Down but not out! Snail Mail! The power of the past!

Old methodologies can work!

Today the pace of technological change is phenomenal and the process of searching for a new job has moved away from the more traditional methods towards online, electronic strategies. We now talk about social recruiting and there are whole professions built around the concept. Tried and tested techniques such as snail mail, once standard for job seekers, are now becoming at best outdated, and in some cases, totally obsolete.

Career coaches are constantly hammering home to job seekers how important it is in today’s job search market to keep abreast of the wide variety of job seeking tactics that are available to us all on the internet. Included in this list are professional platforms such as LinkedIn, online job listings, other social networking sites, company websites and so on.  But sometimes there is value in dipping into the past.

Embracing change

There is now a half a generation at least, who know of no other way of looking for a job other than online. Older demographics are also starting to understand that change is inevitable and even the Luddites embrace parts of this brave new world, albeit reluctantly: posting LinkedIn profiles, joining Facebook, uploading CVs electronically and raising their online visibility. But younger demographics, mainly out of ignorance, can at times be just as closed to trying out something, not necessarily new, but new to them.

Other than seeing things on old movies or Mad Men, they are not familiar with, and have no experience of, job search processes that weren’t carried out via the internet. However, there are times when traditional time-honoured methods cannot be totally ruled out and can even bring some benefit.

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Mr. Postman

I was working recently with a young man based in Buenos Aires. He is engaged to be married and wants to relocate to Europe, to at least be on the same continent, preferably in the same country as his fiancée, who lives in Munich. They had agreed that he would be the one to move: he was entitled to Italian nationality via his grandmother and could therefore work in the E.U. He also speaks 5 languages fluently, compared to his wife to be, who has a mere 3 under her belt.

Together we created a career transition strategy, identified his transferable skills, raised his general visibility and targeted the companies he would like to work for. Despite his best efforts, progress was slower than he would have liked, which was putting pressure on his relationship.

Long shot

So I thought and suggested (somewhat tentatively) that he could write some letters. There was a silence. Then the dialogue went something like this:

Pietro: –But I have written. I’ve sent all sorts of mails and LinkedIn messages”
Me: “I know – but what about writing a letter, printed on paper (I’ve seen his hand writing – not good. It would be hard to believe he is older than 9) put it in an envelope and post it in the mail with a copy of your CV. It’s something you haven’t done and might be at least worth a shot’
Pietro: “Wow – you mean like a letter? Like in snail mail? That will take ages. How do I know they will get there, or anyone will read it?”
Me: ” Yes I mean like a letter, like in snail mail. How do you know anyone’s read your emails? You don’t. You could send a registered mail but that might seem a bit over the top for a CV! Give it a try.”

Long shot

So he did and 8 letters were duly dispatched addressed to the contact names he was trying to reach in his preferred target companies, giving dates of his next planned trip to Munich. During the next month he received by various means, 3 requests to contact the company to set up information interviews. Not a bad result and return on energy for a long shot.

So there are things that we can usefully blast from the past and there are others that could prove difficult. I saw one old school suggestion of unannounced visits to a potential employer. Now 30 years ago that might have worked. Today it’s unlikely that any unscheduled caller will get beyond security, particularly in large organisations where even gate keepers have gate keepers. But in small informally run companies – even that might work on a lucky day . The visitor will find out soon enough if his/her presence is considered intrusive and they find themselves unceremoniously on the pavement.

Down but not out!

So the moral of the story is not to have a closed mind no matter what age you are and to assess all the tools in the job search box. Just as older job seekers have had to adapt to new ways of navigating the market, so Gen Y can learn from tried and trusted methodologies, which although mainly gone, should not be totally forgotten.

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6 thoughts on “Down but not out! Snail Mail! The power of the past!

  1. Mike Dalton

    Hi Dorothy, makes sense, I recently used a fax shot to do some lead generation, and it worked very well. No one sends faxes these days so people aren’t sure what to do when they arrive, other than take them to the addressee which is exactly what you want. It should work with CV’s too.

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Thanks for your comment Mike. I think there is a tendency to write off some traditional strategies – but in some situations they are valid and can work. Also many younger job seekers are simply not familiar with those tried and tested ways that can prove useful. I think the message is all generations have to be open to change!

  2. Wendy Mason

    Hi Dorothy
    This is something I hadn’t thought of. So much emphasis is put on those of us of a certain age needing to be flexible that you forget about letter writing etc becoming a lost skill. But I think the need for flexibility extends right across the approach. A young guy tried to convince me recently that you need no CV beyond LinkedIn. ” Well,” he wrote,” they can see it all there anyway, they can soon decide if they need me”. Well, yes, I suppose there is no point at all in producing a document that packages that same information to meet the needs of the recruiter! Sad isn’t it!

    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Hi Wendy I agree the modern job seeker has to be flexible and with many decision makers in the hiring process falling into an older demographic, it’s short sighted to be too rigid. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Lise Moen

    Enjoyed reading this, Dorothy. Nothing beats a well written letter. Such an undervalued way to communicate, personally and directly with your addressee.



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