It never hurts to ask

This article was originally posted Nov. 14, 2011 by the Huntsman School Blog.

Recently, I wrote a blog post about an article by Jeff Haden, a blogger for CBS. After reading the article, I was left with a question: “What can I do to get a business to notice me in the sea of other applicants?”

I wrote him and asked the same question. He wrote an article, posted it, and sent me a link.

I can’t say he did this just because I asked, but one thing I’ve learned in life is that it never hurts to write people letters. You often get something for your trouble.

So what did he have to say?

First, determine who you want to work for. Not just what industry, but narrow it down to specific businesses. Then get to know the company and think about what you can offer immediately, then tell them. One of my professors already suggested this to me as a potential job search option, but didn’t go quite so far as to have a show-and-tell presentation ready.

Another thing Haden said that I really liked was, “Don’t be afraid to take charge of the interview.” Obviously, it’s not an ideal thing in every job interview situation. And you should always go into the interview with questions about the company that show you’ve done some research into what they do, but I would imagine the interviewer would get bored asking the same questions. Engaging in a conversation would probably be nice for them, too.

Haden also gave advice for the people on the other side of the interview. Mainly, employees should show they are willing to work for the company, not just fulfill their job description.

One thing Haden said reminded me of the account of Sir Ernest Shackleton, an Antarctic explorer. If you haven’t read the story of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, you need to. At least check out the Wikipedia page. When I think of leadership, I turn to Shackleton first.

When he was outfitting his expedition to the South Pole in 1914, he got more than 5,000 applications for 28 spots. The semi-finalists for the positions were chosen based on skill. The men who ended up going on the expedition were chosen based on personality and how personable they were. Shackleton knew they would be in close quarters for long periods of time. Besides himself, only two of his men had previous experience in the Antarctic.

Haden said it may be more important to hire someone with a little personality that can learn the job than someone who would be a great employee, but a horrible co-worker.

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