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June 18, 2011
Picking Out the Cashews

I know it’s not polite — some may even think it’s gross — but I have to own up to this nasty little habit or you won’t get the point of this column. When presented with a bowl of mixed nuts I will sit there and pick out the cashews. After that I go after the hazelnuts. And then, well, is there any chocolate in the house?

Long ago I decided that I am too old to eat anything I don’t like. So I don’t. It’s fortuitous that I like spinach, asparagus, and blueberries, in addition to glazed donuts, any kind of milk chocolate, and Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Toffee Heath Crunch. Go ahead and laugh if you want.  I lost 20 pounds in three months by not eating red meat!

Speaking of mixed nuts, I feel the same way about my family. There’s my mother’s side, “The Morose Mob,” my dad’s people are the embodiment of the motto, “We Make Up Our Own Rules. Deal With It.,” and both sides of my husband’s clan who “Put the FUN in DysFUNctional.” Again, I am lucky in that these are all very large families. So, while at weddings and funerals I sometimes need to hold my nose to be in the same room with all of them, when it comes to who I want to hang out with I can be picky.

Forever true to my father’s DNA, and in keeping with my pickiness habit, I bring this same set of behaviors to my job search. Unlike many people who send out hundreds of resumes trying to make something — anything! — stick to the wall like a strand of cooked spaghetti, I apply only to a select few jobs.  I have to feel that the job as described in the posting is perfect for me, and that I would be at least a very good — if not perfect — fit for the company offering that job. I don’t apply for entry-level positions because I would have trouble writing a cover letter that says, “After 35 years in the industry I am ready to start from scratch and therefore I am applying for the position you are offering as assistant to the junior marketing assistant.” Only a hiring executive with no sense of humor whatsoever wouldn’t laugh as my resume was placed in the circular file. I also never answer jobs for upper level executives, although my resume reflects enough experience to qualify, because I like getting my hands dirty down in the trenches.

I wouldn’t want to suggest that this strategy is the right one for everyone looking for a job. For myself it’s a matter of personal style and recognizing how much patience I have or, more to the point, don’t have. But there is one major upside to this strategy that I really appreciate: I get a very high rate of response to the few job applications I submit. The benefit is that I don’t have to deal with double-digit rejections week in and week out. This doesn’t mean I’ve actually landed that many jobs, but it’s very gratifying to be contacted and treated like a real person with valuable experience and skills — not to mention feelings! — as opposed to having hundreds of people delete my resume without as much as a cursory glance.

All of this fits perfectly with one of the rules I made up: It’s okay to be sensitive.

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Rhonda Wenner is a Very Old Advertising Person who has been there, done that, and seen quite a bit.
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