"Four solid job offers. Fantastic! You didn't think you'd get any."
"Well of course not," she smiled. "It's been almost 15 years since I had to look for a job."
Heather is an accomplished, mid-career Human Resources Executive. There really isn't much of anything she hasn't done in Human Resources. We were having a cup of tea at the Argo Tea store on Randolph Street in downtown Chicago. She was flying out west to start her new job, the one she picked from the four offers, tomorrow.
I had asked her to tell me how she generated the multiple offers.
"I don't think I realized it till I was done," she began, but your book (Finding Work When There Are No Jobs. Think Different Press. 2013) was kind of like a song playing in my head."
"Your second principle? 'Adding Music'? Turns out that was the one that really stayed with me through every interview. The story you have in the book about the guys sitting around the table at the Food Pantry? The story where the old jazz singer walks in and the homeless guy starts talking about the rhythm of the streets. How he can feel it like a bass line when something is about to happen on the streets? I'll tell you Roger, that story really stayed in my mind. It made me think about how when I go into an interview, I can pick up the music, the tone of the people in the room. I can almost hear what it's like when I really connect with someone. It's like a song."
"You were always like that, I bet. Right?"
"Maybe," she answered. "But I didn't know it. The story in the book got me thinking about it and I remembered I could do it. It's almost like I didn't see how powerful it was to actually use a story until the whole thing was over. The story really did get me thinking. Not in some cliché, fake inspiration way. But in my own way."
"I remember you being worried about not knowing anyone outside your company. And how that would stop you. Looks like it didn't. How come?"
"I got your 'communitizing' idea. But I didn't really get it. It's been so drilled into me to think about "networking" as the answer to everything, that I forgot to notice the giant, earth moving community I did belong to. Once again, I didn't really get how powerful an idea from the book was 'til I was done. When you say 'communitize' you mean: look for a club where you are in solid. A member. No questions asked. You belong. And I really thought I didn't have one of those till I started interviewing. That's when I realized, OMG! I do have a community!"
"Which was what?"
"Human Resources! I've been a member in good standing my whole grown-up life. I have the secret de-coder ring, I know the password. So once knowing, or should I say 'remembering' cause I always knew it, I could start communitizing in a million different ways. All of which led up to my message to everyone I spoke with: 'I belong in this community!'"
"OK but how did you get in the door? Was there some kind of magic resume or something?"
"Remember the story in your book about the guy who made the anorexic kid laugh?"
"I read that story and started thinking about the places where I really made a difference. Not just behaviors or business or -- like you say in the book -- the data. I mean the parts where I could tell the story of how I really made a difference. With a person. A company. Whatever. I realized how much of the important stuff I was leaving out of not just my resume, but also my whole story. So I started making sure I was only talking about things where I knew I had made a difference."
"You know Heather, I think the most remarkable thing you did was that you got two offers from two of the greatest universities in the country. And you've never worked in higher education in your life! Conventional wisdom says that schools only choose people from other schools. How did you break through that wall?"
"Oh, that's easy. I used your last principle. "Practicing Stewardship," taking care of something larger than me. And education? Being part of an institution where the mission is education? That's about as large as it gets."
Heather puts her hands out in front of her like a scale. "On one side we got, 'making the world safe for new software.' That's great. No judgment. I respect other people's goals. But for me," as she raises her right hand high as she can above her head, "for me education is way up here. Much bigger than me or any other regular job. When I 'practice stewardship' by taking care of supporting the education of all those thousands of young people, I am working on something way larger than just my family or myself. And you know what happened Roger?"
"My knowing that came across to everyone at the University."
"So," I said as we looked down at the empty teacups, "2 offers from major schools. Two from billion dollar companies. Good work Heather!"
"Thanks!" she said as we both got up and headed for the door. "The book really did change the way I think. But now that I got the offers and picked one of them, can you do me a favor?"
"Sure. What's that"?
"Keep doing what you're doing. You are on to something here."