Here you introduce yourself as the solution to a difficult business challenge. It could be lack of personnel policies and procedures, or low employee morale. It can be anything. The important thing is that it's the kind of problem you love solving.
To write this letter, first decide what kind of problem(s) you want to solve. Then ask companies if they have that particular problem—and if they want it solved. (Some companies like their problems.)
Isn't that simple?
The formula for the letter looks like this:
- Do you have _________________ problem?
- If so, I might be able to help (I'm the solution).
- Here's why (list key accomplishments).
- Here's how you're going to benefit by having me around (go heavy on the benefits).
- Close the sale: After you have had time to review this material, I'll call you to get your reactions.
A real-world example
Nancy Thomas came to see me after graduating from law school. She had written to 250 Denver law firms, and had called the senior partners in all 250 firms. The net result of her effort was two courtesy interviews and no job offers.
Nancy was upset. She had tried everything. She had answered ads in legal journals and newspapers. She had done extensive networking and nothing was working. (Imagine having spent five years and $23,000 on an advanced degree, only to find no job waiting.)
We analyzed the situation. It wasn't that no attorneys needed help. They did. Show me a major law firm that isn't swamped. The real problem was the economy: We were in a recession, and lawyers were afraid to add new staff—and $20,000 to $30,000 in overhead—in uncertain times.
We pictured our ideal "problem situation" graphically, even humorously. This was the "perfect" work environment for Nancy to walk into. And here's what it looked like:
- It's midnight.
- An attorney sits at his desk, still working.
- He's bleary-eyed.
- He had a couple of drinks at dinner and has now consumed a pot of coffee.
- He has a headache.
- The office is a mess—he's disorganized.
- His tie is loose, sleeves rolled up, shirt wrinkled.
- The desk is stacked with papers.
- His wife has called him three times for help with the kids.
- Tomorrow he has the biggest court case of his life, and he's going up against F. Lee Bailey.
To this imaginary attorney, we sent the following letter:
OVERWORKED? NEED HELP?
Wouldn't it be fantastic to be able to hire a part-time lawyer when you need help in emergencies?
. . .
She is heavily experienced in
- Was admitted to the Colorado Bar on October 17, 20—.
- Has a commitment to law.
- Deals well with clients.
- Is eager to learn... likes to be "taught."
- Turns out quality work, and
- Is unhappy cutting corners.
. . .
The field of Estates and Trusts; and is very interested in (1) Real Estate, (2) Natural Resources, and (3) Tax and Corporate matters.
YOUR FIRM WILL GAIN
- Expert help without the cost of a full-time salary.
- Flexibility in your scheduling.
- Relief from pressures and deadlines.
- A co-operative, interested colleague.
I'M AVAILABLE TO HELP YOU NOW
Call 303-555-1212 and ask for Nancy Thomas
388 South Monaco Parkway | Denver, Colorado 80219
H: 303-759-3743 | C: 720-690-8459 | email@example.com
The letter produced instant results. Apparently, we found the right appeal. Within a week, Nancy had two or three part-time legal jobs. She chose her own hours and decided which assignments she wanted to accept. She was her own boss. She became the first freelance attorney in the country, and she still continues as a freelancer today. Nancy has had opportunities to accept full-time assignments, but declined them. Freelancing was too much fun.
Nancy solved her problem—not by focusing on her own needs and frustrations, but by focusing on ways to help others. It was truly a win-win situation. And there's an answer like this to every career problem. The answer may not be obvious at first. It often takes several hours—sometimes weeks—of wrestling with the problem to see the solution. But it's there. And it can often be implemented with a well-planned letter.
Think about yourself for a moment. Do you want to solve accounting problems? If so, exactly what kind? Do you want to solve marketing problems? If so, where?
List some of the kinds of problems you'd like to solve, and be as specific and detailed as you possibly can.
Now, picture a company badly in need of your services. What does it look like inside? What's happening? Exaggerate the situation greatly so that everything seems larger than life. Write down the particulars.
Next draft your letter. You'll be on the way to some well-deserved interviews (where you'll often be the only candidate for the job).