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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 22, 2010

If you really want that job, you'll need to prove it

By Andrea Kay

You may want a job. The question is how bad?

Do you have the kind of gumption that tells employers you're worth their investment in you? For small businesses especially, a display (or lack of) get-up-and-go in the courting process speaks volumes.

Listen and learn from this entrepreneur who tells it like it is in a competitive business environment with no margin for error. If you want to work for him and others, you better act like it. So far no one has.

If you're the right person, he's willing to train and mentor you, even if just out of school. "I remember when I started out and someone took a chance on me," he says.

"Now I've got a growing small business. When I met this latest young person, I thought he might have what I need. He had critical thinking skills and got an A in his writing class. I gave him my card and he said he'd e-mail me the next day."

A week later, the employer got an e-mail from the young man saying, in so many words, "Sorry I didn't get back to you, something came up."

His weak and week-late response told the employer he wasn't the right one.

"His lax and late response told me he wasn't that interested. He lacked the drive and ambition that would warrant my investment."

The young man called a week later, insisting he had all of that. "OK, send me five writing samples," the employer said.

"Just out of school, I know he wouldn't have the kind of writing I need that's not what I'm looking for. Maybe, though, I'll see that spark."

Unfortunately, no spark and enough typographical errors reinforced the employer's first impression.

The young man sent an e-mail asking if the employer had read his samples. Feeling as if he could at least offer advice, the employer spent another hour giving a writing critique. The young man apologized for the typographical errors, saying he had dropped what he was doing to immediately send the samples and had sent his rough draft files.

The employer told him: "A professional environment like mine has no margins for error. If I don't deliver work that's 100 percent professional and buttoned down, I lose my house. I'm an old guy. My memory cells are fading fast. You're young. There's no excuse."

One last piece of advice: "Life is an audition," he told the young man. "The sooner you figure that out, the better off you'll be."