Surf’s Up: What Surfing Can Teach You about Your Job Search

I am a surfer, or at least aspiring to be one.  Recently, I was out on my board on a day with few good waves and plenty of downtime to ponder this addicting sport and life in general, and began to realize that there are many parallels between the job search and surfing.


Like the job search, surfing depends as much on one’s skill and experience as it does a host of conditions that we have zero control over.  Weather.  Crowded surfing areas and beaches.  Wave size and frequency.  Swell direction.  The list is endless, just as it is when you are seeking a new job in a competitive market or industry.


Once you have decided to get in the water (or start looking for your next career opportunity), you paddle out and try not to bump into others.  In the job search, this can be those baby steps that are really critical to overall success, such as writing your resume, crafting solid cover letters, beefing up your LinkedIn profile, and letting people in your network know that you are open to a new opportunity.


Experienced surfers will have multiple boards to choose from to suit their mood or the conditions. Savvy candidates will do the same. Perhaps your “board” will be resumes that highlight different skills and career objectives depending on the jobs you are interested in, or cover letters that will be the differentiator. Knowing yourself and the tools that are available to you is key to success.


Like choosing the right job to apply to, choosing the right wave is key.  It would be physically and emotionally exhausting to paddle out, attempt to get in the right spot at the right time, pop up, and stay balanced if surfers went after every wave that came along.  Be selective so that you are fresh and energized when the right one comes along.


Hang ten.  Surfs up.  Cut the curl.  These are not sayings that you will hear on a golf course, tennis court, or basketball court. They are specific to the sport of surfing. An industry will have its own language and catch phrases.  Do your research so that you can communicate better with the people you are interviewing with and gain their trust and confidence.


Enjoy the ride, even if it is not the perfect wave.  There are days that I get out on the board and I am just not feeling it, but I still enjoy being out there.  The same can happen in an interview when the job and company look great on paper, but in the light of day you just do not feel that spark.  Relax.  Every interview is good practice and experience as well as a chance to expand your network.   Surfers talk about catching the perfect wave, but in reality we try and try and keep getting back on the board, even after falling or not doing our best.


Having a good instructor helps.  Even the most experienced surfers sometimes need a fine tuning on their technique, someone who can help them to look at their style and approach and make suggestions.  In the job search, working with an Executive Recruiter can be invaluable, as we will take a fresh look at your resume and help you to identify the skills and experiences that you should highlight in the interview.


Ultimately, you may need to try a few waves before you find the ideal one, but in the end, there is no feeling as satisfying and euphoric as catching that perfect wave.  The same holds true for the job search.  Keep at it, and you will catch the right job and have the ride of your life.

Interview Impact: The Art of the Thank You Letter

Congratulations! You nailed the interview. The company is checking references, and in your head you are composing that resignation letter and mentally calculating when your start date with the new firm will be.


Then, the call that it came down to two candidates and they went with the other one. But…you nailed it! How can this be?


The Secret

Pillar Search does searches for non-profits, foundations, and small, rapid growth for-profit firms. In our years of experience, we have worked with lots of very savvy and knowledgeable hiring managers. I will share one secret that I have heard time and again from them: all things being equal, “the candidate that takes the time to send a thoughtful, reflective, and well-written thank you note will always have a bit of an edge.” Yes…the thank you letter packs a whole lot of wow, punch, and impact.


How to Stand Out From Other Candidates

Remember what your parents taught you: manners will get you everywhere, and saying thank you goes a long way. When is the last time you received a thank you letter?  Now, imagine if you were the hiring manager and were receiving tons of them by email. How much more thoughtful and unique would a hand written note of thanks feel?


Look at your own mail today. In the pile of pre-addressed bulk mail, what will stand out? A new bill, the latest flier from your local market? Personally, when I see a hand written envelope, it is what I will always open first.


You see, too often, people do not send them, or they send one that is so perfunctory that it almost screams “I am not interested in the job, but know that I am supposed to send something”.   The thank you is a perfect time to wow them with your enthusiasm, fit for the job, interest, manners, and stellar writing skills.


Pillar’s Thank You Letter Checklist

  • Keep it short. Two to three paragraphs should suffice.
  • Make sure that it flows well and highlights why you are the ideal candidate. Include the following:
    • A statement of gratitude, such as “thank you for taking the time to meet with me today to discuss the open sales position on your team. I so appreciated your time.”
    • Add something showing that you were paying attention in the meeting, and remind the interviewer of what makes you the ideal candidate, such as “I was excited to hear that your company is expanding globally over the next year. My experience working with X, a global bank, gives me a unique skill set that would lend well to this exciting new chapter for you and the firm”.
    • Interviews can be tricky, as you can easily run out of time when sticking to the interview agenda. When you replay it in your head, there is likely something that you wish you had highlighted about your skills and experience. This is a perfect time to get that point across.
    • A call to action. Before signing off, reiterate your interest, and give them something of a call to action.   The message that I find to be most effective is the short and sweet “Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing from you”. True, it is not elaborate, but it leaves the ball in their court and shows that you are confident that you will be hearing from them.
  • Be a snob when it comes to your stationery. High quality card stock reflects well on you. It shows discerning taste and a certain je ne sais quoi Cutesy notecards will negate the goodwill earned by even sending it. If your stationery depicts your love of the beach, cats, puppies or your favorite sports team, step away immediately! When in doubt, buy cream colored notecards from Crane & Co.
  • Write out a draft first, proofread that version, and then transcribe it onto the good stuff. Trust me, I have wasted a ton of expensive paper because I dove right in. To quote my father, “measure twice and cut once”.
  • Stick to the 24 hour rule. Much like a thank you for personal reasons, it is best to send it within 24 hours. If you are in interview mode, keep a supply of stationery and stamps at the ready.
  • Before licking the stamp and strolling to the nearest mailbox, consider this: who else should you send a thank you note to? It may seem like a lot of writing, but if you can, send one to every interviewer, and put a personal spin on each note that reflects your interaction with that person. Do not forget to include Human Resources if they were included in the interview agenda, and if there was someone particularly helpful, such as an Executive Assistant who arranged travel or someone in Marketing who sent you helpful information prior to the meeting, send one to them as well. It shows that you are appreciative, a team player, and inclusive.


If (and when!) you get the job, send a hand-written note to your new manager thanking them for the opportunity and letting them know how excited you are about the opportunity. This is a personal touch that will go quite a long way.


Good luck!


Cindy Joyce