Education Career Services

July 22, 2009

An “I Didn’t Follow-Up” Horror Story

Several years ago, I applied for a job in my community I thought would be a nice shift from the high-pressure environment I’d just broken out of.  I wasn’t looking for anything full time, and this occasional writing gig seemed just the ticket. 

Given my background—years as a full-time professional writer, trainer, and creative director—I figured I’d be a shoe-in to cover clam bakes and sailing races and other local happenings.  It would be a chance for me to get more involved locally and do some journalistic work, two goals I’d set for myself when leaving the all work/no play life behind.

I put together a nice résumé with a cover letter written specifically for the opening, printed it on linen paper, dressed nicely but not formally, and delivered it in person to the office (within walking distance of my home!).  The assistant at the desk seemed pleasantly surprised, and we had a brief conversation.  She placed my envelop on a teetering stack of paper and promised to pass it along as soon as the editor came out of a meeting. 

Then…nothing. 

Steeped in the “Don’t call us, we’ll call you…” mindset (though nowhere in the posting did it say “No Calls”), I came up with a hundred confidence-busting reasons the editor never contacted me.  Surely, my package got there, since I delivered it myself.  Therefore, the problem must be ME.  Maybe my letter was too stilted and impersonal; after all, I’d been doing business writing, not quirky, homegrown coverage.  Maybe my background just wasn’t conducive to a switch.  Maybe my samples demonstrated that I didn’t have as much talent as I thought.

After puzzling over the result—not even an interview?—I put it behind me.  As it turns out, I wound up leaving the area to pursue another opportunity.

Just after moving on (quite literally), I received a personal note in the mail from the editor.  Apparently, my hand-delivered application HAD been lost…on the assistant’s desk.  It had just resurfaced.  The editor bemoaned that they had already hired someone not nearly as qualified, but she offered immediate freelance work to get me on the team. 

telephone-lgIt was a wonderfully honest note, one that most managers would never send.  It did much to raise my battered self-esteem…and right after that, I gave my newly confident self a swift kick in the butt.  If only I’d made one simple follow-up call!

Thank goodness I learned this lesson with a part-time, “for fun” opportunity and not my ultimate dream job.  Now, don’t you make the same mistake!

Amy Lorenzo, CPRW
Career Services International

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