What’s in a career?

I’ve spent the past fifteen+ years working in technology, and while I never intended to work in the industry, I’m grateful that I fell into the profession at a time when falling in was good.  It’s a rare profession, in that, you can make it without a degree – or at least you could back when I started, and I suspect you still can if you get the right opportunity at the right time.  I got in during the dot com boom, when spelling the name of a particular technology correctly would often get you the job.  I started in project management, but eventually felt like I’d be a better project manager if I knew how to program, so I learned how to code, and switched direction.  Eventually, I melded the two together and worked my way into management positions.  In the early years, anything I did felt exciting, especially compared to working in a restaurant or a factory, which were the two options available to me had I stayed in the Midwest.  Occasionally, I got bored, and when that happened, I’d switch jobs and things worked out well over time.

A few years ago, I finally decided to go back to school, even though I’d already made it far enough in my career that I didn’t really need to.  It was one of those things I just wanted to do – a Bucket list sort of thing – and so I did.  Three years later, and I’m very close to finishing my Master’s degree.  In the few years I’ve been in school, I’ve worked freelance a bit and did a six-month stint working for a friend whose start-up got funded.  I took another six months to focus on my Master’s, and just over 4 months ago, I joined the workforce as a full-time employee again.  I was close enough to the finish line that I figured I could finish my Master’s while working, which has gone fine.

What I didn’t expect was the impact my Master’s program would have on me in terms of really evaluating what I want to do with my career.  Lots of people that go through the program I’m in come out changed in the end.  I read that a lot before I started, but didn’t really expect it to happen to me.  My M.A. will be in Organizational Leadership, and the focus is very much on the sociological and psychological elements of organizations and management.  It’s also a very personally focused program, meaning practically every course is designed to encourage the student to really reflect on him or herself, and look for meaning in the things we do.  I’m a thinker and I analyze things around me all the time, sometimes too much, but in any case, it was a perfect fit for me.

The problem I face now is in finding the right company to work for.  I don’t want to just work in technology to work in technology.  I want to be able to be passionate about what I do, and I don’t think that will come without finding a company I can feel passionate about.  So, I’m starting again with a short list of companies whose products and services I use and enjoy, whose philosophies are in line with my own.  I have no idea whether I will be successful in getting my foot in the door or not, but I have to think that a smart company will realize how valuable it is to have employees that already love their products.  Of course, I have to have the skills, too, but that’s not the part I’m worried about.  It’s all about getting that first introduction, that first contact, an opportunity to show your stuff.  I sent my resume to one of the places I’d really love to work for last night.  Their job listing made clear they get hundreds and hundreds of resumes for every position, and they ask people expressing interest to make themselves stand out in the email they send with their resume.  Below is the email I sent.  If this doesn’t get their attention, I’m not sure what would…

I am writing to express my hope that this email marks just the first of many conversations I will have with you.  I would like to join your team, first and foremost, because I love [Your Product], but that is not the only reason.  Your company has a unique philosophy, as I’m sure you’re already aware, but you may not know how well aligned your philosophy is with my own.  I think collaboration and open source are great things.  I believe in simple, yet powerful.  I think customers should be happy.  I think people need new things to keep them engaged for more than short periods of time.  I think people need technology to be easy or they will go find another service that makes it so.  I think people that use a free service are more than willing to pay for premium upgrades if that free service is rock solid and high quality.  [Your Product] is all of those things, and more, but I will stop here in an attempt to stay brief, as you requested in the job listing.
On to a few reasons why I may be the best person in the world for this position…
I have worked in technology for fifteen years, almost entirely on web or mobile projects or products.  I love the Internet, writing, playing pool, watching crime shows, and getting things done.  In fact, I am the best multi-tasker I know, which is one of the reasons I would be a perfect [Job Title] at [Your Company].  For more on my multi-tasking obsession, see point 3 on this blog post.  You’ll also be excited to know that I was the co-founder of a web hosting company once upon a time, so I understand what your clients want.  I have worked at a handful of start-ups, and flourish in an environment where good ideas get somewhere, without a lot of bureaucracy and red tape that suck the life out of employees.  I have been a developer, a project manager, a product manager, and a manager of all those types of people in places as diverse as a marketing agency, an insurance company, a utility company, a software consulting firm, and a hair salon.
I have attached my resume for you to review at your convenience.
In closing, I would like to add that when you read my resume, you may think I am overqualified for the [Job Title] position.  If that is your first instinct, I urge you to set aside that concern.  I am currently gainfully employed for a company that pays me a healthy salary, but I am bored out of my skull.  I want more than anything to work for a company that I can be passionate about, and I really would be an excellent [Job Title].  That said, if there are other positions for which you think I might be the right [fit], I am happy to discuss them.  Finally, you currently have only one employee that is a Wisconsin native – or at least only one that is willing to advertise himself as such.  I, too, am a Wisconsin native, and you should really employ more than one person that hails from the frozen tundra.  We bring a unique perspective, especially on meat and potatoes, squeaky cheese, and the Old Fashioned.

7 thoughts on “What’s in a career?

  1. Wow, what a great letter (and how brave you are to publish it for us all to see). Really hope you get the job – you should definitely get an interview at any rate. I will cross my fingers, toes and eyes for you 🙂

    • Hey Tameri! Yes, I did keep the part about Wisconsin. This company has profiles of all its employees on its website, and I scoured it to find anyone from Wisconsin – I’m not really sure why. There really was only one person who said they were from my home state, and I get the sense this company likes a sense of humor and creativity, so I’m hoping it didn’t sound too over the top!

  2. Thank you for sharing. Tall person has reviewed thousands of resumes and cover letters in his career and says that yours is an attention grabber. He hopes you don’t mind some constructive feedback.
    The first paragraph is excellent as it clearly shows that you understand the ethos of the company.
    You should try to avoid criticising your current employer e.g. using statements such as “bored out of my skull”. It could be perceived as unprofessional. Also, it could be interpreted as a weakness i.e. you are only happy when you are doing exciting things. Most jobs are a mix of the mundane and the exciting. On a similar note, all organisations have a degree of bureaucracy so try to avoid emotive and critical phrases such as “bureaucracy and red tape that suck the life out of employees”.
    Instead of saying “I am the best multi-tasker I know” it would be more effective to say “I am a good multi-tasker” and then provide an example to back up your statement.
    Saying “I may be the best person in the world for this position” could be perceived as over confidence or arrogance – there is no need to say this. You want them to think it by the time they finish reading your letter.
    You use the phrase “You’ll also be excited to know..” They may well be but don’t presume this. It’s best to avoid using assumptions about the reader’s reaction.
    The reference to being “a Wisconsin native” shows that you have researched the company but I am not sure how relevant it might be (unless the reader is from Wisconsin!).
    Try to avoid emotive words e.g. obsession. You used this in reference to multi-tasking. The general interpretation of an obsession is that it is a negative trait. Also, using it in reference to multi-tasking could suggest that you find it difficult to concentrate on a single task.
    Hope this is helpful.

    • It is helpful. Tell the tall man I said thank you. I normally wouldn’t have written an introduction in quite the style I used, but the tone of the company’s job listing seemed to encourage it. In fact, they ask candidates to tell them why they would be the best person in the world for the job. With some luck, my attempts at humor will come off lightly, but if not, I will keep trying until I find the right company for me. Thanks again!

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