Hunter S. Thompson was a comet. The Good Doctor was the type of person that you only come across every few decades, the type who burns the earth with originality, passion, and talent. Someone who listens to his heart and does only what he wants. A true one-of-a-kind, a perpetual black sheep. We should all try to be comets.
Anywho, I enjoy Hunter S. Thompson’s particular brand of in-your-face writing. I like seeing people break the rules and succeed. It was a delight to come across a cover letter he wrote to the Vancouver Sun in 1958 and see that he even wrote his job applications in this manner. I think we can learn a lot about careers, the job hunt, and life in general from Hunter S. Thompson.
Forget everything you know about writing cover letters
I’ll never understand why we’re taught to fit in when we’re in school. In college, I was required to take a class devoted to “professional writing,” and we were taught how to create a cookie-cutter cover letter. It’s like they were setting us up to fail. The whole point of a cover letter is to STAND OUT from the mess of equally-qualified people. Hunter S. Thompson understood that. As you can see from his cover letter, he hit all the necessary spots: Who he was, what he expected from the job, what they could expect from him, and that he would like to work for them. That’s it. The rest is up to you. Forget what they taught you and start trying to stand out….it’s the only way you’re going to get anywhere in this world.
Pioneer new career frontiers
If the world isn’t giving you a viable career option, make one up. Gonzo journalism, a subjective, first-person-narrative form of journalism, didn’t exist before Thompson. He immersed himself in the world of his subjects and walked a mile in their shoes (or rode, as was the case in Hell’s Angels) and ended up creating his career. It is a form of journalism rooted in the idea that the story is more important than getting all the facts right, that true objectivity is a myth. Many bloggers write in that style today, and it’s more entertaining, informative, and trustworthy than most of the so-called “objective news” out there.
The point is this:You don’t have to try to fit into an existing career path. If you have a vision of what you want to do, but it’s different from any career you’ve heard of, make it up. Have enough confidence in yourself to create your own career. Hunter S. Thompson was filled with millennial spirit; our generation has created a lot of jobs where none had previously existed. Mark Zuckerberg created his own frontier with Facebook, and there are many other examples of successful Gen Y entrepreneurs on and off the internet.
If there’s any lasting message I can take from Hunter S. Thompson’s life, it’s this: Listen to your inner voice and screw the rules. I can’t stress that enough. It’s true that you can follow the herd and survive, but to really live you have to figure out how to trust your own ideas. Like he said in his novel “The Rum Diary,”
“Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that my instincts were right.”
It’s not an easy road to take, and you’ll certainly have your enemies because of it, but it’s the only way to live.
Obviously, Hunter S. isn’t the best role model. He did a ton of drugs and was by all accounts an asshole, and in the end he took his own life. You could live for a hundred lifetimes and still not be as much of a badass as this guy was. But you can learn a lot from people who truly listen to their inner voice and have reckless disregard for social norms. Trust your instincts, follow your own path, and forget the rules. Be a comet like Hunter S. Thompson.
What do you think: Was Hunter S. Thompson a raving lunatic, visionary, or both?
[10/13 Update: Oh, they added Facebook into your Klout score now too. So, theoretically Facebook can affect your job search (beyond the random drunk pictures, etc)]
Alright, so you’ve done everything possible to look like an ideal job candidate. You created a top-notch resume filled with more volunteer work than Mother Teresa and more internship experience than Kenneth the Page. Never mind that it hasn’t been released yet, you’re ALREADY proficient in Microsoft Office 2015. There are no pictures of you doing kegstands on Facebook, and you have even taken some of my advice and learned how to use social media to get hired. You’re ready to enter the professional world. You’re pretty much a lock to land a job, right?
Well, let me ask you one more question: What’s your Klout score?
Whoa there cowboy, what’s a Klout score?
Klout bills itself as “The Standard for Influence” online. Basically, it’s a service that measures how “influential” you are online. You simply plug in your Twitter handle and it will generate a score between 0-100 for you. The more influential you are and the wider your reach is online, the higher your Klout score is. It is based on a number of different variables, like the size of your audience, if your content is being acted upon (retweeted, etc), and the influence your audience has. If you want a more detailed explanation, go here. This is all fine and dandy if you’re a little vain like me and just want to know what your score is (a few years from now, everyone might be “Klouting” themselves instead of using that old-timey Google).
It doesn’t mean anything, right?
Well, it might mean something. I had been aware of Klout for a few months now, but I wasn’t aware of its clout (see what I did there?) in the recruiting world until today. To me, it was shocking to see that some employers consider your Klout score as part of the application process. Said in a more alarmist way, you may be denied some job opportunities just because you aren’t popular enough on Twitter.
That’s right. 20 years ago, you could do anything you wanted in your personal time, and as long as your background check turned up clean, you could probably land a nice job. Fast forward to 2007, and you had to make sure that your MySpace and Facebook pages were “clean” to get a job. Our generation is now faced with another employment roadblock: “influence.” Now we have to worry about whether or not we’re being retweeted and if we have enough influential followers. It adds a whole new layer to the already-complicated job search.
But don’t quit and join the circus yet…
It’s not quite time to panic and give up. If you’re looking to be an accountant or electrical engineer, you’re probably never going to have to worry about how influential you are online. Influence is only an issue for in industries like social media marketing, advertising, and media. Even if you are in one of those industries, don’t jump ship yet. If any company uses only Klout scores to weed out the “bad” candidates, you probably don’t want to work for them anyways, because they don’t get it. As Edward Boches, a very influential person in the ad game on and offline (he has a Klout score of 52, OMG), notes:
[Klout] appears to emphasize the impact of one’s “push” content on Twitter and Facebook – reach, influence, re-tweeting. But it can’t identify the rest of the qualities – conversation strategy, flexibility, timeliness, and authenticity – that a smart agency or brand should look for in a social strategist.
Essentially, it’s not measuring the quality of your content, nor is it measuring other important qualities like how quickly you respond and how authentic you are. Just like a résumé can’t tell you everything about a candidate, Klout can’t measure your personality or your fit with the company’s culture. It’s not a complete picture.
I fear that social media illiterate employers are going to use Klout score as a shortcut, much like looking at the number of followers one has. Instead of actually READING someone’s tweets, they’re just going to check out Klout and get an incomplete view of that person. They’d use it like a pre-résumé to weed out the “unworthy ones.” That would not be good, and a lot of stellar employees would get passed over because of it.
Building influence and followers on Twitter is a time-intensive process. I hope that I’m not instantly disregarded because I only have a Klout score in the teens, because I’d like to think that my opinions are valuable and the content I spread is worthwhile. Because of technology and the economy, it’s harder than ever to find a job. I just hope that recruiters don’t put too much trust in “influencer” metrics, and if they do happen to use something like Klout, I hope they take the time to actually read my Twitter feed first.
One final question: Can you guess who has a score of 100 on Klout?
What do you think of Klout? Do you think it’s fair that some companies use it during the screening process?
Sometimes, an ad on TV will make me stop what I’m doing and watch without interruption. About a year ago, a Levi’s spot made me do just that. It was mostly dark, the copy was some sort of poem, and I instantly LOVED it. That ad was the first part of Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign. The ads use Walt Whitman poems very well (on one ad, apparently it is his own voice). The copy of the poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” is supposed to evoke an emotional response from my generation, and I think it does. Here’s a snippet:
The first few ads (the other you can watch on YouTube) show young people running around interspersed with grim visions of Wall Street and America. “America” is literally half-underwater in one ad, which I think is supposed to symbolize the grim, hopeless recession-era we were in (and still are, to a degree). Some people loved it. Some thought it was too arty. Others mocked it (which usually means people are at least paying attention). Either way, it really struck a chord with me.
In less than 45 days, I will no longer be a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I will have graduated from the School of Business with a double major in Marketing and MHR-Management. At this point, I’ll have graduated without finding a permanent “real-person” job. Let’s just all let life sink in for a second.
People keep asking me if I’m ready to graduate, if I’m excited for whatever comes next, etc etc. I never have any idea how to answer them because there are so many emotions associated with it: fear, anticipation, exhiliration, fun, sadness…pretty much all of the above. Most of all, an overwhelming sense of confusion is the way I guess I could describe it, because after graduation life is just one big uncertainty at this point.
I’ve had my fair share of fun (and your share, too) in the last four years and I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things in class. But, more than academics, I think the learning has been going on outside of the classroom. Things you learn when you aren’t attempting to learn seem more relevant to me: time management, budgeting, social skills, stress management. These aren’t usually things I would associate with school, though most of them are applicable to the classroom as well.
The point is, while I’m not discounting what I’ve learned from school, I’ve learned a whole lot more about myself and my abilties on my down-time.
What’s Next. I have no idea, and most of the people I’ve talked to have no idea either. I would venture to say 75% of the people I know who are looking for post-grad “real-person” work are stilll searching, still applying, still interviewing. With less than 45 days left, we’re scrambling. We’re scared, confused, and uncertain. Still, we’ve survived 4 years at UW and lived to tell about it, so we shouldn’t be. We’re intelligent, we’re talented, and we’re adaptable. That should be about enough for anyone to want us.
This all being said, here are a few things I’ve learned.
- Interviewing is like bad speed-dating. You go in, talk to a person you’ve never met about yourself for a half-hour, and then hope they ask you for a second date. There’s a fair share of awkward pauses, forced laughter, and plenty of fake smiles. All of this is done hoping you’ll somehow make a connection and will begin a long-term relationship.
- Applying for jobs is a crapshoot. Half of the jobs you want, you’ll never hear from. There are scam jobs out there, preying on people like us. It’s a minefield, people, and we’re all on our own.
- There’s got to be a better way to get a job. Interviews and resumes just encourage us to lie, embellish, and generally act fake. This is all fine and well for speed-dating, but just will lead to disappointment when they learn you aren’t who you say you are. With all of the blogs, social media sites, etc available we should be able to be ourselves. People could learn more about me from my facebook, twitter, and writing than through “tell me about a time when…” questions.
I think I like the idea of writing again, so maybe next entry will be something about our generation, the so-called “millenials.” There’s a lot to be said.