Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?: A Crash Course in Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job

Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?

Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?

THE CRASH COURSE
Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job

By Ellen Gordon Reeves

Copyright © 2009 by Ellen Gordon Reeves

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced—mechanically, electronically, or by any other means, including photocopying—without written permission of the publisher. Published simultaneously in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son, Limited.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

ISBN 978-0-7611-4145-7

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Printed in the United States of America
First printing March 2009

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To my family and friends—and to everyone who asked the questions.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Chapter 1
Welcome to Job, Inc
.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Chapter 2 Working Your Network

Finding and Making the Most of Your Connections

Chapter 3 The Story in Your Résumé

The Piece of Paper that Says It All

Chapter 4 The Must-Read Cover Letter

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Chapter 5 Rallying Your References

Setting Up Your Fan Club

Chapter 6 Getting Through the Interview

Preparation Is Everything

Chapter 7 Weighing the Offer

What to Say Before “I’ll Take It!”

Chapter 8 You’ve Got the Job

Now
What Are You Going to Do?

Chapter 9 The Art of Moving On

(Whether It’s Your Choice or Theirs)

Good Luck!

Index

Acknowledgments

This book was Lindy Hess’s idea and I want to thank her, the staff and students of the Columbia Publishing Course (formerly the Radcliffe Publishing Course) for their help and advice, Susan Caplan and Leslie Hendrickson in particular. Before she went on to become an agent, Jennifer Griffin signed up the book with the enthusiastic support of Peter Workman; she left me in the capable hands of Savannah Ashour and editor in chief Suzie Bolotin. The book couldn’t have happened without Savannah’s essential contributions on every level. Thanks to Katharine Cluverius who signed the book up at ICM and to Kate Lee who took over when Katharine left. Also at Workman, many thanks to David Matt and Janet Vicario for their expert design, Kristin Matthews and Oleg Lyubner for getting the word out, and everyone in sales and marketing for all of their hard work.

Many people read and edited chapters, including Sam Appleton, Michaela Daniel, Lori Goldstein, Jennifer Rappaport, Caroline Reeves, and Linda Saxl Minton. Emily Griffin, Sophie Rosenblum, and Bennett Singer took the time to read the entire manuscript and offered invaluable comments. Many friends provided advice, information, and anecdotes, including Asa Danes, Lisa Bernstein, Rose Bowen, Mih-Ho Cha, Simone Cooper, David Deschamps, Vicki Eastus, Melissa Ehlinger, Ted Janger, Marc Johnson, Lisa Gerson, Linda Heuman, Rona Leff, Michele Levin, Laura Meiselman, Andra Miletta, Maureen Miletta, Alice Naude, Thomas Neenan, Amy Remensnyder, Marika Rosen, Richard Rosen, Pam Rich, Stephen Saxl, Robert Schlesinger, Lizzie Seidlin-Bernstein, Bryan Simmons, Caroline Bliss Spencer, Lynn Turner Tennenbaum, Ann Vershbow, Ralph Vetters, Brenna Wilmott, Diane Wachtell, Peter Zachariah, and many others.

Nothing happens without family and I dedicate this to mine: Mom, Caroline, Jim Lee, Daniel, Andrew, Pamela, Jeffrey Goldberg, Talia, Elisheva, William, Edna Wharton, and the Ress/Reeves clan. Then there are family members who are no longer here, but I know they know: Dad, Annie and Joe, Rose, Ethel and Max, Jane, Bernie and Charlie, Grandma and Grandpa. Thanks to my other families and extended families: Billington, Cha, Gerson, Kaufman/Goldfine, Landes, Meiselman, Miletta, Mensch, Saxl, Silverman, Singer.

Nothing happens without community and I count myself lucky to have several: Harvard, Radcliffe, BB&N, ASP, Lincoln, The Lycée Internationale de St. Germain-en Laye, The New Press, Boston, Providence, Paris, NYC, and Martha’s Vineyard.

Special thanks to Harriet Hoffheinz, my first and wisest career counselor at Radcliffe, and to Jim Billington, who is always there.

Introduction

This book isn’t really about nose rings. Even the question itself—“Can I wear my nose ring to the interview?”—isn’t really about nose rings. It’s one I’ve been asked many times, by many job-seekers struggling with how to present themselves. My answer? Yes. If you wear one and intend to keep wearing it, don’t take it out for the interview, get the job, and then wonder why you’re never introduced to clients.

Of course, this book isn’t just for job-seekers with nose rings, tongue studs, tattoos, blue hair, or pierced eyebrows. The nose ring is a metaphor for the complexities of the job hunt, which may involve more soul-searching than you imagine—and lots of questions about how to present yourself now that you’re out in the real world. If the mere thought of looking for a job has your stomach in knots, you’re not alone. I’ve dealt with enough college grads to know that the first job search can be a terrifying prospect.

As I write, a troubled economy makes that search appear even more terrifying than usual—but the key word here is
appear
. Here’s what most new job hunters don’t realize: An economic downturn will not destroy your chances of getting a job; indeed, it can actually offer opportunity, if you understand how to make the most of the situation. Entry-level jobs are often the least affected by recession. Why? You’re relatively cheap, and you’re probably willing to work hard to prove yourself. If you position yourself correctly, you’ll also be perceived as highly adaptable and easily trainable. Yes, you’ll need to be more innovative and assertive in your approach, and more patient and flexible—but stay optimistic and confident. The strategies I recommend are based on timeless principles.

When I began advising students at the Columbia Publishing Course on their résumés, I started collecting all the questions that came up. They
weren’t only about résumés; the concerns were all over the map. People wanted to know how to look for a job without wasting hours surfing the Web, what to wear to a job interview, and what they would be asked. They wanted to know what to put on a blank résumé page when they’d never had a job or even an internship in their lives. They wanted advice about how to look for a job if they had absolutely no idea what they wanted to do and then how to negotiate a job offer once they got one.

Over the years, the list of questions grew—and now they form the heart of this book.

When I graduated from college, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: teach, write, and edit. But I didn’t have a clue how to turn those goals and interests into a job or career. While many of my friends became investment bankers, I got a part-time, minimum-wage job in a toy store called Henry Bear’s Park. (Me:
I get 40 percent off all the toys!
My parents:
For this we sent you to Harvard?
) I wish I’d had this book, but I hadn’t written it yet.

What I did have, it turns out, was a knack for helping people present themselves. I’d edit a résumé for a friend; then for a friend of a friend; then for colleagues wherever I worked. (One of the things my career path taught me is that if you follow your interests, a path will emerge.)

I have unearthed the inner résumés of a white rapper, a missionary from Mexico (
never use the word “crusade” on a résumé
), and a MacArthur “genius” grant winner. I have successfully advised people at all stages of their careers—CEOs, engineers, college professors, diplomats, investment bankers, lawyers, publishing professionals, and even an opera singer.

But there’s nothing like your very first job search. I hope my years of experience can help make the process as easy as possible for you—who knows, maybe you’ll even enjoy it.

What’s the Big Deal?

Q. Can looking for a job really be all that complicated?
Why do I need to read a whole book about it?

A.
Looking for a job doesn’t have to be complicated if you go about it the right way; that’s why I wrote this book. I find that many people expend their job-hunting energies inefficiently. This book will help you find a job in the quickest, most efficient way, using resources right under your nose. It will help you figure out what you want to do and how to do it. Along the way you’ll learn lifelong skills about presenting yourself on and off paper, and you’ll create a personal and professional network that will serve you throughout your career.

chapter 1
Welcome to Job, Inc.

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

Take a deep breath. Whether you’ve opened this book in optimism or despair, you can relax (a little); I’m going to tell you all the stuff nobody tells you about how people
really
get jobs—in any economy, boom or bust. I’m not talking about just any job, though. I’m talking about a good job, a job you like, a job that’s right for you. It may take a little longer, but the results will be worth it.

First things first: Stop looking for a job. If you haven’t started yet, good. I want you to stop looking for a job—and start looking for a person.

The right person will lead you to the right job.

In truth, you already have a job. As a job-hunter, you are now the official CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of your own company—a company I call Job, Inc. Think of yourself as a self-employed consultant, a one-person marketing and PR firm with a single thing to sell: YOU. You work for yourself now. You run a head-hunting firm with
the most important client you could ever hope to place. You are a professional—a high-powered professional. Even if you don’t feel like one, that’s what you need to become—before you get your job. The more focused, directed, and organized you are as CEO, the quicker the process will be. And the more professional you appear, the more seriously you’ll be taken as a job candidate.

DON’T LOOK FOR A JOB—LOOK FOR A PERSON

People are a lot easier to find than jobs.

Think about it. What is a job? Have you ever seen one walking down the street? Have you ever talked to one? Called one up on the phone? E-mailed one?

But you know where people are. They’re everywhere. It’s hard to escape them. They’re in your classes, in your family, in your dorm, at the gym. They are at the supermarket, at the bar, waiting in line, sitting next to you on a bus or plane or train. People are everywhere (unless you live in a really sparsely populated area—and then you’ll be more dependent on the telephone and Internet).

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