In 2008, the US was in the midst of a huge financial crisis. Millions and millions of people lost their jobs.
Hanna Phan was one of them.
This is her story.
All summer, after being let go, I was trying to figure out what I should do. I really had no idea where I was going, what I was going to be and I was on an emotional roller coaster. Then the recession hit really hard in October 2008. Oddly enough, because of the fact that I had a mortgage, a severance that would last me a few months, a credit loan for emergency money and my boyfriend still had a job, I didn’t feel too downbeat about my prospects. Not yet at least.
I intended to take a break but at the time, I did get some interviews through referrals from a friend at Lucas Arts in San Francisco and another friend at a different security company. I didn’t think the interviews went bad, but all of a sudden, I never heard back. There were no more emails and no more calls from them. And then I thought…
Wow, this recession is real.
It was like everyone just stopped. All I could think was, wow, this is really bad.
What really kept me alive during this recession is having the right people surrounding me that truly believed in me. It’s like having your own cheer leading team, because you’re often your biggest critic. Our mind is so powerful that it has the power to affect how we act and feel. When people believe in you, they don’t highlight your shortcomings. They highlight your potential and your strengths. They have louder voices than your own to drown out your criticism. They see the diamond in the rough.
I decided to jump right back into the job search.
I started by submitting resumes to 10 different companies as a warm up. You know, just to get comfortable with the rhythm and the process. I reached out to Zynga, a really successful online gaming company. I submitted online and even had a friend refer me internally. I did get a call back from a recruiter but she was quick to point out that I didn’t have recent gaming experience in the last 3 years. She said we’ll “put you into a different pile” based on the lack of recent experience.
This got me fired up. I realized I needed to approach this differently.
This is where the big shift happened. I asked myself, “Where do I really want to work at?” Instead of having other people qualify me for the job, I’m going to actively choose where I want to go.
I had all these great experiences, but they didn’t fit into the roles I was applying for.
I knew I had a passion for presenting but I didn’t want to just be doing presentations. I wanted to change the way people present as a culture. It changes the way people work. So I started to focus my energy on technology companies that changed the way people present. Lo and behold, SlideRocket was one of the companies that was hiring (They specialized in online presentation technology). There was a job opening I would be perfect for that was posted online.
Time was of the essence. This job had already been posted for a week and I knew they were going to be flooded with applicants.
I knew this was the job I wanted. But I couldn't take the typical resume route. I didn’t want to be another rat in the wheel. And if that was the case, well then, I realized I needed to go about my job search with a completely different approach.
Inspired by a podcast and blog post by Seth Godin, the first thing I did was trash my resume.
The problem with a resume is that it doesn’t scream, “This is ME! I’m creative, energetic, full of life,” and there’s no visual way to express what you want to say to someone through a piece of paper.
So, off I went to explore other ways to tell my story – the story of why I wanted to work for a certain company - with a truly creative approach.
Then, the light bulb went off – I needed to approach this job search in the same way I would court someone. With a love letter. A visual one. I needed to convince them that I was worth the wait. That I could stand out in a pile of applicants.
And then it hit me.
I had my “aha!” moment.
I was going to create a presentation resume to court them, with their very own presentation technology!
I began to work furiously day and night. This would go on for weeks. I even spent a day and a half just to find the right song.
Even on the last day, I got cold feet. Doubts began to creep in. Should I still do this? Because once I do, it’s out there in the world for everyone to see. When you do something completely different, when you put yourself completely out there, you always have second thoughts because it’s so different.
Then I realized, what’s the worst that can happen?
I decided it was a risk worth taking. It was a smart risk in the grand scheme of things.
So with that said, I dove right in.
I tweeted Chuck Dietrich, the CEO of Slide Rocket. I gave him a link to my presume.
Check it out here:
Chuck read the tweet on his iPhone as he was boarding his plane.
An hour later, after Chuck literally walked off his plane, he replied.
“Oh my gosh, he responded right away!” I exclaimed.
Then another thought crept into my head.
“Oh my gosh, what should I say?”
Let’s be calm and professional. I sent him another message:
“Thanks, are you still hiring?”
“Yes - many positions.”
We ended up touching base on the phone and talked for about 15 minutes. He interviewed me briefly and asked, “When can we see you?”
“On the next flight down!”
I got the job.
At this point, you're probably asking, "Great story, but what's the #1 myth about job hunting?"
The myth is this: The resume stands out.
Since the day we were born, our schools and colleges have brainwashed us to live in a standardized world. Nearly everything you can imagine was standardized. From textbooks, lessons, and tests to our personalities and even our creativity.
We mindlessly march to the orders of being on time, getting our homework done and scoring high on tests, only to find that in the real world this is far from enough to prepare us for a successful career.
They’ve taught us that if we follow the “rules,” we’ll get the dream job we’ve always asked for. And year after year, so many of us continue to follow these rules like a sea of mindless zombies.
The rules were:
Get good grades (as close to 4.0 GPA please!)
Write a resume (that looks like everyone else’s)
Submit it to a company (online or in person)
Rinse and repeat with multiple companies
Cross your fingers and hope someone hires you
Admit it, you’ve gone through this process before, haven’t you? It’s not hard to understand why. After all, it’s easy (and we all love the big red easy button don’t we?). But that’s exactly why it’s ineffective. It’s so easy that everyone does it. And by following these rules, you’ve put yourself squarely among the masses.
Mass is boring. Mass is typical. Mass is average.
It pays to be different.
If you want to land your dream job, you’ve got to think outside the box.
How about creating a presume like Hanna that’s so compelling that readers pass it onto their friends?
How about filming a funny YouTube video on why you’re the best fit for the job?
How about telling your story through a website?
Recruiters are yearning to hear a unique story they can tell their friends about. In the era of Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook, these stories are told faster than ever before.
People want to be wowed. People want to be entertained. People want to be inspired.
Out with the mundane and in with the extraordinary. Let go of all the traditional information you’ve been told about job hunting. Disregard the robotic cover letter templates. Toss out the incredibly boring resumes that fail to tell your story. It’s time to come to terms with understanding how the world works for those that are extraordinary.
The era of the resume is officially over.
The resume is dead.