Dorie Clark: How Writing a Book Can Score You a Job

Dorie Clark
Photo by Thitiwat Nookae

I’m thrilled to introduce you to today’s guest expert, Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of business best-sellers Reinventing You and Stand Out, and she offers readers a free Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook. Take her up on the offer (after you read this post). — Elaine

How Writing a Book Can Score You a Job

by Dorie Clark

What’s the best way to land your dream job? It certainly isn’t sending in a resume and waiting to hear back. Instead, Miranda Aisling Hynes – whom I profile in my new book Stand Out – used “inbound marketing” to ensure her future employer was dying to talk to her.

She dreamed of a career in arts management. But it’s a crowded and competitive field. For her master’s thesis in community art, instead of writing an ivory tower treatise, she self-published a manifesto on creativity, Don’t Make Art, Just Make Something (published under her middle name, Miranda Aisling). She wanted it to inspire regular people, not just practicing artists or those inside academia. The term “art” is loaded, she’d come to believe; it signified something rarefied that most people couldn’t imagine aspiring to. “But everyone is creative,” she says. “Whether they use that creativity is a different issue, but it’s an innate human skill like curiosity, and your creativity can manifest itself in any number of ways . . . Most people do want to be creative; they just had it squashed out of them at some point.”

She gave a copy of her book to a friend who worked at a local arts center; he passed along the copy to his boss after he’d finished reading it. When Hynes later applied for a job at the organization, the director was extremely enthusiastic, praising it during her interview and again in front of the entire staff when she went in for the second round. “The book definitely opened the door,” she says. She got the job.

She recognizes that self-publishing probably won’t make her rich or famous. “I think you have to have realistic expectations about what you’re going to get out of it,” she says. “It’s an entrance [for other people] to my ideas. I haven’t really made a profit; I’ve pretty much broken even.” But the book landed her the job, and is bringing her closer to her long-term vision of opening a “community art hotel” that connects visitors with local artists. “The more stuff you create—a blog, websites, books—the more articulate you become about your passion and purpose,” she says. “And the more articulate you become, the more people flock to your message.”

It’s about creating a variety of touch points that can draw people in and keep them engaged. Someone discovering her website might order a copy of her book, sign up for her e-newsletter, and perhaps start attending the regular art and music gatherings she hosts. “Instead of building the arts center and hoping the community will come,” she says, “I’m building the community first and hoping they’ll help me make the arts center.”

Writing your own book might seem like an enormous challenge. But you don’t have to dive into your masterpiece right away. Start by listening and learning about the major issues in your field, as you begin to formulate your own point of view. Then, begin to share your thoughts via blogging and social media. Finally, as you’ve built up a following that’s interested in your perspective—and asking for more—you can expand those concepts into a book that encapsulates your philosophy and how you see the world. That will be your calling card to attract like-minded people to you and your ideas, and to help ensure that they spread.

If someone hasn’t worked with you before, hiring you can feel like a significant risk. If it doesn’t work out, they may have wasted months and tens of thousands of dollars. But when someone reads your book – or even just hears about it and recognizes the thought and expertise that went into creating it – it gives them a far deeper understanding of who you are and how you think. That provides an extra level of reassurance that makes it easier for them to say yes to you.

So ask yourself, if a book could serve as a calling card for you, what message would you want it to convey? What does the world need to hear? Set aside an hour on your calendar sometime this week to brainstorm – maybe during a walk over lunch, or as you relax in the evening. As Hynes’ story shows, self-publishing a book may seem an unlikely route to winning your dream job – but because it helps you stand out from the competition, it’s a powerful one.

Time to kick your writing skills up a level? Join me (Elaine!) for my popular Writing Unbound program this October. A serious commitment, for people serious about change.

Ssssh! Don’t tell! — the right way to convey a story

Sometimes I think instead of storytelling, maybe we should talk about storyshowing. “Tell” just sends the wrong message. It’s one-sided. I tell the story; you listen. Where’s the fun in that?

storyShowing is a much more participatory activity. I give you a narrative; you instinctively fit yourself into it, taking the pieces and manipulating them in your mind until you’ve created your own story from them. Once you’ve done that, the story is in your brain, ready to be used and repurposed as needed. And pretty much nothing is going to dislodge it. Stories stick, as the Heath Brothers demonstrate in their book Made to Stick.

And what if I tell you only part of the story? That makes it even stickier, as your brain scrambles to fill the gaps.

Showing activates a whole different sequence than telling. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to an actual neuroscientist. And think about this the next time you’re tempted to tell instead of show: Telling gives you one shot at giving the information to your audience. But showing—storyshowing—elicits a chain reaction in your listeners’ brains—and in their listeners’ as well.

It’s quite a responsibility. But I think you’re up for it.

How to make an impact — great advice from Avery Blank

Avery Blank
Avery Blank, LinkedIn profile picture

Avery Blank’s Forbes article on how to make an impact is the little black dress of business advice: It works just about everywhere.

The article’s title points it to a specific audience:

How To Make An Impact At A Conference, Even If You Aren’t The Speaker

But the advice she offers can apply to just about anyone: People new to the business world. Writers new to blogging and other forms of content creation. Professionals unsure about how to get their colleagues to listen them in meetings. In fact, Avery Blank’s advice sounds a lot like the advice I give my clients when they speak. So onstage or off, these tips will serve you well.

The first one that caught my eye was

“4. Ask one question, not two.

If you want to make an impact, less is more. The more you say, the less people will remember what you said.”

Identify the core idea you want to address. And articulate it concisely.

“5. Share a brief, personal story.

…Personal stories make an impact on people. They elicit feelings that connect and bind people together. Stories hold the power of creating common ground.”

Create common ground and people are much more likely to connect with you. And you must find a way of connecting emotionally—authentically—with your audience if you want them to a) remember what you say and b) act on it.

Avery Blank says step up and own your ideas

Okay, she doesn’t say that it so many words, but that’s how I translate her first three bits of advice:

1. Raise your hand.

2. Stand on your two feet.

3. Say your name.

Blank means literally raise your hand, stand up, and identify yourself. But these things also work very well as metaphors. Pitch yourself for opportunities as they arise. Make yourself visible and make sure everyone knows who’s coming up with all those great ideas.

Avery Blank’s final point is also about connecting:

“7. Look at others in the room, not just the speaker.

…Take the opportunity to connect with the audience….The remarks or questions that add the most value are those that others can learn from or connect with. If you want to make an impact, speak to benefit others, not just you.”

“Speak to benefit others”—I added the emphasis above because that’s the key to everything. Whenever you communicate, whatever you communicate, always keep the audience in mind. Address their needs, stir their feelings, inspire their action.

If you can do that, it won’t matter whether you’re the headliner onstage or the person sitting in alone in the very back row: People will remember you.

Want to communicate more courageously? Click here to get my e-book Do It Anyway: Tips for Courageous Writing

“I have no regrets” — Ana Marie Cox across the political divide

When Ana Marie Cox launched her podcast “With Friends Like These,” she promised her listeners “uncomfortable conversations” with people who have different points of view. Last week’s podcast delivered that fifty times over. Cox took her microphone to Trump’s campaign rally in Iowa and interviewed a range of people waiting to get inside. The episode’s title tells the sad, sad story. It’s a quote from one of the people who voted for him: “I have no regrets.”

Ana Marie Cox
Ana Marie Cox’s Instagram profile photo

Before I get into the content of the interviews, I need to state an incontrovertible truth:

Ana Marie Cox has the patience of a saint.

I mean, I know she’s a longtime journalist—just let go this week from MTV News—but she listened without comment to some of the most idiotic things I’ve ever heard. Without comment. I mean, the woman has the “uh-huh” of a seasoned therapist.

“Some of the most idiotic things I’ve ever heard.” And I’m not talking about the older man who thinks we should send gang members to the moon—literally. Or maybe Mars.

As I recall, more than one person cited the riots in Berkeley as a sign of just how out-of-control and intolerant the left is. “As I recall” because while everyone should listen to this episode, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to make anyone listen to it twice.

Ana Marie Cox: the patience of a saint, the microphone of a journalist

Intolerance runs rampant through these interviews, though there was far less racism and sexism on display than I’d expected. Perhaps the interviewees were on their best behavior. One businessman worried about “retaliation” from the left if his identity were revealed. Apparently conservatives are being targeted, boycotted even. Apparently it’s rude of us to inject politics into business. Those folks who refuse to bake wedding cakes for LGBT couples, or the landlord asking his tenants to show their citizenship papers—they’re not expressing political views through their business. Right? Ana Marie Cox just listened. A saint, I tell ya.

Cox asked several of her subjects which policy of Trump’s they supported most strongly. I nearly did a spit-take when one woman said, emphatically: “His agricultural policies.”

His what?

Seriously, listen to this podcast. It’s important to know who we’re dealing with. The world is calcifying into “us” and “them” with no apparent regard for objective truth.

Of course, I firmly believe the truth resides with “us.” The problem is, the other side believes they’re the “us.” And the more we push against them, the more they’ll cling to their position.

Who wants to be shown to be wrong?

Thanks to Ana Marie Cox for putting her patience to the test so we could hear people on the other side of this political Grand Canyon. Now all we need to do is figure out how to talk to them.

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Holding the audience’s attention: a memorable podcast interview

The only thing I enjoy more than teaching is giving a podcast interview, and yesterday’s was one for the books.

I set myself up in a chipmunk-free room. I mean—no, I don’t have chipmunks inside my house. But I do have some very large windows and if Fenway spotted one outside, well, anyone listening would think the apocalypse had arrived.

So I set myself up in a room with Fenway-proof windows. I plugged in my headphones. Got on Skype with the engineer, who griped about audio quality before pronouncing my setup adequate; the hosts connected and we commenced with the podcast interview.

podcast interviewNow, one of the strange things about a podcast interview is that you’re talking into a void. You’re Skyping, yes, but with the video off (improves audio quality). So you can’t see the host. But you also can’t see the person you’re really talking to—the person with their headphones plugged in, working up a sweat on the Stairmaster or negotiating their morning commute. When I give speeches or presentations, I tend to feed off the energy of the people I’m talking to. Pick up the pace if they’re looking bored, or insert a joke. Slow down if they seem lost.

You can’t do that with a podcast interview. All you can do is send your voice out into the void and hope you connect with someone. That’s one of the biggest challenges for me in this format—no feedback from the listeners.

Podcast interview with a live audience

Well, I got some feedback today. About 20 minutes into the interview, I’m happily talking away and I hear this sound…Should I stop? Keep going? The sound derailed my train of thought so I held for 10 seconds and then repeated what I’d been saying. Okay, back on track.

Then there it was again. Louder this time.

Surely it’s not…? What the…?

But it was:


I had put the engineer to sleep.

Now, audio engineers are not my target audience. I don’t think they’re a key demographic for this podcast, either. But, I mean—the guy can’t stay awake for half an hour? At noon on a Monday?

The hosts seemed unfazed; perhaps I’m not the first guest who’s cured his insomnia. But it’s quite humbling. One minute I’m an expert, holding forth on Important Topics; the next minute my audience is sound asleep, sawing logs.

I’m far more amused than offended by Sleeping Beauty, the Audio Engineer. But it is a good reminder that we need presentations compelling enough to reach the least connected member of any audience.

We woke him up when we were done with the podcast and he swore his mic hadn’t been live—even though we all heard him, clear as day. I know yawning is contagious in an audience; I wonder if sleeping is as well.

I’ll let you know.

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“People like us” — Seth Godin & baseball

Seth Godin was with me at the Mets game on Monday night. Not in person—in my head. When the beer vendor made his first appearance, Seth leaned over and whispered, “People like us do things like this.”

people like us drink cold beers on hot days at the ballparkNow, I don’t drink beer—or any alcohol, really—but this beer vendor caught my attention. Every other beer vendor I’ve encountered, in ballparks across this great land shouts, “Beer!” Or if they’re waxing poetic,

“Beer here!”

It’s a great phrase. The long E vowel sounds cut across the chatter of thousands of people. When the beer guy cometh, he doesn’t take you by surprise.

Monday was hot and sticky in the city. After weeks of early spring-like weather, summer came crashing down on us with two days of 90-plus temperatures. By game time, we were probably down to the high-80s. It was hot.

So the beer guy comes strolling down the stairs, shouting,

“Who needs a cold beer, besides me?”

Yes, that’s many more syllables than “Beer here!” but worth the investment of time and voice. In those few words he exhibited empathy for our plight—told us that he’s in the same position. He reminded us of the perfect solution to our shared problem. And that he, in fact, can provide it by selling us a cold beer.

People like us (hot, sticky people) do things like this (drink ice-cold beers).

I thought about getting out of my seat and talking to the vendor, asking if his spiel increased his sales. But the game was just too good. We beat the Cubs 6-1, with Jacob deGrom pitching a complete game. It’s been a while since people like him did things like that.

I’m heading back to the park this weekend. Hope I see some more great baseball, and more great marketing too.

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Conversation vs. conversion — Do you hate networking?

“Everything good in life—a cool business, a great romance, a powerful social movement—begins with a conversation.”

That’s from Dan Pink’s book To Sell is Human. Notice what word does not appear in that quotation?


Conversation not conversionI used to hate networking with a passion. I always felt dirty, somehow, like I was trying to get something from people. That’s probably because I was. Every person I met had a neon sign hovering over them: “Prospect!”

I might still hate networking. It’s hard to know for sure, because I don’t do it anymore. Instead, I have conversations. And I no longer see “Prospects!” I see People.

So when I walk into a roomful of 900 businesswomen—as I did last week—I don’t get overwhelmed. I zero in on someone interesting and have a conversation.

A conversation, not a come-on

Usually, this works like a charm. Turns out People enjoy having a conversation, especially when they sense you’re not trying to sell them anything. Well, except for this one man at a tech conference last month…

He was wearing great glasses, so I said, “Hey, great glasses.”

What?” The way he jumped, you would think he’d just heard a ghost. Seriously. My friend Robyn was sitting right next to me—ask her.

I weighed my options: slink away in embarrassment or try a second time. I repeated my compliment

Clearly this flustered the poor man. His brain was not prepared to process compliments from a random female: Is she coming on to me? [Reader, I was not.] If she’s not coming on to me, why is she speaking? 

Talk to connect

That odd encounter aside, I still believe that talking to people remains the best way of connecting. Perhaps even better than writing

My conversations with People have not yet begun a great romance or a powerful social movement—Mr. Pink may have oversold that a little. But they have allowed me to connect with a range of interesting folks. Some of whom have found me interesting as well. Interesting enough to join my mailing list, where we can continue our conversation.

Shape your stories to make them memorable—discover how in my hands-on editing workshop. Click here and I’ll let you know when we launch.

The Golden Apple — Song for a Sunday

The Golden Apple
Poster art from the Encores! production

The Encores! series at New York’s City Center has been one of the bright spots on my calendar for well over a decade now. They unearth underappreciated musicals, restore their orchestrations, hire ridiculously talented actors (it’s only a two-week commitment), and set them loose. But Encores! had a surprise for me this week: they dedicated their production of The Golden Apple to the memory of an old friend of mine who passed away about 18 months ago.

“Old friend” not in the sense of Sondheim’s “Old Friends” from Merrily We Roll Along, a crew that navigated post-adolescence together and kept turning up in each others’ lives through the bitterness of middle age. Lex Kaplen and I were grammar school classmates; we might easily have never seen each other after sixth grade. But he went to law school with one of my best friends from high school and eventually she brought him to see me sing and we reconnected through email. Then he was gone, heart attack. His post-collegiate employer The New Yorker ran a lovely piece, which I somehow managed to miss. I didn’t learn of his death until after his memorial service, when our mutual friend emailed me about it.

The Golden Apple and apple trees

Lex popped into my life randomly when he was alive; now he has popped in randomly in death. And as I sat there watching the show performed in his memory, a bunch of questions crowded into my brain.

Encores! has done six shows since he passed; why did they choose The Golden Apple to dedicate to him? Was he a rabid fan of this mid-century cult classic? What involvement did he have with Encores!? And why did we never talk about it? Clearly we had much more in common than the school song we could probably both sing in our sleep. Ha! That song was “The Apple Tree” (music and lyrics by our beloved hippie music teacher Ann Crawford)—a resonance that only just occurred to me.

I enjoyed the lush orchestrations and glorious harmonies of the Jerome Moross score. And the surely career-making performance of ingénue Mikaela Bennett, who has not yet graduated from Juilliard. But as the actors succumbed to various deaths, most of them staged for comic effect, I found myself thinking about the real thing. Which is not so funny. Even when the deceased is only a tangential part of your life.

And so your “Song for a Sunday” this week. I wanted to find you “Going Home Together,” the lovely finale of The Golden Apple, but the original cast recording pales in comparison to what I heard onstage this week. So here’s the promo video for the Encores! production. You’ll hear a bit of “Going Home Together” at the 1:35 mark. Enjoy.

“YOU’RE a professional?” Unconscious bias, it’s still here

Bella Abzug, a true professional
Bella Abzug, Library of Congress

The inimitable Bella Abzug always wore a hat. Not because her head was cold, or because she wanted to be ready if the Royal Family asked her to tea. No, Abzug—a lawyer, activist, and politician who represented Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the U.S. Congress for six years in the 1970s—wore a hat because it marked her as a professional. Back when most of the women in the workforce were secretaries, that was an important distinction.

The 1970s—nearly half a century ago. Women comprise a significantly larger percentage of the professional workforce. Yet people still make assumptions about what we can and cannot do, based on how we look.

Tessa Ann Taylor, Senior Software Engineer at The New York Times, says she still encounters people who seem mystified by the fact that she can be female and an engineer.

Speaking at last week’s Smith College Women’s Leadership Conference, Taylor said that people—okay, male people—have literally asked her “How are you a software engineer?”

Bella Abzug understood this mentality. She once said that while men have been told to “speak softly and carry a big stick,” for women it was “talk softly and carry a lipstick.” That may have been a guaranteed laugh line, but Abzug’s journal entries are less jocular:

“I spend all day figuring out how to beat the machine and knock the crap out of the political power structure.”

Taylor may not be trying to “knock the crap” out of the corporate power structure, but she does do a lot of training to help people recognize the Unconscious Biases That Will Not Die. Or at least That Haven’t Died Yet.

Women of color in professional leadership

On the final day of the conference, I attended a workshop called “Leadership as Disruption: Women of Color and their Allies Moving Beyond the Boundaries,” led by Aziza Jones, MSW. Jones challenged us to identify strategies to support and increase opportunities for women of color to lead. And also to identify ways in which we can support them as allies.

The bottom line for all of this work: Be willing to have difficult conversations. The more we can share our reality—and understand our privilege, for those of us who have it in this crazy world—the more we’ll be able to connect with others. Whether those others are women of a different race, or the clueless men who ask questions like “How are you an engineer?”

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” —Alice Walker

Talk. Connect. Use your power—for yourself and for each other. It’s time for us to change the world, don’t you think?

Want to communicate more courageously? Click here to get my e-book Do It Anyway: Tips for Courageous Writing

Teaching Feminism to Business—Beth Andres-Beck

feminism & the business world, through the eyes of Beth Andres-BeckI’ve been writing about Diversity & Inclusion for my clients for over a decade, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone in business mention the F-word (to be clear: Feminism). So I was delighted to hear it bandied about with such ease at the business conference I spoke at last week. That shouldn’t have surprised me–it was the Smith College Women’s Leadership Conference, after all. But, then, I’ve been away from campus for a while.

One of the high points of the conference for me turned out to be  Beth Andres-Beck‘s presentation “Teaching Feminism to the Business World.”

I admit I was skeptical at first. How can you teach feminism to a business world that doesn’t even say the word aloud? It seemed an impossibly optimistic goal.

Did I say “optimistic”? That’s if she worked in an industry that kind of “gets” this inclusion thing. But Andres-Beck works in tech. Which makes her seem less optimistic than delusional: the Donna Quixote of Silicon Valley.

But she’s not crazy; she’s a visionary.

And she’s also not tucked into a female-friendly (friendlier?) corner of the tech industry, like marketing or PR. She’s a freaking coder: in the trenches with guys all day, every day, often the only woman in the room. And currently the only woman programmer in her company—but at least the tiny start-up has achieved overall gender parity. Her side gig as a speaker and teacher is, I suspect, her effort not just to drive demographic change in the tech industry but, more importantly, to drive inclusion.

Feminism, confidence, and humor

I’ll start with an “of course” moment from her talk. Want to solve an intractable problem? Reframe it:

“It’s not about women in tech. It’s about the behavior of men in tech.”

Are you slapping your forehead? I was. She also reframed the dreaded Impostor Syndrome many of us face:

“Impostor Syndrome is a rational response to insufficient feedback.”

I had talked about Impostor Syndrome in my presentation at the conference, but I framed it as something that’s a natural part of life (heck, even Lin-Manuel Miranda has felt like a fraud sometimes). But of course businesses can mitigate this doubt by offering their people more frequent and more useful feedback. My clients seem to be moving in this direction already. Let’s hope it helps.

Andres-Beck refuses to believe she’s alone in her quest to see the tech industry become more feminist:

“Out of any audience, some of the people already agree with me. They just need someone to give them a label and a team.”

And so

“Instead of coming in with the assumption that people are going to attack me, I come in with the assumption that I’m right. Which is at least as true. And when people hear what I say, they hear my confidence and how sure I am that this will help the problem we’re dealing with.”

I added the emphasis above. Does it seem arrogant in print? In person Andres-Beck delivers the line with unquestionable sincerity—and a great sense of humor. Like all successful speakers, she recognizes that humor plays an essential role in the process of spreading an idea.

Win people’s attention and you earn their trust:

“If you tell them something about themselves that’s true, they will believe what you say about other people because obviously you are an insightful person.”

And then you can tell a story—take your listeners on a journey. Andres-Beck says she starts with “an obvious example people will agree with,” and moves from there to something they can apply, then something they can relate to, and then “to the most radical” suggestion. Some will follow her all the way to the end; others may drop off along the way—but Andres-Beck’s technique assures that almost all of her listeners will move away from their initial position.

Maybe it’s time for lightning rods

“We create our own social environment. Whatever we have is something we’ve bought into and we’re reinforcing it by showing up every day.”

As we speak up and create change and try to create a social environment in which everyone can thrive, do we risk becoming lightning rods for criticism? Beth Andres-Beck says, “I use my sincerity as a shield,” so people who want to attack her have to “violate a bunch of social norms.”

Still, the self-described “science fiction nerd” reminds us that lightning rods can be useful:

“If you don’t build that lightning rod, how are you going to reanimate that corpse?”

Want to communicate more courageously? Click here to get my e-book Do It Anyway: Tips for Courageous Writing