College Station, TX
Rapid City, SD
Wichita Falls, TX
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Sara's wax seal.
A few years ago I
agreed to help Sara Redhead in her job search, at the request of
her father Paul, who I know through the Montgomery Chamber
She had just
completed her bachelor's degree in mathematics from the
University of Alabama.
I required that she promise to follow
my simple but proven plan no matter how bizarre it sounded to
First, I had her make a list of 25 companies she’d like to work
for, regardless of whether they were hiring. (REASON: Over 50% of
job openings are never publicly advertised.)
Second, I had her snail mail her resume with a
hand written letter, and a red wax
seal containing the first letter of her last name on the
envelope. (REASON: Most people apply
for jobs online. While there's nothing wrong with that, it's not
enough. You’ll never stand out from the crowd if you
only do what everyone else is doing.)
The red wax seal is how kings and queens communicated important
messages centuries ago. It's so unique today that it's impossible for
someone not to open an envelope with this seal on it.
Third, I had Sara mail the unique envelope containing her resume
directly to the CEOs, not
to the HR directors.
(REASON: If you
impress the CEO and he or she passes your resume on to HR,
you have a lot more perceived clout than other applicants.)
The next step was to make follow
up calls to all 25 CEOs a few weeks later and ask for an
interview. Even though we knew she wouldn't get through to many
of these top executives, she didn't need to in order for this
approach to work. All she had to do was leave the message that
she was the young lady that sent the hand written letter with
the red wax seal and she'd be instantly recognized.
But before she could, HR directors
started calling her and saying "Our CEO said you impressed him
so much that I need to get you in here for an interview".
Sara landed her dream job with a
major corporation, and moved to San Antonio, TX to begin her
But here's the rest
of her story.
I've asked every one
of the many people I've helped with job searches over the years to keep
me posted on their progress. While everyone promises
to do so, I never hear from about 90% of them again.
It's no surprise that
most people aren't grateful enough to honor this
simple request, but this is far bigger than me.
This hurts them because not keeping commitments - especially to
people who have the ability to help you in your career - is a
bad habit that can come back to haunt you down the road.
others because I'm just a little less inclined to help more
people in the future knowing there's such a high probability
they won't keep their promises.
And that's why this
epilogue to Sara's story is so special. Last month I received
this email from her:
"Mr. Shepard, I wanted to give you an update. I discovered
that the mathematics industry is too impersonal for me. I don't
think attaining a mathematics degree was a mistake and am still
working full time as a Statistical Research Analyst. But I'm
also taking pre-requisite classes to become a nurse. To this day
I cannot thank you enough for all you did to help me find my
first job. I owe a large part of the success I am currently
rewarded with and any future success to your unprecedented
guidance and career knowledge."
Only time will tell what field Sara ends up in for the rest of
her life, but she'll be successful at whatever field she chooses
1. She understands the importance of making a plan and sticking
to it. (Her father is retired Air Force, so I suspect he taught her a thing or two about the
importance of executing
2. She's willing to listen to and take advice from a voice of
experience, even when that advice contradicted what all of her
colleagues were doing.
3. She has gratitude and expresses it, which is something most
people of any age don't do anymore.
4. She follows
These principles are
more than good career advice. They're basic virtues that
everyone should have, and are common sense principles our great
grandparents were taught when they were kids.
How sad that in this
day and age when we have access to worlds of information our
great grandparents could have never dreamed of, common sense
isn't as common as it was in their time.
But for those who are
smart enough to listen and learn, it is still out there. If you
want a role model for your kids in their career search, tell
them to look at Sara Redhead.
To Your Success,
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