Jeh Johnson must hand out his resume like a stack of business cards.
Jeh (pronounced ‘Jay’) is poised to succeed Janet Napolitano and become our next secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Johnson didn’t wake up and become head of DHS. As Politico explains, he’s held several high-profile positions in and around our government. When a job opens up, Johnson fires off his resume like it’s in a holster on his hip. Among his prestigious roles:
- General counsel of the Air Force for President Clinton
- Special counsel for John Kerry during 2004 presidential campaign
- Top lawyer for Department of Defense
For such uber-competitive jobs, Johnson needed to be quick on the draw with his resume. Otherwise, the door slams shut and the job goes to someone else.
How to Get Ahead and How to Get Left Behind
I have two short stories about Millennials and resumes that remind me of Johnson’s experience. One has a happy ending and the other does not. If you want to free yourself from the crowded 20-something job market (and crazy-high unemployment), pay attention.
Several months ago, a friend of mine mentioned he was finishing grad school and needed a job. He wanted to find a research position and work with data and numbers. Basically, two subjects I know little about. At the time, though, I worked for a media consulting firm (i.e. improving TV news and local newspapers) and mentioned we have an entire department devoted to poring over stats.
I told my friend “My company does the work you want to do. Send me your resume, and I’ll pass it along.”
Right away, his resume appeared in my inbox. I forwarded it to the head of our New York City office. She didn’t have any openings but thought our LA team might have a vacancy. The LA boss received my friend’s resume, liked what he saw, set up an interview (where it hopefully went like this) and hired him. My friend is still working there and loves the job.
Why did my friend send me his resume so quickly?
“I wasn’t sure what the applicant pool might look like,” he said. “But I knew I wanted to be on the top of the resume pile ASAP.”
Somewhere, Jeh Johnson is beaming.
OK, story #2. The first one has a happy ending so you can see where this is going.
Recently, I ran into a friend who just finished law school and is looking for a job in Washington, DC.
I lived in DC the past three years and know a handful of lawyers in town. My friend is particularly interested in women’s issues and politics. Instantly, a lawyer I know pops into my head, and I said “I have the perfect person for you to meet. She runs her own firm and is passionate about women’s issues. Send me your resume, and I’ll pass it along.”
A few days go by and no resume. A week and still nothing. It’s now been three weeks, and I doubt I’ll hear from her.
The unhappy ending?
My lawyer friend tells me her practice is growing, and she’s open to making a hire if the right person comes along.
“As an employer, I place a premium on referrals from friends when hiring for a position within my law firm,” my lawyer friend said. “Failing to follow through on a friend’s offer is an absurd mistake for job-seekers. Using your network to apply for jobs is critical.”
No, every resume pass-along scenario won’t lead to a job. You win some, you lose some. But you will always come up short if you fail to follow through on an opportunity — no matter how slim the odds. In the words of Michael Jordan: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
It’s hard enough to get in the door without a connection. If you are lucky enough to nab one, take full advantage right away. Zero hesitation.
Don’t make life tougher than it needs to be.
Did you wind up at your job thanks to a connection? Share the story below!