How I bought a $47,500 job for $10.48

Johnson Kee
Published in
5 min readMay 10, 2016


For the job you absolutely have to land.

It was early May, 2013. I’d been connected up with a local call center, doing menial, brain-dead jobs for minimum wage. It had only been two months but I was slowly going insane.

Frantically scouring the Internet for anything I could find, I jumped back onto my university network and there it was. My salvation. My way out. A better paying job! And in my industry, no less. A fresh grad’s Holy Grail.

This is the story of how I landed myself in front of the hiring manager and stood out from the dozens of other applicants like a sore thumb (but in a good way).

This comes back down to a basic understanding of direct marketing principles and good old-fashioned common sense. Here were my deductions:

  1. I needed to get my application in ASAP to give myself the highest chance of being noticed,
  2. I needed to stand out from the rest of the pack and set up an “apples to oranges” scenario,
  3. I needed to make it hard to forget about my application.

So here’s what I did:

  • I compiled my portfolio of content I’d written: press releases, blog posts, web content and printed them all off.
  • I wrote up a custom piece (press release) specifically for the company I was applying for to build vision,
  • I got it professionally bound,
  • I called up and introduced myself to establish the initial “touch”,
  • I mailed it off.

Picture the scenario from my boss’ point of view: he’s coming in to work, another day, another dozen fires to put out. He’s in desperate need of a 2nd-in-command to take over some of his load. He’s put his application up on the web and the responses are flooding in. He doesn’t have to time to download individual resumes and cover letters. They’re clogging up his inbox even more so than it already was.

Then my application gets delivered.

A big, yellow envelope, with the company name and his name on the front. Bulky and thick, he takes it back to his office. Curious, he starts opening it. Inside, he finds a bound document, with his soon-to-be new employee’s face smiling back at him. He flips through the document, nodding slowly. He then keys in my phone number and presses “call”.

Let’s break this down so you can see just how it works.

  • As mentioned in my Career Advice article, establishing the first, human point of contact is important. Most people don’t, so if you do, you already have that advantage.
  • This technique is stupidly easy and cost me a day to print and bind and just over $10 total for everything.
  • I could have sent it off in a regular envelope, but I didn’t for two reasons: one, it would have taken longer to deliver, two, hardly anyone receives express mail, so you’re more likely to open it, three, it’s faster, so better chance of getting in early.
  • No one else did this. My boss couldn’t compare anyone else to me. I stood out.
  • The application and envelope were physically in my boss’ office. Every time he walked in and out, he saw it. He was reminded of me every time he saw it.
  • The size of the document showed that I meant business.

Now granted, this works better for some businesses more than others, namely SMEs, but still. It might be just the strategy that can get you an interview and maybe even a job. I’ve used it several times with a high hit rate. Hopefully you can benefit from this technique as well.

Nearly three years on…

This is a piece I wrote three years ago. Being a little bit wiser since then, I still stand by this technique. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d just employed some tenants of Stoicism to get my foot in the door.

I first became familiar with the Stoic philosophy when I’d read a book by Ryan Holiday, specifically, “The Obstacle is the Way”.

Boiled down to its very essence, a stoic is someone who divides every event in life into two categories:

  1. things that can be controlled, mainly your actions, thoughts and feelings, and;
  2. things that cannot be controlled and therefore shouldn’t affect you emotionally, i.e. everything that people complain about.

It’s easy to blame the job market, high unemployment and too many competing applicants for your joblessness.

It takes sangfroid to stand back and observe the opportunity that’s there, which no one can see.

What I could see when I put in my application was this:

  • time was of the essence. That job listing had come out hours earlier. Soon, my boss-to-be would be inundated with job applications. If I moved quick, I’d have first mover’s advantage.
  • this was a smaller firm, so I had a good feeling that it would be my boss personally who would be reviewing applications. By sending mail, I would strike right at the heart and get his attention.
  • if I did some research about what the firm was about, called up and asked for the boss for a “pre-interview chat”, I’d demonstrate my initiative, leave a strong first impression and dramatically increase my chance of being called back.

These were all things I could control. I executed to the best of my ability and when it was down to two applicants, I was the triumphant one.

Applications to life

It doesn’t have to just be for jobs. Stoicism works for life. If you truly grasp and understand the concept, you should become cooler and more collected with each day that passes.

The truth is, we cannot control the majority of things that happen in our lives. So why worry about them?

When we stop caring so much, we free up mental and emotional bandwidth to focus on the things that we can control. The stuff we do becomes grander and more magnificent. We do more deep work, attain mastery faster and have more fulfilling relationships.

The benefits are great, but it takes great discipline at the beginning to quieten your mind and filter out the noise that can short circuit your decision making process.

If you want a mind that works for you, not against you and more things to go your way in life, I’d recommend reading up on Stoicism.

What if you had the courage to only do the work you love?

How much happier would you be? What separates the people who have the courage and those who don’t? Vulnerability. Accepting that they’re good enough to do the work that gives their life meaning. is a community of people all ready to accept that they’re good enough. They get access to an online magazine that tackles problems like maintaining peak personal performance and how to promote yourself. They also get access to a recorded interview with a person of influence who’s used their vulnerability to empower instead of weaken themselves.

First edition launches June 30th. Click here to apply to join the Founders Shortlist and tell me what work gives your life meaning. If you’re a good fit, I’ll save you a spot for the launch event.



Johnson Kee

Human, father, writer. On my way.