I recently interviewed Franzen about how anyone in the job market can improve their job-seeking tactics as well as about his own experiences bootstrapping a web business.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that job seekers make?
People lead with the job and I think that’s totally wrong. You go to the job board and you find a job. It’s medieval. If you don’t understand what the company is and what they do, the job doesn’t have meaning. It’s just a piece of a puzzle. You have this little piece but you don’t understand the context on how it fits in.
Instead of looking at a job posting and applying for it, take apart the details inside. Look at the company. Look at the name of the person who posted it. Is it a hiring manager or recruiter? Look at the news. What’s happening with the company? What about the industry? There’s so many plot and sub-plots here that you need to understand to be successful in that job.
How have the Internet and social media changed the job search?
The truth is that the technology doesn’t really change anything in terms of what you need to do. It changes the tactics but it doesn’t really change the strategy. You still need to make the same impression. You still need to show the person that you can do the job and that you’re going to make them look good.But technology changes things in a few ways. First and foremost, you can learn so much more about the company and the job than you ever could have before. That can’t be understated. To find the information I put on One Day, One Job, I’d have to spend weeks researching each company because I’d have to dig through old newspaper articles, old magazine articles – it would be impossible. Now all that information is at your fingertips.
The second thing is that contacting people is so easy now. It’s really easy to email, but it’s also really easy to continue that conversation in other ways. If you apply through some black hole of an applicant tracking system and your application doesn’t end up in front of the person you want to reach, you can still find a way to connect with the people at the company. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, email, through a company blog…there’s so many different ways to get in touch.
The third thing is that it’s really easy to make something compelling and put it in front of the employer. Before you’d usually have to actually get an interview to make an impression. Now you can make an online portfolio or resume in digital form that’s going to get their attention quickly. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to make that thing, but it’s easy to get it in front of them.
I think most job seekers miss out on this. They spend months or even years applying to jobs and they are the same candidate that they were when they started the process. They’re not constantly improving and there’s no excuse for that now.
Shifting gears to your own story… Where did the idea for One Day, One Job come from?
I graduated from Cornell with a major in Industrial and Labor Relations and after spending two full summers in an HR office, I realized HR wasn’t quite the right fit for me. I wanted to do something more creative. I wanted to do something that was more core to the value of the businesses offered.
As I started looking for jobs, I just wasn’t happy with the opportunities I was finding. I noticed that there was just no real good online guide for new grads. There’s nothing saying “Here are your options.” It was all about what job opportunities are available “right now.” I wanted to know “what’s possible?”
Eventually I came up with the idea of featuring one job every day. Instead of throwing thousands or millions of job listings at the job seeker, what about going really in-depth on one?
When did the idea become a real project you were going to pursue?
The really big thing for me was when I decided to develop a site on my own. It made the idea so much more realistic, because I didn’t have to invest so much money in it. So I put together some other content and I said, “On November 12th I’m starting.” And then I posted every single day for the past four and a half years.
One Day, One Job seems to be about as lean and bootstrappy as you can get. What did it take to get the site off the ground?
I like bootstrapping because it gives you a ton of flexibility. You can try different things. People often want to get investments and funding, and they don’t understand that the business that they want to build isn’t compatible with that.
For example, take a business that makes a million dollars a year. For most people, that would be extremely personally rewarding. It would be an ultimate financial win. For a venture capitalist though, it would be a huge failure.
As for actually going about it, the most valuable things to me have been an understanding family and an understanding girlfriend. Having people who care about you and are willing to show a little faith in you, even if you’re not delivering results right away, can be really helpful.
The other key thing that I would say is that you’re investing yourself. Even if you don’t have a ton of success in terms of your business, you’re more employable. I could go get a job at a ton of companies instantly just by showing them what I’ve built at One Day, One Job, and when I graduated from college, that definitely wasn’t the case. I’ve learned so much and have so many different skills now because of the bootstrapping experience.
Any final bits of advice for people looking to bootstrap their own business or just find an incredible job?
The key thing is just constantly try to keep improving. If you constantly are working towards something you’re going to be in a much better situation in three, six, twelve months.
It’s kind of like lifting weights. Every day if you do a little bit more, you get a lot stronger. If you do the same thing day, after day, after day, you don’t get any stronger. You just get really good at lifting the same amount of weight.
Don’t try to do it all at once but instead try to build on even the smallest of successes, [then] you’re going to build a really favorable position for yourself. That’s what’s going to give you the flexibility to actually do what you want to do.