Happy endings! Don’t we love them? The prince meets his princess, they have a tumultuous but hetero-normative, slightly problematic, for reasons that I don’t have time to go in to here, courtship then fall in love and have a perfect, beautiful wedding. Roll credits. Happily ever after, yay! But here’s the thing with weddings: there is a marriage that comes after and marriages aren’t always perfect or beautiful. In short, perfect wedding does not mean perfect marriage. Isn’t it odd that so many people still don’t seem to get that? That the quality of the diamond you get has no bearing whatsoever on the quality of your relationship? Wait, where was I going with this? Oh, yeah –
Let’s compare that with a more modern fairy tale. The story of the design grad who desperately wanted a job at a great studio. But they didn’t just go through the normal, boring channels of applying for a job with them, oh no. They showed up to the studio, in person, with cupcakes! And spelt out on the cupcakes was the URL to their online portfolio. The hiring manager was blown away by their guts and ingenuity; they got a job! A happy ending! But, just like the wedding/marriage issue, there’s a job that comes after a job offer and no matter how flashy their office or how exciting their clients, it can still suck out loud to work there once you’re in. They’ve got a ping-pong table! Is that a worthwhile trade off when upper management is a total mess and your Creative Director screams at you on the regular? Because, guess what, that design grad with the cupcakes just self-selected themselves for a company that hires based on flash instead of show and those places can be awful to work at.
And yes, I know it’s tough, and I know how it is when you just need a job, any job. But by using those types of overly sales-y (and pushy) tactics, you’re more likely to turn off a potential employer than you are to get an interview off the back of it. And you’re putting yourself in a pretty small pool of potential employers who do like that kind of thing and in turn come with a whole host of other red flags. Hiring processes are important and they’re there for a reason, largely to ensure that all applicants are considered fairly and the company gets the best possible person for the job. A company that hires someone because they “went the extra mile” and bought a billboard doesn’t have a lot of respect for process and that can be a nightmare once you’re actually working for them. Yep, processes are boring and you probably don’t care much for them when you’re straight out of uni and desperate for your first job. Believe me. Lack of process means lack of accountability and all that stress and disorganisation usually trickles down on to the shoulders of the entry level guys (i.e., you).
If you’ll stick with me here, I’ll take the relationship analogy a bit further – what do you do when you’re really in to someone and they’re not responding to your texts? Send a last ditch 3.ooam Snapchat, then delete them from your brain forever? Or show up at their house with a fruit basket and letters of recommendation from past relationships? Let’s say you go with door two, and that person actually changes their mind about you. Hooray, tongue kissing! You’re now going steady with someone who chooses their partners based on his or her willingness to bring a basket of fruit! But, you say, what if you really are a good match and it just took the fruit basket thing to open their eyes? If you were a good match they would have just replied to your texts! That’s what non-crazy people do. You want to be with a non-crazy person, yes?
There’s a lot of bad advice being thrown around where young jobseekers are concerned and this whole ‘you need to stand out, make them notice you’ thing usually comes from the misplaced idea that employers are getting a bunch of CVs from graduates that are more or less equal, so if you want the job you need to do something extra, and this just isn’t true. If you’re a recent graduate, chances are you don’t have a lot of work experience on your CV, and you need to find other ways to demonstrate that you can do basic things like pay attention to detail and follow instructions. You can illustrate this in your cover letter or portfolio but most employers will also be assessing that kind of thing just in the application process. For example, if the ad asks candidates to submit a 600 word or less cover letter and you turn in one that’s over 1,000 words you will be cut from the pile because you’ve just shown you didn’t read the ad thoroughly. Similarly, if the ad asks candidates to submit a 600 word or less cover letter and you instead show up to the studio with an infographic and a bunch of flowers, they’re likely going to assume you’re not great at following instruction. Or at the very least don’t have much respect for normal professional boundaries.
I guess the crux of my argument is this: yes, to get hired you need to stand out to an employer. But they will decide what the criteria is for a candidate to ‘stand out’, you don’t get to decide. If they’re looking for a graduate with good communication skills and some experience in interaction design, a candidate will stand out by having a well written cover letter and good, relevant work in their portfolio. That’s it. You can’t take the process in to your own hands – which is how it comes across when you’re going out of your way to get the hiring manager’s attention. Trust me, I know how much it sucks to feel powerless like that, and be hearing nothing but bad news about your job prospects. But there are other ways to get control over the application process, like having someone look over your resume, or your portfolio, and really work at writing a fantastic cover letter. These are all things that will get you noticed for the right reasons. And look, if I still haven’t convinced you and you’re going to try these tactics anyway because you know someone who did something nuts and got a great job that they love – that’s fine, it’s a free country. At least go in to it with your eyes open and know that it’s a pretty big risk with a very small chance of reward.