Sharing the Pain

Dear Anita,

My job is the biggest royal pain. Can you help me get a better one?

Woman in painDear, Complaint Queen,

According to research conducted by SERMO, yours truly actually has one of the top 10 most painful jobs. Yes, that’s right. Writers and journalists rank up there with construction workers, truck drivers, and those on the production line. (Mechanics, gardeners/landscapers, athletes, firefighters, lawyers, and IT professionals round out the top 10.)

But instead of focusing on our pain on the job, try targeting a hiring manager’s daily discomforts – and how you, above all others, can help relieve his or her troubles. A few years ago, Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, trademarked the idea of a Pain Letter. This is the opposite of the generic cover letter (no more “Dear HR, I saw your ad and am applying for the open position. Blah, blah, blah.”).

The first step in writing a Pain Letter is to research the company. Use LinkedIn to find the hiring manager’s name.

Secondly, congratulate the manager and/or the company for a recent accomplishment (which may also be gleaned from LinkedIn or Google research). Ryan calls this the “Hook.”

Next, determine what keeps this manager up at night, and outline the “Pain Hypothesis.” Ryan gave this example for an imaginary Payroll Specialist in Forbes:

I can imagine that hiring as many people as you are, keeping tabs on payroll issues might be a constant challenge. With regulations constantly changing, it’s not easy to keep everyone paid correctly and well-informed in a growing company.

Then, include your “Dragon-Slaying Story,” describing specifically how you handled similar pain in your current or previous position.

When I ran the payroll system at Angry Chocolates, I kept the payroll accurate and in compliance and answered dozens of employee questions every day while we grew from 15 to 650 staff members.

Keep the letter brief, closing simply:

If payroll accuracy and advice to your team is on your radar screen, I’d love to chat when it’s convenient. All the best, Nancy Drew

Readers: How do you focus on alleviating the hiring manager’s business pains in your cover letter?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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RELATED POSTS:
Covering the Cover Letter
Bypassing Human Resources
My Job is a Pain in the Neck – Literally

How to Find Jobs Not Advertised on the Top Job Boards, Part 2

Last week, I offered a half-dozen alternatives to finding positions on the online job boards. To review those ideas, click here. For more tips on how to find unadvertised jobs, read on…

business visionJob Fairs. Also known as a career expo, this is an event where employers and recruiters can meet job seekers. Be sure to bring copies of your résumé, and jot down notes on the business cards you collect so you can follow up. Set up a Google Alert so you won’t miss the next job fair scheduled in your region.

Internships & Volunteer Opportunities. Don’t think internships are just for recent graduates. If you are able to get an internship or volunteer to work for free (a radical concept, I know!) at your dream company, you’ll have your foot in the door when that paid position opens up. Even if your volunteer activities don’t lead to a position, you may meet some people who can help you further your career.

Take a Temp Job. If you just can’t work for free, join a temporary employment agency, such as The Select Family of Staffing Companies. You’ll be able to make some bill-paying money with assignments that last from a few days to a few months, in addition to keeping your skills from getting rusty. You may even be offered a permanent position. In this US News article, “10 Reasons to Take a Temporary Job,” point #1 notes that temporary work isn’t so temporary.

Word of Mouth. If you’ve been searching for a job for any length of time, you’re probably sick of the term “networking.”  Don’t let discouragement keep you from chamber of commerce mixers, service club meetings, and even ponying up the greens fees for a round of golf. For tips on networking, read my post Networking Know-How.

Hit the Bricks. Whether you want to find a job in a downtown boutique or in the financial district of your city, dress for the part, pop some freshly printed résumés in your satchel, and go hunting on foot.  While higher-level jobs don’t often advertise with a “Help Wanted” sign in the window, chatting up the receptionist in an office suite building may lead to some inside information. If you ask to speak to a company’s hiring manager, you may be able to get 10 minutes of his or her time, even without an appointment.

You never know. Your next job may be hiding in plain sight.

Readers: Have you ever landed an “unadvertised” job? We’d love to hear your story.

Do you have a question for Anita Clew? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

GED: Is It Enough?

Dear, Anita,

Due to an illness in my family when I was younger, I wasn’t able to finish high school. But I recently got my GED! I’m excited, but I’m afraid I still may not get as many job opportunities as I would if I had graduated with a high school diploma. Is my GED enough?

Dear, Good Enough,

Congratulations on receiving your GED certificate! As you know, it takes effort to complete the General Educational Development testing, but there may still be some stigma associated with a GED over a traditional high school Sidebardiploma. Comedian Chris Rock jokes that GED stand for “good enough diploma.” But is a GED good enough to get you a job?

The answer is: it depends. You will obviously not be qualified for a job as a rocket scientist or brain surgeon, but for some entry-level positions, having your GED will show that you did, eventually, finish what you started. For yours truly, a candidate who completes his or her GED represents character traits like ambition, resilience, and just plain turning lemons into lemonade.

Most employers – approximately 96 percent, according to the GED Testing Service – accept GED certification as a valid educational credential for employment.  Frankly though, when faced with two equal candidates, one with a GED and the other with a high school diploma, some hiring managers may not want to take a risk on the GED applicant. Make sure you shine in your interview, and if the subject comes up, explain the circumstances that prevented you from graduating with a traditional high school diploma.

Depending on your employment and career goals, you may want to use your GED as a launching pad for further education, either online, at a traditional community college, or through a vocational school. Once you attain a college degree or certification, a GED versus the traditional high school diploma becomes a moot point.

In my many years, I’ve seen many a job candidate with nice, shiny college degrees who turn out to be lazy, unprofessional, or difficult to work with. I would choose a candidate with a GED and a great attitude any day. You’ll find an employer who feels the same.

Anita

Job Seekers: Have you ever felt you lost out on a job because of your GED? Hiring Managers: Is the GED equivalent to a high school diploma in your eyes?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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