This is the story of how I got my dream job through the portfolio method.
The idea here is that traditional, convergent techniques will never reveal certain types of candidates. This is bad for companies, it’s bad for teams who are missing key players, and of course it’s bad for us as unique talents. Everyone loses when we work below our potential. Let’s help them help themselves and show them what they’re missing.
I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do. I knew the company I wanted to work for, I knew the person I wanted to work with, and I was stone-cold certain I would be a great fit in the particular role and department.
I spent two years looking for the right opportunity, a position that I could apply for, and I kept turning up with nothing.
Either the role I wanted required a security clearance, or I didn’t have the specific job history they were looking for. Obviously I qualify for a clearance, but you can’t initiate that process on your own, so that was a bit of a Catch-22. So is the question about the job history. You know you would be good at something, but you can’t get hired until you’ve already done it, but you can’t get hired until you’ve already done it, but you... et cetera, ad nauseam, ad absurdum.
If I was getting into this place, I was going to have to climb in the window.
I came up with a speculative idea, a way to create my portfolio project.
This is why a portfolio project is such a big deal. It proves a bunch of points that can’t be demonstrated with a traditional resume.
It shows the quality of your work.
With a long-running project like mine, it can show your ability to adhere to a production schedule.
It shows your creativity.
It shows, like nothing else, your sincere desire to work for the company... since technically you’ve just done it for free.
It may show that you see potential opportunities for the company that it hasn’t seen for itself yet.
It shows your communication abilities.
It shows your understanding of company culture and whether you have the right social filters to succeed in the workplace.
One thing it may show, which you can’t control, is how your work compares to that of other people in the department, or maybe even in your desired role.
Most people aren’t that engaged in their jobs, for a variety of reasons. Largely I think it’s because there’s a huge disconnect between people’s talents and what they are asked to do as their official role. There is a vast gap between what people will do from passion and internal motivation, and the petty tasks that are asked of them.
A passion project shows something besides the details of the project itself, and that is: the existence of passion itself.
Not everyone can or should display emotions like passion for their job. As a natural enthusiast, I have an almost unfair advantage here. If I’m into something, I am INTO it. I think about it day and night, sometimes dream about it, and I can’t really even stop myself from thinking about it even during my off hours.
Might as well harness that and make money off it, right?
This is the specific nature of my project. I put together a highly specialized, highly targeted newsletter aimed at the interests of the engineers where my husband works. I knew what they would like because I know him and also because I worked at an aerospace engineering firm for several years. Probably nobody but me could do this thing in the way that I do it.
I put out the newsletter day by day, day by day, day by day. My hubby forwarded it to a couple of people. Gradually, as I knew it would, interest built through word of mouth.
I probably have the highest open rate of any newsletter out there. Right now I have 49 readers.
Did you get that last part?
I could send a piece of email to my relatives and it would have more subscribers. This is an incredibly small reach.
Does this project have commercial potential? Could I build it out to 100,000x? Sure.
Did I want to? No.
I have a bunch of other things I’m working on, and I didn’t want to build an email business. I didn’t want to pay out of pocket for the months and years it would take to catch on and I didn’t particularly want to work with advertisers. It also wasn’t my chosen topic. If I were going to put in all that effort for something of my own, it would be something else.
I set out specifically to target this project to this one particular place and get myself this job.
It totally worked, too. One of my readers was... my future boss.
So when a position opened up in his department, I applied for it, and I prominently featured my newsletter in my cover letter and my resume.
That was the first thing the HR rep asked me about during my initial phone screen. “Yep, that’s me.”
After doing this project every business day for nearly two years, it was pretty clear that I knew what I was up to and that I would meet deadlines. What else did they need to know?
And then what happened?
And then I was asked to give a presentation about my methods, and it rocked, and people got pretty excited, and I got 25% more subscribers in one day.
The portfolio method worked for me, as it has for other people. They don’t always know they need you until they meet you and see what you can do.
I believe it’s our responsibility to make sure that we land in the place where we can contribute at our maximum. When we get scared about money, we sell ourselves short, and we grab at whatever we can find, no matter how far beneath our abilities it might be. Instead we should be honing our pitch and aiming at the highest level that we can reach. Several years later, we’ll be able to do much more, anyway, with our earned experience and new skills. So why wait?
The next step in the portfolio method should be obvious: Keep going. Develop whatever it is and get ready to pitch again. If you can do this, then you can probably do more, and all interested parties deserve a chance to find out just what that is.
Believe that I’m ready to pitch, and pitch hard. I have an entire page of ideas I can develop now, and all I need is the tiniest sliver of opportunity. Just let that window open a crack and everyone will hear my singing.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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