Getting Your Foot in the Door 
When You Don't Have a Leg to Stand On
by Rob Sullivan 

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Excerpt from the book:


"There's never time to do it right. 
But there's always time to do it over."



"Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for the reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally."

--John Maynard Keynes


This book is based on the theory that your relationship with a potential employer is almost exactly the same as the relationships that exist between products and consumers. There is only one key difference: In the job search, you are both product and salesperson. Playing both roles may seem difficult at times, but with a clear, strategic focus and an unwavering belief in yourself, you will find the process can be quite rewarding. 

The job seekers most likely to benefit from this book have already focused on a particular career--whatever that may be. If this describes you, congratulations. You are taking the right steps. The fact that you are reading this suggests that you are eager to learn and willing to challenge yourself. These are valuable qualities to any employer when you know how to present them. 

If you read this book passively, if you merely nod your head occasionally and then put it away, you will have wasted your time. Treat it as a textbook. Give yourself homework assignments. Scribble notes in the margin. You are both teacher and student. Although this book requires effort and self-discipline, I have included questions and examples to help you prepare. 


What If I Have No Idea What I Want To Do?


If you find yourself in this category, there are a few issues to address before you begin. Start by asking friends and family what they could see you doing for a career. You may be surprised to discover that your talents are more apparent to loved ones than they are to you. Although it might seem strange, it is perfectly normal. For years, these people have probably been encouraging you to develop your talents. And if you are anything like me, you've been ignoring them. 

All my life, teachers, friends, and family have encouraged me to write. Anytime anyone suggested that I write a book, I disregarded the suggestion with my usual comment: "If I had anything worth saying, I would." Of course, I not so secretly believed I didn't have anything worth saying. Like so many people, I had a tendency to devalue myself.

Fortunately, there is another soul-searching exercise that can uncover your hidden talents. Just ask yourself what it is that people need when they seek your assistance or advice. If you aren't sure, start paying attention. Over the next few weeks or months keep a journal and make a note anytime someone asks for your assistance. You may be surprised what you discover. 

In my case, it was my perseverance in the job search process that caught the attention of people who knew me. Upon hearing how many rejections I encountered while pursuing my ideal field, in which I had no practical experience, more than a few people told me they would have given up long before. Without my realizing or intending it, my perseverance and eventual success inspired people. Nevertheless, it still took me over five years to accept the fact that I had developed a base of knowledge worth sharing. Until that point, the only people who benefited were those who actively sought my assistance. 

Whatever you do, don't automatically jump to any conclusions about whether you can make money pursuing a particular career. There are countless people who make a living doing what they love. If you're looking for inspiration along these lines, there are two books you should read. The first, Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood , by Marsha Sinetar, is a wonderful book that examines, in depth, the obstacles and opportunities that arise when people pursue careers that are in sync with their values and interests. The second, Entrepreneurs Are Made Not Born: Secrets from 200 Successful Entrepreneurs , by Lloyd Shefsky, contains over 200 case histories of successful entrepreneurs. Both of these books are incredibly inspiring and thought provoking.


Case Studies


Throughout the book, you will find case studies from a variety of different industries. While the needs of each employer will differ, the basic principles of marketing still apply when it comes to selling yourself as a product. There is simply no substitute for knowing how to position yourself relative to your competition. By understanding and using the principles outlined in the following chapters, you will be better able to compete for the most sought after jobs in the world, in a competitive marketplace, and against others with more practical experience.

We will also explore how you can reposition yourself to appeal to companies with completely different needs. In other words, you will learn how to modify the approach to match your talents to your area of interest. With a few weeks of focused preparation, you can sell yourself into almost any job. Why? Because that is a few weeks longer than the competition usually spends.


Traps to Avoid


When the economy is good, the tendency for many is to take shortcuts in the job search process. For example, people who otherwise would spend time researching a company will instead throw together a generic cover letter and hope for the best. When there are more jobs than good people to fill them, you might land a few interviews this way. However, I would strongly encourage you not to do this. No matter how great or poor the economy is, you have to take responsibility for your long-term happiness by thoroughly researching each potential employer. Don't let laziness play a role. Instead, when you're faced with a wide range of options, use the strategies in this book and take the time to make an informed decision. The more time you spend doing this, the less likely it is that you'll find yourself facing unpleasant surprises on the job.



Marketing Yourself and Developing a
Personal Marketing Plan


Despite what you might think, your ability to get a job has little to do with experience or intelligence. You don't need a résumé overflowing with internships and degrees. And it isn't necessarily about being in the right place at the right time--although that never hurts. Instead, getting the job you want is about taking the time to learn to market yourself. This is a lifelong process with serious short- and long-term implications. After all, your experience with each job and each passing year is cumulative. Even if you change careers, you will still have accumulated skills and knowledge that enhances your value, though it might not directly relate to your current or desired position.

To market yourself effectively, you must match your skills with the needs of a potential employer. This way, the job search can be quick and relatively painless. On the other hand, if you don't know what the company needs, you probably don't know what you have to offer. In this case, you will be relying on luck to guide your personal and professional satisfaction. This is a great recipe for disappointment. Worse, your job search will drag on indefinitely until you accept a position for which you are overqualified.

A marketing plan--whether it's for a person, product, or service--must include a thorough analysis of the product, the consumer or target audience, the industry or category, and the competition. In the job search, you are the product; the potential employer is the consumer; your cover letter and résumé are interest-generating print ads; and your interview is the sales call in which both parties assess whether the product (you) fits the consumer's needs (the available position).

In some cases there are significant differences between companies with respect to the qualities they seek. Take time to identify these differences because your value will be measured by your ability to meet the needs of the employer.

Without a personal marketing plan, most candidates make the hiring decision an easy one. They have no idea what the company needs or what they, as candidates, have to offer. Some don't even know why they want to work in a given field. With so many other people competing for the same position, no interviewer has time to search for a spark of potential. It must be immediately apparent. Of those who don't succeed, few ever find out why. Most don't even think to ask.


Ongoing Efforts


Just as the marketing effort does not end when a customer makes a purchase decision, your marketing effort should not end when you get an offer or rejection. The challenge has just begun.

The first and most important challenges you will face on the job involve both personal and professional development and customer satisfaction. The customers, in this case, are your employer and your clients or corporate customers who count on you to perform whatever job they hired you to do.

While you may be fortunate to participate in a formal training program, it doesn't change the fact that your professional development is ultimately up to you. For this reason, one of your most important challenges is to identify at least one mentor who can help guide your career.

From a practical standpoint, it may take time before you begin having a positive, measurable impact on your employer's business. But it is also isn't unheard of for people to make valuable contributions starting on their first day. Whatever the case, start a work journal in which you keep a record of your ideas and contributions. For every project, ask yourself: "How is the outcome different (preferably better) because I was involved?" I like to think of this as the It's a Wonderful Life approach to marketing yourself on the job.


Beyond Rejection


Unfortunately, the best preparation may not spare you from disappointment. Should this happen, keep looking for opportunities to improve upon your presentation, whether that be your résumé, cover letter, or interviewing skills. Never stop believing in yourself. This is an active process. As a wise person once said: "Disappointment is when you only hope things get better."

Whatever you do, don't take rejection personally. Instead, treat it as the learning experience it is. Later on we'll look at specific strategies you can use to learn from rejection. In the meantime maintain a positive attitude and keep your eyes focused on your goal. Most important, keep your mind and heart open as we look into the past to better understand the person you are today and how that relates to the needs of potential employers.  

Excerpt from Getting Your Foot in the Door When You Don't Have a Leg to Stand On (Contemporary Books, a Division of the McGraw-Hill Companies)

ISBN 0-8092-2340-6     Cover Price:   US $12.95 
Copyright © by Rob Sullivan.

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