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Monday, January 21, 2013

Making The Case: Never Say No - To Yourself


 Have you seen this recent story about the lad who applied for an internship via an amazing cover letter?
It reminded me of an old problem I faced in 2005: How do I gain on-the-job experience (as a newspaper writer) when no one will hire me because I had no experience?

Let me go back…
In February 1992, I spent twelve hours freezing in a trendy (but thin) suit waiting for an interview for EuroDisney. Sitting for my very short (group!!) interview, I was told I wouldn’t be offered a position - I couldn’t speak French. My defrosting blood simmered and I wasn’t having any of that.

“Excuse me. I’ve lived in Holland and I can speak Dutch. I’ve lived in Spain and I learnt Spanish. I’m going to France and I *will* learn French.”

The interviewer looked at me, smiled, escorted the other six people out of the room, came back, looked at me again, shook her head, then some papers and said, “I have the perfect job for you.”
That’s how I became a deranged cowboy server in Buffalo Bill’sWild West show J

 About six months later, I was working the pre-show crowd at Buffalo Bill’s. This man, David, came up and asked weird, industry-type questions about how many people attended each show, how many staff we had on per shift, stuff like that. I thought he was a “mystery shopper,” so I was uber friendly, but didn’t reveal any of Mickey’s secrets.
Before he left, he apologized for not having a business card, but said, “Mark, I enjoyed our chat. If you ever want a job in England, I run a few pubs and restaurants. Give me a call.”

Months later, (this was pre-Internet, people) I discovered David was the Managing Director of a SEVEN HUNDRED-strong restaurant/pub chain.

I sent him a cover letter. (duh.)

He responded in about a week.

That’s how I landed in England for three years, (giving me the experience for my first job in the U.S.)

In 2004, I quit the Restaurant Industry after fifteen years to follow my dream of being a Writer – but no-one hired me.
I spent an interesting year working as a bank teller… and then saw an opening for a Staff Writer in a local newspaper.

All they wanted was two years’ experience and a degree in journalism.

I had neither.

I did, however, have fifty shades of enthusiasm in myself - plus my "cheeky monkey" playbook (where the slogan is: “Ah sure, there’s no harm in asking.”)
I spent, seriously, twenty-four hours (in a thirty-hour period) writing a cover letter for my new boss (she just didn’t know she was my soon-to-be employer.)

I emailed it off.

Within a day, Tammy wrote back offering me an interview and said my cover letter “was probably the best she had ever read.”

(I’d written along the lines of sure, I had neither experience nor degree, but I did have more passion to learn the craft than any applicant she might consider. All I needed was someone to crack that door open. I would take care of the rest. Here's her response.)
That’s how I ended up as a Staff Writer for the Hometown News in Melbourne, Florida (and later went to Haiti to report on a Melbourne-based charity.)

But let’s say you’re an unpublished writer with no interest in working for a paper? What’s the point of this post?
My point is to never deny your ability to achieve, earn and enjoy what you want from life.

My writing road has been rocky, (see the edits on my first article)...
...but, wow, am I happy knowing I am at least *on* the road - and not changing large bills for rolls of quarters whilst dreaming that I could have been a contender.
Today, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Day.

Dr. King had a Dream... What's yours?

So, like that old U.S. Army slogan once said (sorta) ... Be all that you write to be.

Mail that cover letter.

Make that phone call.

Meet for that interview.

And, never say no – to yourself.


S.P. Bowers said...

"never say no to yourself"

Love it. My dream job is to be published. I'll keep sending out those queries, and keep tying to show my passion and love for writing so they want to read it.

Suzi said...

My dream to is being published. Just gotta remember that you don't walk into a business and become the CEO. It takes a lot of work and learning. So I'll keep trying.

So how does a group interview work? Is there a lot of people or just a few?

Al Diaz said...

Great post! Getting defeated by yourself is like the worst you can do.

Anonymous said...

That's quite a journey! Working for Disney would be fun. We have annual passes for Disney land.

Elise Fallson said...

Wonderful post Mark. (:

Kimberly Gabriel said...

I can't tell you how much I love this post! Very inspiring...

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Wonderful post, Mark! Sometimes we need that 'never give up' reminder! Hard work will pay off. :)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Wonderful post and a timely reminder for me!

Last year, I wrote a book in a totally new genre (even though I didn't think I could) and landed a dream publishing contract. The only catch? I have to write 2-4 more books in a series -- and they have to be as good as the first one.

I think, in the back of my mind, I thought the first one was a lucky fluke. Your post reminds me that I'm selling myself short if I think that. If I did it once, I can do it again. It might not be easy, but that's what makes it worthwhile, right?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Enthusiasm often wins out over experience. I landed my first photo job without any previous experience and the boss told me afterwards he hired me because of my pure-T enthusiasm.

M.J. Fifield said...

Lovely post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I'm constantly getting defeated by myself. It's something I'm working on.

Thanks for sharing this. Really.

Libby said...

That was a great post and instantly I regret not having lived overseas.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is an amazing journey, Mark. Never give up, never surrender!

Mark Means said...

Wow great post! Sometimes things come about in the strangest of ways, it seems.

Funny you should mention Hometown News. I live in Vero Beach, not far from Melbourne.

You've had an interesting journey and this was a great post...thanks!

Morgan said...

Ohhhhhh... love, love, LOVE THIS!!!!!!

I LOVE stories like this. Too neat, Mark. Drive and passion goes a LONG way. (I *know* it's the only reason I've had any small bit of success)

I want more of these Mark stories... will you post a next segment??? And it was SO COOL to see the actual documentation... it made it all so real! Great, great post, Mark.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Excellent post and even better, excellent advice! There's not a thing abut any of this that I can poke fun at...pouts off in a huff.

Nicole said...

Three cheers for you, Mark! That is quite the journey, and you've already come so far on the path to your dreams.

Have you ever heard the song "Dream Big," by Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band? That's what this post reminded me of. :)

Johanna Garth said...

Great post! I'm a huge believer in the idea that all doors can come open with enough persistance and pressure!

Martin Willoughby said...

If you don't ask, you don't get. The worst they can say is no.

24 hours on a letter! Man that's good.

Rena said...

This is a great post and surprisingly well timed.

Unknown said...

Awesome post!!! You may have missed your calling as motivational speaker, for real!!! If I'm ever in a crisis, I'm coming to you for moral support. :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Well said, and just the right touch of inspiration for today.

Melissa said...

Very inspiring post, Mark. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark .. such a fun read - and I think I might agree with Celeste ... perhaps you do that anyway impromptu chats ...

Very inspirational .. so pleased for you - great way to live life .. Hilary

David P. King said...

That's an amazing story! I started out in the restaurant industry, too, but maybe not as illustrious as your experience. :)

Anonymous said...

My career has taken many paths, none I entirely regret. I was fortunate to spend 22 years in the same career before giving this writing gig a full-time job. I have written for a lot of low paying and even a few non-paying gigs just to collect the clips. It's all good. I learn from it all. Here's to pursuing the dream.

Emily R. King said...

What a wonderful story, Mark! You are definitely on the road.

Kirsten said...

Beautifully said.
I need to learn this--my needs, my desires, my passions are important too. My dream? Write fiction all day long, and read fiction at night ...

Any chance we'll get to see that cover letter?

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