Don’t Be Afraid to Zig Instead of Zagging

This month I’m participating in the A to Z Challenge, blogging every day of the month of April, except Sundays, on a topic from A to Z. I’m posting short-form topics meant to get you talking and sharing! Join the discussion in the comments.

I have a story to tell you that’s going to sound made up. You might wonder if it’s true. When I read the stories of some of these entrepreneurs who say they went from living on someone else’s couch to this amazing business and life they love, I’m often skeptical. How do I know it’s true? How do I know they’re not making it up?

I don’t, and you won’t, either — unless you try it. Take the advice and see what happens. Then you’ll know.

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I started looking for a job at the beginning of this year. I did the thing that everybody does, where I applied to bunch of job postings. I interviewed a lot.

It was incredibly frustrating. Most of the companies I interviewed with wanted me to jump through hoops, asking me bizarre questions like “Explain how the Internet works in less than 100 words” or “Tell us something about you that makes you unique,” after I’ve already uploaded my cover letter, which tells them many things about me that makes me unique and is the purpose of the cover letter in the first place.

I don’t do hoops very well, and as soon as I smell that attitude coming from a company, I don’t much want to work there.

So I came to a point where I thought, this is not the best way to do this. I was scrolling through job postings, hunting around for something that “might” suit me well enough to apply for it, and I stopped. What sense does this make? I am looking up companies, trying to figure out if I would like working there, if they have a style like mine, if we would be a good fit, when I should be doing this the other way around.

I should be reaching out to companies that I am already enthusiastic about. So I put on my thinking hat and made a list of entrepreneurs I’ve started following in the last year or so whose work I admire and enjoy. I started with the one at the top of the list.

I wrote the most killer cover letter I could push myself to do. I started by telling him how I started following his work and exactly what I like about it. When I talked about myself, I kept it in terms of what value I could bring to the type of company I knew they must be (small, startup, scrappy, in need of organization) and in terms of past results I’ve achieved in these areas. This is hard work! You have to push past your initial thoughts and dig down deep for the really valuable stuff.

Someone from the company got in touch, enthusiastically, the next day. The next week I had an interview with no hoops. He didn’t even want to look at my resume. The week after that, I had a job. It’s starting small, but I have confidence in my own ability to turn it into something bigger.

I stopped and thought about better ways to achieve my goals, and it worked. When I was stuck, I zigged.

Where do you need to zig? What are some different ideas you could come up with for solving whatever problem you’re dealing with? How do you avoid getting trapped in stale routines?

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