The Good About Pain Points

Pain points – we all have them. We have them in our personal and professional lives, and our companies and organizations have them, too. In the past week, I’ve come across two unique takes on addressing company pain points. The first was this Forbes article on pain letters. Don’t worry – they’re much less scary than they sound (and they’re very smart!).

The basic premise is that rather than telling a prospective employer about yourself through your resume and traditional cover letter, you flip the focus to one of their pain points and then share how you can help. Not only does it provide a nice introduction to yourself, but more than that, it tells your potential employer that you do your research and understand where they’re coming from. Who doesn’t like to be presented with a solution rather than a sales pitch? This was the first time I’ve heard about this particular form of cover letter and it certainly makes a lot of sense to me

So with that rattling around in my head, I’m also reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I’m really enjoying it, and will share more in a future book report post, but I was struck by a story she told that reminded me of the pain letter. Shortly after she started her job as Facebook’s COO, Sandberg talks about an acquaintance, Lori Goler, who called her and said she wanted to work with her. Rather than go through her own skills and ask Sandberg what openings may be a good fit, Goler asked Sandberg what her biggest business problem was at the moment and whether or not she thought Goler could help fix it. The way that Sandberg tells the story, the approach was so novel and so helpful, her “jaw hit the floor.” She needed help with recruiting new talent and while Goler didn’t necessarily have that exact background, she had skills that were transferable enough that they thought it could work. And it did – exceptionally well. I’ll let you read the book to learn more.

I can’t stop thinking about the notion of pain points as a starting place. What would happen if we stopped selling ourselves first and started with understanding someone else’s pain points? How much further could we go, and how much faster? What untapped capacity could we find within ourselves that we didn’t know existed? Rather than thinking of ourselves as one particular skill set, what if we identified problems and then were able to figure out how we could help? What teams could we build and what amazing things could we accomplish? These are the things that will continue to rattle around in my head for quite some time, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to help someone with their pain point.

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