Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down. And I’d like to take a minute. Just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I got a job, with a bit of flair.
But before I begin, I recognize that it’s been seven hours and fifteen days since I blogged last (sorry, couldn’t resist another song reference). I hate myself even more than usual for neglecting my tens of fans for so long, so I promise to try to inform, provoke, and entertain more regularly.
With that half-apology out of the way, you guys, omigod, I got a new job!
Of course, lots of people write about how they landed a new role to encourage job-seekers brag: “Look at me, everybody! My dreams came true! And yours will, too…if you do exactly as I did.”
All this Oprah-fied pseudo-inspirational babble rarely cites the most important skill to score a job—because it isn’t a skill at all. And since it isn’t an actual ability, then everything else this slew of swaggerers spews resembles nothing more than gloating for clicks.
So, what is this essential non-skill skill that you need to win a new job?
Pink Hearts, Yellow Moons, Orange Stars, Green Clovers, Blue Diamonds, Purple Horseshoes, and Red Balloons!
It’s luck. I discovered my cubicle of gold at the end of the occupational rainbow because some little leprechaun must’ve sprinked a slew of magically delicious Lucky Charms on me. A four-leaf clover was more valuable than my talents, smarts, creativity, and six-pack abs combined. My successes and accomplishments likewise rode on the wings of a ladybug. Even John of Finland‘s critique of my résumé and this site proved less relevant than rolling dice.
I will never pretend that luck isn’t the foremost factor in finding any position. One’s herculean job-search efforts won’t amount to anything unless the right this and the right that align.
I wish that career counselors (and who isn’t one these days?) would stop ignoring luck when advising job-seekers because it does them not only a disservice. It is an insult. It tells already emotionally vulnerable individuals that their best attempts can’t possibly be their best attempts if they’re still unemployed. And if their best really is their best, then the logical conclusion is that they just plain suck.
But (of course there’s one) that doesn’t mean any job-seeker has a reason to sink into helplessness and blame fate. Fate is not a thing. Luck is. That’s why it’s equally true that you can create situations that enable good fortune to play its hand.
That is, you’re more apt to get lucky if…well…if you do what I did.
Step 1: I Should Be So Lucky. Lucky, Lucky, Lucky!
This step’s name is just a lame excuse to reference yet another song. Still, if you stop reading now, you’ve got the main point of this post. But since I haven’t written in a while, don’t ditch me for Netflix yet.
Step 2: Create Your Luck!
When Prudential laid me off some months back, thousands of people (or something like that) expressed condolences and concern, as if I faced a looming battle with leukemia. A few colleagues even cried. I hope they were upset mainly because they’d no longer have someone with whom to sing ’80s duets, discuss Bravo shows, or bitch about shared nemeses.
While I was sad to leave behind great coworkers, I was anything but glum about my future. I knew that amazing adventures, experiences, and people were around the corner.
Until they weren’t. Turns out, I got a different type of cancer, one that inevitably afflicts most job-seekers. It’s that nagging, growing frustration stemming from inability to convince, or have opportunities to convince, companies of your splendor. The more it metastasizes, the more it twists some people to feel worthless.
Thing is, I never lost sight of my value, even if applicant tracking systems, the bots, and some recruiters did. (I have great stories to tell in future posts. Stay tuned!)
Meanwhile, looking for work became full-time work. I did all the usual stuff, like waste too much time on job boards, but I also put a ton of energy into networking. Next to luck, connecting with people is the best thing you can do as a job-seeker and, for that matter, while still employed. But not just for the obvious reasons.
What I enjoyed most about unemployment (did I just type that?) was speaking with cool people at cool businesses about cool things related to work, life, and Real Housewives.
I won’t turn this into “9 Tips on Networking” because you already scroll past that article on social media. Google can also unearth the same re-re-re-plagiarized tips.
So let me tell you something else. Lean in. Come closer. I’m about to say something über-vital: Forget about your career. Forget about your job for a moment. And remember this: Meeting new people is the best thing you can do in and for your life, period. We are biologically primed to be social, so whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, regardless of whatever some personality assessment once claimed about you, there are myriad ways to socialize comfortably. And you will be far happier when you do. For real.
That’s not Oprah speaking. That’s not even me speaking. That’s you speaking—because you know it’s true. And so what kept me sane and engaged with the job-search process and with life in general were all my interactions with family, friends, and colleagues, old and new.
Speaking of increasing interactions, not long after losing my job, I decided to explore taking on a greater role with DisruptHR, an information exchange designed to energize, inform, and empower HR professionals. The organization holds events in 101 cities in 22 countries, and since its 2015 New York City debut, I’d spoken at it numerous times.
I approached the local organizer about helping out. Maybe I could, I don’t know, create a post-event survey?
“How about you come on as a co-organizer instead?” he replied. So I did. So I still am. I thought it would be a terrific chance to help steer an organization and produce events that I love while meeting a ton of new people in the process! It was. It still is.
Step 3: Do You!
With no excuse not to, I also re-launched this blog. As I wrote shortly after I left Prudential:
I’ll be writing about workplace issues. Because I know about workplace issues. Because I’d written about them for 14 years at a magazine where I was a senior editor (see how I snuck in a credential to give the illusion of authority). Because I recently worked at a Fortune 100 company (I did it again!) managing talent engagement and doing internal communications focusing on leadership, learning, development, performance management, and more. Because I care about creating better workplaces. Because I work.
We all work. We all have all sorts of feelings about our jobs, our managers, our companies, our careers, our lives. I want to share mine with you because…why the hell not? I love challenging the status quo and provoking thought. And this is a better outlet than Facebook, where no one cares what anyone says anyway.
I started writing again because I love writing. Plus, I wanted a platform to share my views with you, fellow HR geeks, and beyond—in my way, in my tone, on my terms. No one was about to give that to me, so I gave it to myself. I even created and had Vistaprint send me my first personal business cards. You guys, I am now legit adulting!
Which leads to the third most important aspect of finding new work: Brand yourself. Do you, and do you publicly. It doesn’t matter that all of Kim Kardashian’s—or even all of Jennifer McClure’s—followers have no idea who you are.
If you have interesting opinions to share, or boring opinions to share in interesting ways, start a blog, post on LinkedIn, go to Meetups, attend DisruptHR, speak at DisruptHR! Because I just told you why in Step 2.
(Let’s take a commercial break from this employment telenovela: The next DisruptHR NYC event is on Sept. 13. There’ll be food, alcohol, great speakers, alcohol, awesome networking, alcohol, and me! Get your ticket here. Want to speak? Let’s make that happen! There will be alcohol.)
Step 4: The Best Part!
Let me preface the following series of events by pointing out that the impending onslaught of details serves to highlight that this is how it works in best-case scenarios. This is how luck can draw lines between dots in unexpected ways.
While on a vacation in Asia. I got a text from Leprechaun Laurie, or my fairy HR godmother, Laurie Ruettimann. I’d originally gotten to know Laurie when I edited her column for The Conference Board Review. (She still refers to me as her former boss. As if. Ain’t no one bossing around that HBIC.)
Since then, we’ve built a friendship based on aversion to meat, mutual body-shaming, endless complaining (mostly I to her), and ongoing support (mostly her to me). Laurie has also introduced me to a bevy of HR luminaries whirling in her orbit. (Networking!)
In her text, Laurie alerted me to a job that had just opened at The Starr Conspiracy, a B2B marketing and advertising agency dedicated to enterprise software and services clients. Soon after, Lance Haun, who works at TSC, reached out to me. (Networking!)
Only a month earlier (before any job prospect, so no ulterior motive), I had approached Lance at the ERE Recruiting Conference in San Diego. I’d been reading Lance’s work for a while and figured, why not say hello?
Lance spilled his smoothie all over the table upon greeting me, because after all, who wouldn’t jump in excitement when seeing me for the first time? We then chatted for a while about everything important in life. (Networking!)
I should also point out that I had been at that event as a result of connecting, also via Laurie, with ERE CEO David Manaster. He and I had pigged out on pizza in Little Italy and next thing I know, I’m instigating a smoothie calamity across the country at ERE’s conference.
And so at this point, I don’t think I need to parenthesize the word. You get it. Networking. It matters.
It also matters that I sought all sorts of support from all sorts of people—from Mary Faulkner to Madonna (though only one consistently replied). All of us need some hand-holding during stressful times in our lives. I’m super-thankful that I had enough caring hands I could grasp with my own shaky, disgusting, sweaty palm.
Anyway, Lance introduced me to his boss and hiring manager, Jonathan Goodman, who said at one point that he wasn’t sure he’d find a candidate like me. “Well,” I explained, “when you aim your sights low enough, you eventually find me.” We then proceeded with an interview disguised as a conversation, or was it the other way around?
A few days later, I was hired to be a practice leader in The Starr Conspiracy’s Intelligence Unit, where I’ll be strategizing, thought-leading, writing, and consulting for the agency and its clients.
Why Was I Hired?
The new work looks really interesting. I think I’ll learn and accomplish a lot. Also, my colleagues seem like a really gregarious, intelligent, supportive, and fun group. (Then again, what do I know? I’m new and naïve, and we’re all still on semi-good behavior.)
Unlimited PTO, flexible schedules, working remotely, a casual culture, and a host of work/life perks that emphasize the part after the slash are also appealing. I especially love all the dogs in the office. The number of licks I received during my week of onboarding was more action than I’ve had in years!
Though in the end, none of this is what’s most gratifying about finding this role.
What really gets me moist is that I feel like everything I’d been doing to get to this point finally paid off. All the puzzle pieces of my job search finally fit together. The networking, my experience with DisruptHR, the blog, the personal branding, the time, the effort, the spilled smoothie, the business cards!—it’s not that all this earned me a job. It’s that they earned me the right job.
Something else: While I come with a range of skills, I don’t think I was hired predominantly for them. I can write, sure. I can think, usually. I have HR knowledge, yeah, I guess. That’s all crucial for this role, but plenty of other candidates can string together words, and they also know how messy and messed up HR can be. Indeed, I told Jonathan not to hire me for my competencies. Instead, hire me for my personality.
At least in my mind, that’s what happened. The Starr Conspiracy prides itself on challenging conventions, provoking thought, and humanizing brands. Hey, me too! As my favorite line from the agency’s website states:
Our bottom line: Let your freak flag fly. Even if it’s blowing in the opposite direction of freaky. We’ll help you find what makes you weird and awesome, and then we’ll flow it into your marketing strategy, so you attract your ilk.
Simply put: There’s major cultural fit going on here. We see each other. I see my character reflected in theirs. They see someone who doesn’t have to feign excitement for the job or the company or perform mental acrobatics to connect with the mission.
I branded myself in a way that repelled the majority of employers so that I’d land at one that wasn’t enslaved by meticulously matching a job ad’s bullets with a candidate’s résumé. They understood the significance of hiring me, not my LinkedIn page.
Best of all, I can come to work as the best version of myself, which, for starters, means not fearing naming my employer in my personal blog. Obviously, I’m still luxuriating in a honeymoon phase, but I take it as good signs that coworkers can laugh at jokes that would induce side-eyes in other workplaces, that no one thus far has discovered my incompetence (maybe by August), and that I get to travel regularly to Texas headquarters to train for a side job as a cowboy. Or maybe a Cowboys cheerleader.
So yeehaw for me! I got lucky. And you can too!