A good cry may cost you a job offer but get you a career

Henry Kissinger had two rules. The first, which I understood, was that he would never bring “too many” Jews with him into President Nixon’s Oval Office. The second, which I also understood, was that if someone handed him a report he would write on it something like, “Too long!” The next version would be “Not focused!” And it would continue until that frustrated author would say, “Mr. Secretary, this is the best I can do.” To which Kissinger would reply, “Now I’ll read it!”

That is what happens when you are a writer. It happens when you are a writer of reports for a Henry Kissinger and it also happens when you are a speech writer. Whatever you write is going to be edited. The first draft will never survive. And if you want to be an author, you have to be ready for rejection.

As many of you know, I have been victimized for helping women get job offers because I had the nerve to suggest that their unique engagement rings may have been the reason they were not getting job offers. A curious thing has started to happen. Women have started to thank me. One in particular was a young woman who I had met many years ago. And I had made her cry.

She was fresh out of journalism school. She wanted to be a corporate speech writer. I had a client looking for a speech writer. We set up an appointment and I told her that, in addition to sending me her resume, she also had to send me a one-page essay on why she should be considered for the job. She did.

I have well over 100 peer-reviewed publications. My Master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation were both published by highly respected publishers. I have had articles and reviews published in journals around the world. In other words, my professors and faceless editors have cut my works to shreds. I know how to do it and I did it to this young woman.

When I handed her back her essay, there was not a phrase, punctuation, sentence, paragraph, word or thought that I had not put red pen to. She took one look at it, teared up and then the tears started to flow.

It took a couple of minutes for her to calm done but then I explained what I had done. I told her that the essay was actually pretty good, but that being a speech writer meant having to learn the person for whom you are writing. It has to sound like their words, not yours. So you have to learn how to handle criticism and criticism that is not always diplomatically conveyed.

She was obviously not yet suited for the job. She was smart enough to know it. She thanked me and today I found out that she is now a successful speech writer.

Just because at one point in your career you are not yet ready for your dream job, does not mean you never will be ready. Knowledge is not everything; sometimes experience is even more important. That is equally true for someone fresh out of college as it is for a more seasoned professional looking to change careers.


Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.