Over the last couple of months, I've been figuring out the answers to that question myself.
I've been dabbling with the idea of going back into the employment sector, as opposed to being an entrepreneur. In my business, I don't hold any of the clients I work with to any long-term contracts. People use my services for a minimum of one-month at a time and then if they don't need anything else for a while, they don't use my service. I don't have a problem with offering people that level of freedom; however, it's not always in the best interest of my bottom-line. The flip-side of that is that I would NEVER want anyone to pay for anything they aren't using or don't need, simply because they're contractually obligated to do so.
But I digress.
Several months ago, I started putting my "feelers" out there to see what type of opportunities were available for someone with my level of experience as a Personal/Executive Assistant.
Recently, I found a start-up accelerator that was looking for an Office Manager and I applied for the position. I immediately received a phone call to say that they were interested in my resume and I was pretty excited. I think the idea of working for a company that is helping innovate technology is pretty cool.
I wrote a SPECTACULAR cover letter for the position:
In response to the posting for an Office Manager with [Redacted], I’m submitting my resume for consideration.
Having started my career as a personal assistant to a venture capital firm, I was extremely excited about the opportunity to apply for a position with [Redacted]. To date, I’ve worked with about 5 startup companies, not including my own, so working with an accelerator would be something I can easily adapt to. More importantly, I’m happy that [Redacted] is working with [Redacted]tech. The industry has been doing things the same way forever and it’s time to bring in innovative thinkers and shake things up. Last year, I worked as a [Redacted]and she was constantly looking for a new way to do things in that space.
My resume speaks to my extensive experience in calendar management, my ability to create PowerPoint presentations, managing staff and excellent communication; however, the bottom line is you want someone that is passionate about what they do and can get things done. That is what I bring to the role specifically. I understand the value of the principal’s time and I don’t need any hand holding to accomplish what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis. I’m a solutions-based thinker and an excellent communicator. I understand the importance of providing the necessary highlights, as opposed to a long story, as well as the importance of being proactive. I like to be a few steps ahead of the person I’m supporting so that they don’t have to ask me for the things I know they need.
I firmly believe that I would be an asset to the [Redacted] team and I look forward to the opportunity to discuss the position further. I can be reached directly at [Redacted] or [Redacted].
Thank you for your time and consideration.
The cover letter was a winner. I had several follow-up calls about the position and we were waiting to schedule me for an in-person interview. The HR person was very communicative, so when there was a week in between where I didn't hear from her, I reached out, again. I wanted to make sure my level of interest was clear and I think it's important to re-iterate interest, even when they haven't said anything. Plus, no news is good news...meaning that they hadn't filled the job.
I was told by the HR person that she was fully in support of my application; however, the CEO had started interviewing people with more industry-specific experience.
Look - some jobs require industry-specific knowledge and expertise, like, medical or legal positions. This particular position doesn't really require anything that a good Google search can't provide.
So, as an "outside-the-box" thinker, I decided to reach out to the CEO directly. I found him on LinkedIn, signed up for a free 30-day premium account, and sent him an InMail message that further emphasized my interest in the position and why. About 15 minutes later, I got a phone call from the HR rep and I'll admit that for a split-second I was a little apprehensive about answering. What if she's mad that I circumvented her? Then, I decided I'd just own my decision because at the end of the day, no matter how supportive and #TeamNikki she is, there are some things I have to do for myself to represent myself.
Turns out, the CEO wanted to interview me the next day. I was excited!
A few hours later, she called me back and said that he had a project he wanted me to work on as part of the interview process, to give a feel for hat it would like to work together and it would take about 5 hours. I asked if this is something he was doing with all the candidates and she said it was. I initially agreed, but later, I didn't like the way that felt in my gut.
I went to the interview bright and early the next morning and it was just like I thought it would be - it's a laid-back, open floor plan in a very hipster-chic office setting, a place I could ultimately see myself enjoying!
The interview was very informal and we talked about me, more than my resume, which was refreshing. He asked me to review a document for him, which took all of 5 minutes or so, and provide him with feedback. He said my feedback was really great.
Turns out, there wasn't a 5 hour project for me to work on and he said that when they had something available, they'd call me back to come do it. Well, here's the thing about that...if he's not compensating people for their time, it's possibly illegal and definitely unethical. If it was a test of my capabilities as an EA, it wouldn't need to be a new assignment for each applicant...they'd just recycle the assignment/project for each person and see how each candidate handles it. The fact that they're using an employment candidate to work on a live project for them for free and then finalizing the project with the work they've obtained feels pretty sketchy.
I decided to write a follow-up letter to the interview, completely from the memory of our conversation, that let him know that I heard the pain points that he expressed and outlined what I feel like I can specifically bring to the role. I wanted to be sure to impress upon him that I know how to GET SHIT DONE!
For me, that's where it stops. I'm not going back at a later date to work for free on some project. I wrote a kick-ass cover letter, I gave a kick-ass interview, and I wrote a kick-ass follow-up letter. THAT'S ALL YOU GET! If you want more, HIRE ME!
What I'm saying is, we ALL have to decide when the cost of admission for something we want is too high. There clearly are candidates who will work for free because they want the job that bad...but, guess what...he got their free work and he kept looking. He didn't stop the process and say "You did a great job for us for free, we'd like to hire you right away."
Maybe he hasn't fully decided on what he's looking for. Maybe he wants to keep "dating" before he commits. Those are all things that should be part of the consideration when deciding if this is someone that I want to work with...because in the end, we both need to be happy and secure with our decision to work together.