The secret to success really is no secret at all. So says best-selling author and native Twin Cities business magnate Harvey Mackay in his newest book, “Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You,” which is out today.
Mackay, a nationally syndicated columnist and popular Fortune 500 public speaker, has written five New York Times bestsellers and sold more than 10 million books, divulging those close-to-the-vest, board room secrets that have up-and-comers clamoring.
“The definition of a secret is when only one person knows,” Mackay told me when we talked over the phone from his home in Phoenix. “So I’m just sharing a few secrets.
“For example, there’s a chapter called ‘Bytes: Researching the Hands that Feed You,’ which talks about the invisible web. Typically when people go looking for a job, they’ll go Google General Mills or Medtronic. But focusing on the person doing the interviewing is every bit as important as researching the company,” he said.
“Everything that you talk about in marketing and sales extrapolates to getting a job. People buy from other people because of likability, because of chemistry, because of people skills. So do your homework on the person who is interviewing you.”
I asked Mackay about other advice in the book and a number of other topics — from tweeting to working with nice guys. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
MP: You state in the book that if you don’t love a job, you’ll lose it. Is that to say you shouldn’t take a job offer unless you’re totally stoked about the position, even if the bills are piling up?
HM: It’s just a very rough spot to be in. If the pressure is affecting your lifestyle, then yes, you have to downsize your W2 form, your salary and your pride to survive. Otherwise, hold off taking a job you don’t like if you can because eventually you’re going to lose that job right away, because you don’t like it. My advice is to hang on as long as you can, because maybe the next week you’ll get something that turns you on. When nothing seems to go right, think of a stone cutter hammering away at a rock a hundred times without making a dent in it. Yet on the hundred and first blow, the rock splits in two. It wasn’t that blow that did it, but all that had gone before it. You may turn that job and need that money and you may hang on an extra week, and the next week the rock breaks.
MP: You spend a lot of time talking about how to use technology in a job search. Using such social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. How does technology mesh with traditional job-search tactics like pressing the flesh and pounding the pavement, and aren’t there pitfalls?
HM: Let’s talk about tweeting. If you happen to tweet a 140 characters that you just lost your job, or you’re looking for a job in marketing or sales or advertising, you not only hit all the tweeters that are following you but they may even re-tweet if they like you. About 67 percent of all jobs are found through networking. So what the technology age has done is change the way we get information and what we do with it is just beyond comprehension. But here’s a warning: never write or tweet anything if it can’t stand the test of the front page. We know of thousands of examples, tens of thousands of examples where careers have been ruined because of technology.
MP: There is also advice on the book on basic job search strategies, such as re-tooling yourself, don’t lie on your resume, become a multi-tasker.
HM: Here’s a tip: the minute you get laid off, immediately go to your passion, whether it’s United Way or Salvation Army, or whatever volunteer organization that interests you. Now you’ve got a network. Now you’re volunteering while you’re looking for that job and you’re becoming more confident. When I volunteered for breast cancer awareness, I became a better sales person because I had to raise money. I became a better speaker by putting on programs. I became a better leader because I was leading a task force. And I became a better communicator because I was leading meetings. Look what volunteerism did for me. Volunteerism changed my whole life.
MP: You’re offering a guarantee that if a person applies the principles in this book and doesn’t land a job in six months, you’ll give them their money back. How can you do that and not lose your shirt?
HM: (Laughs) I have had…[hundreds of] people in 45 years come through my front door at Mackay/Mitchell Envelope Company in Minneapolis, so I can give that guarantee because they’ve all gotten what they’ve wanted over a long period of time. So I’m very confident that they will get a job in six months.
MP: Much like your syndicated news paper columns, each chapter in the book ends with little one-liners called “Mackay’s Morals.” What’s your favorite?
HM: “Getting a job is a job,” which was going to be the title of this book, but then I met with a lot of focus groups and young people, and guess what? All the young people didn’t like that title because it sounded like too much work, so I changed it.
MP: My favorite was “The bible is right; the last shall be first but you don’t have to get to heaven to prove it.” Is that to say, Harvey, that nice guys don’t finish last?
HM: When I wrote “Swim with the Sharks,” everybody, including Larry King, thought you had to be a shark to be successful. And my philosophy is nothing could be further from the truth. Nice guys finish first too. Just read the chapter on Tony Dungy.