How to Pitch Yourself On Paper the HUMAN Way (Or, Your Resume: A Horror Story)

“Why won’t you kiss me?” he had asked.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Didn’t he understand what I was going through? Didn’t he have the same worries?!

He inched closer. I inched backward.

I couldn’t kiss him. Not there. Not with the faint smell of burnt popcorn swirling in my nostrils; the scent of sweaty leather fighting for an equal opportunity to infiltrate my senses.

There was suppose to be candlelight. And a bowl of spaghetti. And Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You playing softly in the background as we slurped onto the same strand of pasta. You know, how all good cartoon love stories start.

But instead, as I thumbed the laces of my rollerskate, the owner’s voice came screeching into our moment: That’s it, kids. Show’s over. Time to go home. Move it on out.

It was 10PM and we were being kicked out of the New Milford Skating Rink—a place that was singlehandedly responsible for approximately 76% of all of the adult things I had seen during my thirteen years on the planet.

The first time I saw a man’s butt (when Eric the nineteen year old was “pants'd” in the middle of the floor); first time I saw a couple arguing, when he grabbed her arm and dragged her out; first time I had to step up to the counter and buy my own slice of frozen pizza; first time I saw a punch thrown in the parking lot. And now, it was the first time I would be kissed.

“Come here,” V had said, pulling his face toward mine in a last ditch attempt to seal the deal, even though the lights had already come on.

“It’s just….” I stammered, unsure how to tell him that I couldn’t kiss him. Not here. Not now. Maybe not ever.

He looked at me like a wounded puppy.

“It’s just…” I tried again. “Alright, this is going to sound stupid….”

“Talk to me, Ash” he had said in a grown-up fashion, as if he had suddenly transformed into a forty five year old shrink. “What’s on your mind?”

Show’s over, kids. Time to go home.

“It’s just that I don’t understand how…our noses…won’t…” I breathed in sharply. “…collide.”

It was a subject I had given a great deal of consideration—especially because all of my girlfriends had already been kissed, and there I was, bringing up the rear some six months later, still not having done it.

When you’re thirteen years old, six months is like six years—give or take a few episodes of Clarissa Explains It All. Plus, science class had only taught us how plate tectonics worked underneath the ground; we had no instruction on how the ones worked inside your heart. Or maybe that was just me having a damn near heart attack.

“Come here, dummy,” V had said softly, almost romantically. I had never liked being called a dummy so much.

He slid his arm behind my waist—oh my god can he feel my fat rolls?!—and then, as gently as if he were going to blow the seeds off a dandelion globe, he approached. His breath rippled over my lips—another first adult experience—and for the first time, I felt what it was like to have someone’s full attention.

Flashbacks from that day scrolled like a stock ticker at the bottom of my brain when, a hundred years later and just a few weeks ago, long after V was buried having had his last kiss at age twenty-one, I read a message from his little sister on Facebook.

“Ash,” it read. “I need a favor.”

The message went on to tell a tale familiar to many.

I need a job. My husband lost his. I’ve been a stay at home mom for eleven years. I haven’t worked since 2005.

There was an opportunity, perhaps, that she had heard about through a friend of a friend. “Tell her to send her resume and a cover letter,” the employer had barked.

The problem is, she continued, I don’t even know where to start.

Which is a common stumbling block when most people sitting down to write this one-page, do-or-die document that’s suppose to sell you as a candidate, as an employee, as a person. Because that’s what things like resumes and cover letters are: A pitch on paper.

This is the kind of stuff that me and Jenny talk about all the time—usually while traveling to some random island somewhere together on business trips, as we've done in the past. As a career transition specialist, Foss has built an entire business around helping people like stay-at-home moms who haven’t worked in years and have no idea what to say, or for folks who maybe aren’t the most proud of their working history, but KNOW they could be great in a role if they were given the opportunity, or the folks who just want to have their pitch on paper handy for anything that could come up; you know, like getting on Oprah.

Because that’s the thing—you don’t even have to be in the job market. Knowing how to pitch yourself both on paper, and off, is one of the most important skills you can have in business.

So when V’s little sister approached me, I knew that if we spun things the right way, we could turn her non-existent work history into an asset. Or at least minimize it enough so the real focus was not the job history on the piece of paper, but her.

For the resume, I advised her to do what Jenny advises clients in her Weekend Resume Makeover Course. (Which I highly recommend—Jenny even tossed over a discount code for $50 off when I told her I was writing this post. The code is, appropriately, ASHAMBIRGE, and it’s good through this Friday, May 6th, if you need some hardcore pitch on paper advice.)

For the cover letter, however, I advised her to do this: Find your reason.

Here’s the thing: Whenever any employer puts out a job ad, they’re going to get a ton of resumes from random Tom, Dick and Harrys who would take any job if it fell from the sky. They’re not really interested in your company, or what you do—they’re just looking to make a buck. And employers know that. Which is why one of your biggest assets doesn’t have to be your job history and work experience; it can be your reason.

(Assuming, of course, we’re talking about creative jobs and you aren’t a licensed professional like a lawyer or a doctor, in which case you’ll need a reason and a hell of a resume.)

In other words, you are not applying because “it seemed like it would be a good fit.” Seemed my ass. It IS the perfect fit, and here’s why. (That’s where your reason comes in.) Approach it from perspective of: You are actively aiming toward this. You are actively going in this direction. And you’re actively pursuing a position with them specifically, and here’s why.

Are you wild crazy passionate about a project the company is working on?
Did you see one of their billboards and love the campaign so much, you made it a personal goal to do work at that caliber?
Have you made it your life’s mission to ________?
Are you obsessed with the way they’ve done X or Y or Z in their industry?
Is there something in your background that makes you this company’s soul mate?

Employees don’t like feeling like they’re a dime a dozen, and guess what? Employers don’t, either.

Make them feel special. Fan girl it up if you have to. And make your reason the reason why you’re applying to work with them specifically—not your job history. Nobody gives a shit about your resume if you can convince them you’ll be amazing in a role.

And then, do yourself a favor and pick up the phone. (I know, the telephone!)

Hey, Bob, this is Ash Ambirge. Listen, I’m really interested in X position, so I wanted to call and give you a heads up that I’m sending a cover letter over now. You think I could grab you for ten minutes to discuss?

Or, if you’re willing to take a risk, a little bit of humor can be even more effective at getting someone to drop their guard:

Hey, Bob, this is Ash Ambirge. Listen, I’m really interested in X position, so I wanted to call and give you a heads up that I’m sending a cover letter over now. You think I could grab you for ten minutes to persuade you to fall madly in love with me as a candidate?

Why does humor work in that scenario? Because it’s unexpected, it’s delightful, it makes people smile, and it exudes confidence. And confidence—not to be confused with arrogance—is one of the greatest assets any potential candidate can have.

(P.S. If you’re applying to a big company and you get the secretary gatekeeper, tell them that you’re interviewing with Bob for X role, and you'd like to speak with him briefly. Otherwise, they might shove you off as a sales person. Even though that's kindddd of what you are right now—wink.)

When I proposed that V’s little sister do this, she responded: I’m so nervous! You don’t think he’ll think I’m being pushy?

This isn’t being pushy: This is what motivated sounds like. Pushy would sound like this:

Hey, Bob. I sent my resume. Did you have a chance to review it?

Two days later:

Hey, Bob. I haven’t heard back from you yet. Just checking to make sure you got my resume.

There is a fine line between going after what you want, and making yourself a total useless annoyance. If you're going to pick up the phone, ask for something.

And this, just like everything else in life, always goes back to the same thing: Work on sounding more HUMAN. Get the script out of your head. Stop thinking you have to sound exactly like every other job candidate that’s ever spoken out loud. Your only job is to sound like you’d be perfect for the job. And guess what?

Whatever that is, is the way you need to tilt your approach.

Which is, apparently, is also good advice when you’re thirteen years old about to have your first kiss, scared out of your mind that your noses are going to collide.

Tilt your approach.

After all, the worst that can happen is love.

The best thing that can happen is the memory of it.

P.S. If you do decide to take the plunge and use the promo code ASHAMBIRGE for the Weekend Resume Makeover Kit, not only do you get $50 off, but Jenny will also donate a portion of every sale back to The Middle Finger Project. Those commissions will, in turn, be used to continue to grow this community. Hoorah, baby!



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