In TMRW’s “My First” series, we highlight true stories from readers who open up about the pivotal moments in their lives — from their first jobs to their first breakups and more — and what they learned from these personal milestones.
In today's world, there are many ways to get a job, whether by broadcasting your talent on social media, reaching out to your extended network, tailoring your résumé to different job listings or sharpening your knowledge with continuing education courses.
Seven years ago, I took the nontraditional route and sent a cold email to two women I’d never met before.
In 2013, I was 23, a year out of college and working as a management consultant for IBM. It was a stable and well-paying job and I got to work with clients in the communication sector. But I was coming up to the one-year mark and doing an audit on my life. “What’s next?” I thought. I wanted more ownership over my work and something I felt really passionate about.
I had heard about theSkimm, a cleverly written email newsletter that delivered the news to millennial inboxes across the country. It was a product that resonated with me both because of its content and because it was created by two young women living in New York, like me. When I connected the dots, I realized theSkimm was at the top of my career wish list.
On theSkimm’s website, the co-founders — Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin — had listed their shared email address and I quickly started drafting an email pitch. I divided my letter into two themes: the first being that I was a longtime fan and the second that I wanted to help them make news cool. I talked about my consulting job, what I learned there and how I was comfortable with the hustle and fast-paced schedule required at a start-up.
I really did my research, reading every interview Weisberg and Zakin had given up to that point, and knew they had just successfully raised seed money that could potentially fund an expanding team.
I went back to edit my email draft multiple times. I wanted to show them that I had writing chops and could write in theSkimm voice. This was my opportunity to connect and I had nothing to lose. Worst-case scenario: I would never hear back. But if I did get a response, I could learn more about the product I enjoyed as a consumer, or even better, it could lead to my next career move.
At 1:22 p.m. on a November afternoon, I sent theSkimm co-founders my cold email along with my résumé. I was giddy and nervous to hear back, but I didn’t have to wait long for a response. Just 12 minutes later, Weisberg replied and asked if I could jump on a phone call the next day.
During our first conversation, she confirmed they were looking to hire and asked if I would be willing to do a homework assignment, crafting sample social media posts in theSkimm style.
After the first assignment, I was scheduled to meet with both Weisberg and Zakin at a cafe in New York’s West Village. But of course, nothing plays out perfectly in real life.
I woke up that morning with an eye infection and a swollen eye. I went to an urgent care clinic, explaining to the doctor, “Listen, I have a job interview. It’s so important and I cannot show up like this, with a swollen eye.” He gave me eyedrops and — I’ll never forget it — told me, “Maybe this will be a good extra test if they can see past this.” To this day, I still don’t know if Weisberg and Zakin know what happened.
The meeting was a success and they ended up giving me another homework assignment to try. I remember walking away from the cafe at the time thinking, “There is no world in which I am not involved with this company. Period. Just manifest it. This is going to be my next chapter.” I was confident that I was getting through to them and showing them I was enthusiastic and serious about theSkimm mission. By the first week of December, I received a job offer and became the first employee at theSkimm.
I remember trying to explain to my dad why I was quitting my consulting job to become a community manager at theSkimm. “You’re quitting for email?” he asked me. He probably wasn’t as sure about my decision as I was. “It's so much more than an email, Dad! You don't get it!” I knew this was the chance to be on one of those crazy, rocketship, high-growth experiences and that’s exactly what ended up happening.
For anyone looking to land their first job interview, do your homework. When I met with Weisberg and Zakin, I wasn’t asking the same questions that others had already asked them. I showed them I knew their story and shared what I thought I could bring to the table. Understand the company you want to work for, figure out who you’re talking to and lead with your passion.
After nearly four years at theSkimm, I left to start Jiggy Puzzles, where I work with emerging female artists to reimagine an old classic: the jigsaw puzzle.
On my last day, Weisberg and Zakin presented me with a printed and framed copy of that first cold email and today, it’s hanging in my home office.