Hiring managers: Please don’t assume

A nonlinear graphMy career path hasn’t exactly been linear. I skipped over a few titles here and there; jumped from the agency side to the client side; even veered off into a different career for a while.

It all makes sense to me. And when I can explain it, it makes sense to whomever I’m explaining it to. Where it presents a challenge is in those instances where I’m not able to explain; i.e., a job application.

People will make assumptions about your skills, knowledge, preferences, and ambition based on your current or most recent job title, and you have no way to confirm or deny them.

In my case, no title I’ve had has ever accurately described what I do. So if a recruiter or hiring manager gets my resume (or one of those god-awful online applications circa-2002 where you upload your complete resume and then re-key every single detail by hand), and only gives it a cursory scan, he or she might assume:

1) I’m all about “the big idea” and snappy headlines

2) Bill Bernbach is my idol

Photo of Bill Bernbach

3) I don’t care about details — that’s what proofreaders are for

4) My knowledge of fonts is based on what’s available on Microsoft Office

5) If you asked me to write a blog post or newsletter, I’d spontaneously disintegrate or have an aneurysm

6) I used stock art for the illustrations in my conceptual resume, or hired a designer

7) I’m a self-declared rebel who loves to stir up a charming amount of mayhem

8) I live for the Super Bowl, but only so I can watch the commercials.

They would, of course, be dead-wrong on all counts. 

Here’s the reality:

1) I’m all about getting the work done. I know you already have a big idea, so just tell me what it is so I can get the copy written. I’m a word person, not a “big idea” person. I can do the idea thing, but I don’t often enjoy it (mostly because ultra-competitive types suck all the joy out of the process). Let the people who love doing it, do it, and let me do what I do best.

 

2) Bill who?

 

image of a tennis shoe3) I live for details. One of my earliest memories involves a three-year-old me crying hysterically because I saw a typo on another kid’s shoe. Yes, this is a true story; my mother was there, and can corroborate.

 

4) I’m serious about typography. If you ever hear me say “font” when I mean “typeface,” or vice versa, I’m doing it to avoid confusing those who think the terms are interchangeable. I started my career as a proofreader for a typesetter. So watch your kerning, hang your punctuation, and don’t ever use the ellipsis key-command on a project I’m involved in, because I will mark it up.

 

5) I love writing long copy. I also love writing traditional DM letters and emails, customer communications, website copy, legal copy, instructional copy. . . . In fact, make a list of the types of copy you think most copywriters hate to write. That’s the stuff I enjoy writing the most.

 

6) That is so not my style. We’re talking about my personal brand, so I want to own every detail. While it’s true that I cannot draw a stick figure to save my life, I drew/painted (using watercolor pencils) and retouched (extensively in some cases, to make up for the fact that I can neither draw nor paint) all the illustrations. I began each one by tracing a photograph.

1) Original image; 2) unretouched watercolor; 3) final art

1) Original image; 2) unretouched watercolor; 3) (almost) final art

 

7) I’m a rules follower and, above all, I obey the rules of common sense. I hope that doesn’t make me a rebel (but fear it does). And while I can handle intermittent chaos, I don’t cultivate it. I’d rather get my work done.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like to have fun at work. I love getting to know my coworkers and finding out which ones have a juvenile sense of humor on par with mine. I just don’t spend so much time playing that I have to stay at the office until 8 p.m. to stay on track. In a business that relies on teamwork, you can’t afford to lag behind.

 

8) Don’t like football; don’t give a crap about the commercials.

There is one thing I love about the Super Bowl, though — going to the grocery store once the game has started. It feels like a scene from Night of the Comet.

Image from the 1984 film “Night of the Comet." Released by Shout! Factory.

 

Looking at my resume, a hiring manager might ask why it doesn’t exhibit a more typical progression. The short answer is that I prefer not to take the traditional path to doing anything. If everyone else is doing it, why would I bother? Well-covered territory presents no opportunity for me to learn or create anything new.

In case you glossed over it, check out that Bill Bernbach quote above. 😉

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