Ben, let’s turn to you, because you’re out there every week, searching the internet, looking for websites, books, and tools our listeners can use in their job search and their careers. So what have you uncovered for us this week?

Ben Forstag:

So this week I want to talk about a blog post that I found from one of my favorite job search blogs, and that’s Allison Green’s Ask A Manager blog. (http://www.askamanager.org/)

Mac Prichard:

It’s a great blog.

Ben Forstag:

It is. And one day we hope to get Allison on the show here.

Mac Prichard:

Allison, if you’re listening, there’s a spot waiting for you.

Ben Forstag:

So, she’s actually dedicated an entire page of her website to some of the zany, outlandish, things that people do to get a job. (http://www.askamanager.org/category/gimmicks-wont-get-you-a-job)

So these can range from the simple, like the things we’ve talked about already, or listing a fun but fake fact under on your resume to intrigue an employer, or using an infographic resume…to the extreme, like sending a box of chocolates to a hiring manager, or taking out a newspaper ad to promote yourself, or advertising your spouse on a billboard. You know, saying, “My husband’s looking for a job.”

Mac Prichard:

Can we include that in the shownotes? Do we have an example of that?

Ben Forstag:

Yes, to the…what I would call the downright creepy, which is sending a framed picture of yourself to the hiring manager. So I’ll give you the quick and dirty of what Allison thinks about these gimmicks.

She thinks they’re gimmicks and that they don’t work, but she dives into it a little bit more in depth than that Cliff-notes version.  It’s definitely worth looking at to get some good job searching tips on what’s okay and what’s not okay when you’re thinking outside the box.

It’s also good for a laugh if you need to just decompress a little bit. So again this is on Allison Green’s Ask A Manager blog (http://www.askamanager.org/) and we will have the URL in the shownotes.

Mac Prichard:

Well thank you Ben, and if you have a suggestion for Ben, please write him, and we may share your idea on the show. Ben’s address is easy to remember; it’s ben@macslist.org.

Now let’s turn to you, our listeners, and Jessica Black joins us as she does every week to answer one of your questions. So, Jessica, what’s in the Mac’s List mailbag this week?

Jessica Black:

Yeah, we have a great question from Nicole, here in Portland, about PTO. Let’s listen to what she asks us today.

Nicole Wilson:

Hi, my name is Nicole Wilson, and I’m calling from Portland, Oregon. My question is about PTO, specifically when companies offer unlimited, paid time off, do they actually expect employees to take advantage of that? Or is there a limit to how much PTO they can use?

Jessica Black:

Thanks Nicole, what an interesting question. And we don’t necessarily hear this alot, but now it’s becoming more of the norm, and the short answer is yes, absolutely. This is not a meant to swindle anyone into being hired at this particular organization, and then having the rug pulled out from under you.

It definitely is intended…it’s unlimited, it’s true. I think that employees, or, employers rather, do really want folks to take unlimited paid time off if that’s what they need. Because, you know, down time, vacation time, play time, is really important to creating a productive workforce, and happy employees are productive employees.

But at the same time, on the flip side, is that, you know, you do have to still work. You can’t take the whole entire year off and just be playing all the time. You have to, sort of, put in the… put in productive work hours, but it’s also, you can take the time that you need and I think that’s really nice.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, I mean I think it’s a little bit of a catch 22 here. Where everyone knows that Americans tend to not take as much time off as they should and like, I think there’s some huge number of hours that go unclaimed by the average American worker each year in terms of time off.

So, these organizations, I think they offer these benefits in order to encourage people to take more time off, because in theory, it does help you to become more productive when you are on.

But I think at the end of the day you’re right, they have a job that they want you to do and that job, in and of itself, might have some pretty herculean tasks associated with it and requires just  a lot of time, so you have unlimited time off as long as you’re doing this very big job.

Jessica Black:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

And this is an intriguing question, Jessica. I spent a little bit of time just researching it, and I was surprised to learn that companies that have this policy, one of their main concerns is, to Ben’s point, that people aren’t taking enough vacation time. And that’s one of the reasons that the policy is there. There’s also, in looking into this, the companies that offer this policy are big national brands like Netflix or Facebook, or Google…oh I’m sorry, not Google, but LinkedIn.

And they are organizations that have a lot of high achievers so there’s, in reading about this, people report a lot of peer pressure to work a lot anyway. So it’s an interesting policy, and it’s fascinating to me that it’s inspired because people aren’t taking enough vacation time.

Jessica Black:

I agree, I think that it is one of those, just, mind reliever – I don’t know if that’s a proper term – but a peace of mind type of an incentive, because I think so many times people get caught up in, you know, “Oh, I only have two weeks and I’m gonna save them for this amount of time.” And then they just never take anything and then things come up [that keep them busy] and they just never take anything, and I think that it’s a nice incentive to just give that peace of mind to take whatever you need.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, and I would just point out, when we talk about the catch 22 here, I mean, these same companies are the same companies that are like offering women to freeze their embryos or their three year old children to raise them at some later date, you know.

Jessica Black:

Not always.

Ben Forstag:

Not always…

Jessica Black:

I know there’s a couple  here in Portland too, that offer that, and it’s not the intensive…

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, but the idea here is that they want to try to get you to stay at work as long as possible.

Jessica Black:

Right.

Ben Forstag:

And they have their fancy cater dinners, so there’s this…

Jessica Black:

Or the sleeping lounges. Or whatever.

Ben Forstag:

They’ve got this yin and yang between like giving you nice benefits to bring you in but also try to keep you in the office as long as possible.

Jessica Black:

Sure.

Mac Prichard:

Well thank you Jessica, that’s a fascinating conversation. If you have your own question for Jessica, please email her. Her address is easy to remember as well, it’s jessica@macslist.org Or call our listener line. That number is 716-JOB TALK. That’s 716-562-8255. If we use your question on the show, we’ll send you a copy of Land Your Dream Job Anywhere, and we’ll be sending one to Nicole this week.

We’ll be back in a moment, and when we return I’ll talk with this week’s special guest, Liz Ryan, about how to break the rules to get the job you deserve.

Most people struggle with job hunting. The reason is simple, most of us learn the nuts and bolts of looking for work by trial and error. That’s why I produce this podcast, to help you master the skills you need to find a great job. It’s also why I wrote my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. For fifteen years of Mac’s List I’ve helped people in Portland, Oregon, find meaningful, and well paying jobs that they love. Now, I’ve put all of my job hunting secrets in one book that can help you no matter where you live.

You’ll learn how to get clear about your career goals, find hidden jobs that never get posted, and ace your next job interview. For more information and to download the first chapter for free, visit macslist.org/anywhere.

Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Liz Ryan.

Liz Ryan is the founder and CEO of Human Workplace, a think tank and publishing firm whose mission is to reinvent work for people.

Liz is the author of Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and the Career You Want. (https://www.amazon.com/Reinvention-Roadmap-Break-Career-Deserve/dp/1942952686) She also writes for Forbes.com, (https://www.forbes.com/#385e4f922254), LinkedIn, and other publications, and is a highly sought after keynote speaker.

Liz joins us today from Boulder, Colorado. Liz, thanks for coming on the show.

Liz Ryan:

Hey, thanks for having me, Mac.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Now our topic this week, as you know, is how to break the rules to get the job you deserve. And I think for many of our listeners this might be counterintuitive…you know…as job seekers, we often… we want to follow the rules and please employers so that we’ll get picked.

And as you know, so many employers have lots of rules when hiring people. Tell us why it’s a good approach, Liz, to break the rules in order to get that job that you want.

Liz Ryan:

Well, you know what Mac? My background is corporate HR. I’ve been a corporate HR leader going back to 1984, and so…you know, I worked for high-grossing companies, two very high-grossing companies. So I hired over ten thousand people and what I saw was the beginning of the breakdown of the corporate and institutional recruiting process; which, you know, are broken..are very badly broken right now.  Really the worst, most broken process in the workplace is recruiting. Close second, performance review, Mac, but we’ll talk about that another time.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Liz Ryan:

But recruiting is terribly broken, and every hiring manager knows it because they have to submit on the other side of the wall. They have to submit, you know, a job requisition into an abyss, a black hole, and hope to get great candidates to meet, wait and wait for months to do so.

And job seekers on the other side of the huge walls…we’ll use wall as our analogy today because it is very timely.

They have to submit their application in the worst possible way, Mac; as you know, your name, your street address, where did you work, how long were you there, what were your tasks and duties? Why are you asking me the dang tasks past and duties of the job which any normal person could extrapolate from the job title that I had? These applications are left over from the 1930s and 40s. We haven’t modernized them to keep up with the fact that most people these days are knowledge workers.

We don’t have to list the tasks and duties, for a customer service rep, for God’s sake. Tell us what you left in your wake in the job; tell us what you brought to the job; how you conceived of the job; how you made your mark on the job. Right? That’s what they don’t ask.

And, oh my God, you better not have a gap in your employment history, and you better have a progressively more responsible… It’s as though we’re recruiting in 1958, but it’s 2017.

So the process is broken so, you know, coming out of the corporate world myself, it was very, very obvious that job seekers needed help surmounting the brokenness and I decided to really try to help them.  And to dig in and devise another method for people to get jobs. And that’s what I teach now. That’s what the book, Reinvention Roadmap:  is based on.

Breaking the rules to reach your hiring manager, the actual person with pain, not a bureaucrat. They might be, but you’ll have to meet them to find out.  But a person who’s running a department and has a problem, if they didn’t have a problem, a big problem, they would never get approval to even run the job ad.

So I want you to read job ads if you want to, but I don’t want you applying for jobs through the formal channels…what I call the black hole, the…you know…automated, online, application submission process.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so I want to back up in a moment and talk about those specific steps that you just touched on, Liz, and the rules that people need to break, but I can imagine that our listeners are saying to themselves, “Well, why do corporations or nonprofits, or any kind of hiring manager continue to follow these old ways?”

What keeps this system, that you said was first laid out in the 30s and 40s, in place?

Liz Ryan:

Well a big part of it is inertia, the bigger an institution gets, obviously, the harder it is for them to shift,  that’s why people always compare organizational change in big organizations to turning an aircraft carrier around.

So there’s inertia in general, and corporations have many, many old and dysfunctional processes. It’s not just recruiting, but we’re talking about recruiting now because it’s such a dire need for so many smart and talented people.

Another reason that recruiting is so stuck in the past, Mac, is that it employs a particular piece of software called an applicant tracking system, and this is where you go and type in your name and your address and all the jobs you’ve ever held. And also upload a resume just to add insult to injury, you know, do the work twice. It’s old software, from the 80s, but they keep it because HR has no clout. So you would need clout to go to your BP or your boss and say, “Hey, I need a hundred thousand bucks or a million bucks to replace this software.”

Mac Prichard:

So, it’s…the system is there and it’s gonna be difficult to dislodge. What advice do you have, Liz, for people who are…they want to work at a company that uses an applicant tracking system?

Liz Ryan:

You’re gonna ignore it; you’re gonna pretend it doesn’t exist.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so, okay, let’s talk about that, how do… So, I want to work at company X and they do have a formal hiring process. What steps should I take if I am not going to fill out the online form and use those keywords?

Liz Ryan:

So, here’s what you’re gonna do. You want to work at Angry Chocolates, right? Angry Chocolates, maker of fine, specialty chocolates. So, you are going to have an idea when you start looking at Angry Chocolates and reading their website of what you could conceivably do for them on their payroll, right.

Because we have to be smart about this. We can’t say, “Well I could work for these guys.”

It depends on what your background is, what your skill sets are, and what kind of business they’re in. But let’s say that you’ve established that there could, theoretically, be a way for you to help Angry Chocolates in the inventory control department.

You’ve been doing a lot of inventory control, production planning, that sort of thing…materials…and you don’t know that they have an opening. You haven’t even looked at the job ads, but you know that they have an applicant tracking system and a careers page and you would rather not mess with that.

So you go on the advanced search page on LinkedIn. Now you type in the name Angry Chocolates in the company field, and in the title field, you type in the title of the person who’s gonna be your hiring manager, your boss, should you go and work for this company.

You could try a few different things, inventory control manager, procurement director, operations manager, you know, dig around, and you will find somebody who is probably either  your perspective hiring manager or their boss.

So you’ve found your hiring manager, and their name is Brenda Barns. Well go look at her profile. What’s her story? Where does she come from? What does she look like she thinks about? Get a bead on this chick, ya know, figure out a little bit, go to the company’s website and read about what they’re doing. Read their press releases.

There’s no way to work at your capacity now without being a sleuth, and thank goodness for tools like LinkedIn, which are free and incredibly powerful for job seekers.

Mac Prichard:

So, we found Brenda. We’re gonna sit down and we’re gonna send her a message, and what do we want to accomplish with that communication?

Liz Ryan:

Yeah, and it’s not a message on LinkedIn. This is an old fashioned paper letter in the mail, Mac. Paper.

Because you have to break the frame. Brenda is used to getting unsolicited emails…delete, delete, delete. She’s used to getting LinkedIn messages…delete, delete, delete. She’s a busy woman; she’s got a lot on her plate. And so you’re gonna break the frame and shake up the whole paradigm by sending her a paper letter in the mail, just like the old fashioned business letters we used to write when we were young.

Mac Prichard:

I remember.

Liz Ryan:

People. Mac, you remember.

Mac Prichard:

Yes, okay. So we sit down at that typewriter, or, we’re still using computers. We print it out, and we put it in an envelope.

Liz Ryan:

So you’re gonna write a letter and it’s not a cover letter, it’s a pain letter. Very different animal. Again, I keep talking about “break the frame”. You have to shift their thinking, because people at work are very boxed up, they’re very compartmentalized. “I know what to do with this kind of input, I know what to do with that kind of input”. You’re gonna come at them from left field as we used to say.

Something very different. In this pain letter, you’re gonna talk about them, not you, them! So it says, “Dear Brenda, I was thrilled to catch the last half of your CEO’s talk at the Portland Natural Foods expo last week. And I couldn’t agree more with his observation that calp is the new hemp.” You know, whatever. So that first sentence of your pain letter is called the hook because all you’re trying to do is open a teensy, weensy, little aperture in the hiring manager’s mind to keep reading.

It’s not gonna say, “I am a job applicant, and I’m very interested in..” No, no! That will send you right back to HR. It will have been pointless in that case, to bother sending Brenda a pain letter because it reads like a cover letter and it’s going right on a stack. You see what I’m saying? You don’t want to be on the stack, you want to be in a different part of Brenda’s mind. You want to keep her mind open.

So your pain letter is short and it’s to the point, “Dear Brenda, I was happy to catch the speech. It was awesome.” Paragraph break. “I could only imagine that giving your new distribution deal with Whole Foods, your talented inventory control team  might be taxed to the breaking point. When I was working inventory control for Wiggly Devices, I helped them do blah,blah, blah.” And you tell a little story. So then you finish off the letter by saying, “If you’re thinking about adding some pep to your team this year, I’d be delighted to start an email correspondence or chat by phone.”

Very soft, you’re not saying, “Let me in there for an interview.” You don’t know if she has an opening. You’re just saying, “I’m here, I’m around.”  It’s called a pain letter because you highlight the pain, the problem, that every manager walks around with in their heads, and their hearts, and on their shoulders. That’s all you’re doing. And you’re inquiring, gently inquiring, “Hey, might you have this typical type of pain that growing companies tend to have? If you do, maybe it’d be good for us to talk. But you know what, it’s completely up to you.”

So it’s very soft, very respectful, but it’s getting much more into them as a person, and a busy, overworked person, than a cover letter would ever, ever, do.

Mac Prichard:

So there’s so much I like about this strategy that you’re laying out here, Liz. One is that you’re telling people to get out in front and be clear about their goals and where they want to work, and start exploring and identifying opportunities at the companies where they want to be. Plus you’re telling people, “Don’t wait for something to pop up on a job board, at that company or elsewhere.

Start building relationships with the people you want to work for or with, inside that company now, and again, finally, what I love about this is that you’re telling people to think about the problems of the employers where they want to be, and how they can present themselves as problem solvers.

Liz Ryan:

Well, throughout the book, Reinvention Roadmap,   I say, “Forget your skills. Skills is a made up dogma that says, ‘I have negotiations skills, I have administrative skills’. It doesn’t mean anything.  It means something different to everyone of the seven billion people living on the earth.” Nobody is going to believe you because you say you have negotiations skills, we don’t… no. Does that mean you negotiated peace accords between warring nations or does it mean that you got the coffee vendor to throw in a couple extra creamers with the coffee order?

Every working person now, has to stop thinking of themselves as, you know, bundles of skills and certifications, and they have to start thinking of themselves as consultants who solve particular kinds of problems. We call business pain, the problem that customers are buying from your competitor, the problem that your social media strategy is nonexistent. The problem that you have a lot of returns on your product, the problem that your employees are undertrained.

Every company has problems and all of us have to think about the problems we solve.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I agree, and people identify with stories, they stick with the listener and they give you the opportunity, when you’re telling your story, to show people what you can do rather than tell them. Now, Liz, I know our listeners are thinking, “Okay, I’ve sent off this letter, I want to build a relationship with this person, and I want to follow up.” What is the best way to do that?

Liz Ryan:

You’re gonna set up some kind of tracking device, right? Like a spreadsheet, just like any job seeker would do. You know, diaries, spreadsheets, you gotta have a way to know, who did I write to? What did I send them? And when did I send it?

The first way to follow up is to just resend the exact same pain letter a week later, with a different date. Because what’ll happen is, they’ll call you or write you at that point, and say, “Oh my gosh, I actually got your first letter, and I meant to call you and I completely spaced.” Just think about a hiring manager’s life. They’re so overstimulated, so much information coming in. Send the same letter again.

Second one, you wait a couple weeks, you could send a little LinkedIn. You don’t want to say, “I don’t know whether you got my letter….” That just puts stress on them. And they’re like, “Yeah, I don’t know either.” Don’t worry about it, don’t mention the letter, just write to them on LinkedIn, and say “Hey, I was just writing because…” same thing you wrote in the pain letter. “I was happy to catch your CEO’s talk at the expo, blah, blah, blah.”  Your hook. Of Course it doesn’t have to be that, it could be anything.

“Congratulations on winning the Green Building Award, from the city of Dallas”. Whatever. Read their press releases, and you’ll get ideas for hooks for your pain letter, but there are also examples of course, in the book,  Reinvention Roadmap:  

Mac Prichard:

And I assume that leads to a meeting, and ongoing conversations, that build a relationship.

Liz Ryan:

Well here’s the thing. This is the big, big, point of this book, Reinvention Roadmap,  Mac. And that is, there is not anymore a solid line between job seekers and consultants. We are all consultants, and I beseech and implore readers, in this book, multiple times, to go down to the office supply store and get some business cards as a consultant.

Because that is a more permeable membrane to get through, as a consultant. When you send a pain letter and it hits pay dirt, and they call you, you cannot say, “Well, do you have any openings?” You cannot ask them for eighty thousand dollars worth of budget and benefits. That’s way too much. That’s like going on a first date, and asking somebody to move in with you.

You’ve got to probe for the pain, and say, “Is there anything going on, you know, that I could help with?” You’re gonna be smart like a consultant,  have done your research, and show up with a pain hypothesis already in mind.

Mac Prichard:

Well that is a terrific strategy. I think it’s very clear and I like the alternative path you’re laying out here, Liz. And I know that you lay out many more tactical steps in your book. Now tell us what’s coming up next for you.

I know your book just came out in December. Tell us more about it and what lies ahead for you in 2017.

Liz Ryan:

Well, you know, the company, Human Workplace, I started in 2012, to bring out this idea, on both sides of the equation, Mac, for job seekers and working people; how to bring yourself to work, you know, how to get a job that deserves you, not just any job. And then when you’re on the job how to really feel your oats and find your voice and your backbone and this is something that people don’t talk about at work. Is how sort of hunched down, a lot, a lot, of people are. And feeling very disempowered.

And my message is, you’re gonna empower yourself. And then on the other side of the equation for employers is how to humanize your workplace. And reinvent work for people, from recruiting, to management, and leadership, and the practice of HR,  and evaluation and pay. Every single thing that we do at work, getting out of a mechanical mode and back into a human mode, to really celebrate the brains, and talent, and heart, and guts of people who work on a team.

Mac Prichard:

That’s terrific. Well I know listeners can learn more about your work by visiting your website, which is www.humanworkplace.com Liz, thanks for being on the show this week.

Liz Ryan:

Hey, thanks Mac.

Mac Prichard:

It’s our pleasure.

And we’re back in the Mac’s List studio with Jessica and Ben. It was a great conversation. I hope you both enjoyed that. I love the points that Liz was making about the search, and while she puts it in the context of what she calls the human workplace, and stresses the importance of breaking the rules, I also think she’s making the same point that we make here at Mac’s List, and other career experts do too.

Which is, you really increase your chances of finding work that you can love, and by thinking outside the conventional hiring process. And the way you do that is being clear about your goals, identifying people who are doing the work that you want to be involved in, thinking about their problems, and finding ways to connect with them before a job is posted. And presenting yourself as a problem solver, and understanding their needs and showing how you can address those needs. What about you two? What are your thoughts?

Ben Forstag:

I liked her strategy of positioning yourself as a problem solver and being a little bit more proactive in your relationships and your courting of companies. And I think sometimes we wait for the job description to be posted and what the problem, what the employer needs, and then we’re all reactive to it as job seekers. And she’s really advocating this model of, “Here’s what I’m really good at” as a job seeker or as just a person. “Here are my skills here are the problems I can solve.” Then putting yourself out there to companies saying like, “I don’t know if you have this problem even, but here’s a problem I can solve for you.” And that, essentially puts you at the front of the door, at the front of the line for a job search, right? Because you’re essentially defining the problem and defining the solution, before they even put a formal job description out there.

Mac Prichard:

Excellent point. Jessica, what are your thoughts?

Jessica Black:

I agree with, both, all the points that you both have made and kind of following up with what Ben just mentioned, I really liked her point about not just stating skills, not just saying, “I’m skilled at” insert whatever, there. But…

Ben Forstag:

Cross cultural communications.

Jessica Black:

Yes, exactly. But just….

Mac Prichard:

Microsoft products.

Jessica Black:

Absolutely. “I’m skilled in..” whatever it is that you truly believe that you are, and probably really are, but sort of following that up with a demonstration of how you’re skilled in that in a story. I liked that her suggestion of telling a story about that. Because like you said Mac, that’s always more compelling than just a list of skills that are sort of arbitrary, on a paper. So I liked that.

Mac Prichard:

I really enjoyed her unconventional approach, and I think it is a smart way to go so I encourage…I liked what I heard in the interview. Well thank you both for those thoughts, and thank you, our listeners, for joining us for this week’s episode, Find Your Dream Job.

If you like what you hear, please sign-up for our free weekly newsletter. In every issue, we give you the key points of that week’s show. We also include links to all the resources mentioned. And you get a transcript of the full episode. If you subscribe to the newsletter now, we’ll send you our Job Seeker Checklist. In one easy-to-use file, we show you all the steps you need to take  to find a great job. Get your free newsletter and check list today. Go to macslist.org/podcast.

And join us next Wednesday, when our special guest will be Abby Kohut, who is on a mission to education one million job seekers.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job!

Have you ever written a pain letter to a prospective employer? Doing so may give you a competitive advantage over candidates who use more traditional job search techniques.

The traditional hiring process is broken and everyone knows it–both job seekers and hiring managers. The over-automated, keyword-driven, impersonal way most organizations hire is a relic of software systems built 40+ years ago. As such, playing by the rules is more likely to land you a stress headache than a job offer.

This week’s guest, Liz Ryan, offers a ray of hope, with strategies and techniques that will help you rise above the rest when reaching out to employers. She encourages job seekers to break the rules of the system. Instead, she urges people to proactively reach out to the organizations where they most want to work–and where they can create the most value.

In practice, this means:

  • Ignore the formal hiring process.
  • Decide where you want to work and have an idea of how you can help the company.
  • Use LinkedIn’s advanced search to find the person who would be your boss if you were to get the job you wanted.
  • Send a pain letter to that person at their place of employment.

A pain letter is a letter that focuses on your contact’s specific challenges and highlights how you can help with these problems. The first sentence should be the hook to pique the person’s interest. Include a story which highlights the pain or problem the manager may be experiencing, and end the letter with a soft and respectful, “I’d be happy to start a phone or email conversation with you.”

This Week’s Guest

Liz Ryan is the founder and CEO of Human Workplace, a think tank and publishing firm whose mission is to reinvent work for people. Liz is the author of Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and the Career You Want. She writes for Forbes.com, LinkedIn, and other publications. Liz is a highly sought-after keynote speaker who has hired over 10,000 people.

Liz’s work in 2017 includes empowering workers and reinventing corporate work environments in an effort to move them away from a mechanical mode and back into a human mode.

Resources from this Episode