How to Channel The Godfather and Use Pain to Get a Job After College


What’s it like to be a job-seeker these days?

It sucks.

The truth of the matter is that it’s nearly impossible to tell whether you’re a fit for a company by answering a couple of pre-determined questions and that’s what most interview processes are like. Even if you have multiple interviews at one company, you’re still going to be answering questions that just skim the surface of who you are and what it’d be like to work there.

That’s not going to guarantee you a job.

And if you’re anything like me, you want to be SURE that you’re going to be hired.

So how can you make that happen?

Make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Make them choose between pain and relief!

Whoa. That sounds worse than it is. I’m not asking you to adorn the beds of employers with horse heads.

I mean, that tactic might work, but you’ll probably also be sent to “the slammer” because it’s really messed up, so… I think we should stick with a tactic that CEO & Founder of Human Workplace, Liz Ryan, has coined “pain-spotting.”

In her blog post, “Job-hunting? Look for business pain,”she talks about how she was sold on hiring a summer babysitter by her daughter’s friend Mikayla before she even knew she needed one.

Here’s the exact quote from Liz’s article that Mikayla uses: “I can just imagine that it’s hard for you once school gets out, with your second-grader underfoot. Do you want me to pick him up at the end of daycamp each day, take him for pizza and a dip in the rec center pool, and bring him back exhausted to have dinner and fall asleep?

Liz points out that Mikayla’s success in getting hired was due to her approach. If Mikayla had simply asked “Do you need a babysitter over the summer?” Liz wouldn’t have realized that she did in fact need a sitter and would not have agreed to let Mikayla help out.

But Mikayla didn’t do that. She “pain-spotted” and pointed out the difficulties Liz would be facing as a working mother when school was out for the summer. She made Liz aware of the problem and then showed how she was the solution to that problem. In doing so, she made the prospect of having a summer babysitter one that Liz could not refuse.

And how does this relate to you?

This technique isn’t just for babysitters.

Teresa Torres has some great examples on her blog Product Talk of how this same technique can be used when applying for any job. Be it babysitting or developing products, “pain-spotting” for your chosen company will give you an edge.

This does mean that the number of positions you apply for will have to decrease. There is a good amount of research that goes into “pain-spotting” and it is impossible to do it when applying for a large number of positions.

But that’s okay. It’s quality over quantity.

So how do you go about using the “pain-spotting” technique?

1. Find your inner Johnny Fontane.

In her post, “Why Defining Your Market is Essential to Finding a Product Job,” Teresa asks job-seekers to think of themselves as a product.

In The Godfather Johnny Fontane is a famous singer who wants to get a part in a specific movie. He knows who he is as a product. Though he develops a sore throat, he is confident in his acting abilities. He considered this movie part to have been written just for him.

You’re a product for a specific consumer. Instead of trying to discover what company you want to create your personal product for, you should be thinking about who you are as a product and which companies would be looking to purchase “you” the product. Who is your target employer or market?

Take some time to figure out what you’re interested in. Have you done any internships? What did you enjoy about them? What contributions did you make to the company or organization?

It may help to read our post about creating your personal brand mantra. This can give you some real insight into what is important to you and who you are as a person.

Our post “Know Your Own Strength (And How to Use it)” can also shed some light onto who you are as a product.

2. Narrow down your job options.

After you’ve discovered who you are as a product, take time to narrow down the companies that you think would be interested in what you have to offer.

Johnny focused on one movie role. THAT was the one he wanted. He wasn’t auditioning for every role that was out there.

Because of this he was able to really target his desired employer. You should do the same. You don’t have to pick just one company, but you should definitely limit your options.

Teresa Torres says that your target market should be small enough that “your unique skills and interests align with the needs of the companies so strongly that there’s no chance you can come across as mediocre.”

3. Become EXTREMELY familiar with what your selected companies do.

By targeting a specific movie Johnny Fontane was able to get some detailed information that would help him in his acting endeavour (aka the knowledge that the studio head had a prized race horse that could be used against him).

Having only a small group of targeted employers allows you to do the research necessary to have a planned and convincing pitch.

Knowing about a company, its current and future plans, its mission, and its culture will allow you to perform the next step which is…

4. Identify the company’s pain.

Here’s where your path is going to veer slightly away from Johnny’s. In order to land the role, Johnny Fontane goes to his godfather… ahem the Godfather and asks for his assistance. At this point Don Vito Corleone (the Godfather) replies with “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Of course this is when the studio executive finds his prized race horse’s head in his bed.

In The Godfather, Johnny and the Don first create the pain and then imply that they won’t create more if Johnny gets the role.

Let’s be absolutely clear: You’re not going to create any pain. PLEASE do not do anything to hurt your targeted employer.

What you’re going to do is identify the pain that already exists or has the potential to exist within a company.

You can still rely on a family member for help. If you have a godfather or uncle or aunt who works for the company or in the industry you’re interested in, ask them to get you the inside scoop.  Don’t feel like it’s cheating. Asking a family member is a totally legitimate way to get information about a company. I mean if Johnny can ask his mafia boss godfather to blackmail a studio executive, then you can CERTAINLY ask if there are any openings at a particular company or changes happening in the industry.

After you have done your research, it’s time to use logic to figure out what your target employer’s business pain is.

Let’s say through your research you discover that the company you’re interested in is doing so well that they are expanding. Although this is great for the company, it means that they are soon going to be short-staffed. There’s the business pain.

Or (inspired by The Godfather) maybe you’re interested in the vintage fashion industry. The companies you are looking at sell high-end pieces. After a lot of research you discover that it is extremely hard for the buyers to find these pieces at a price they can make a profit from. It’s difficult to have enough customers to make these high-end pieces worth their prices.

Then you would go about researching the reasons why more people don’t want to wear vintage clothing. Maybe some people have an aversion to wearing clothes that have been previously worn. Maybe the materials are not as comfortable as modern-day fabrics are. Maybe it’s just because 1920s drop-waist embroidered dresses aren’t in style.

These are things that you can find out by:

  • Speaking with clients and customers.

  • Interviewing people who work in the industry.

  • Researching online (reading blogs and reviews).

5. Define what you can do to alleviate this pain.

In The Godfather Johnny and the Don imply that no further pain will be inflicted on the studio head as long as he accepts their offer.

You’re not going to threaten further pain on your potential employer. Instead you’re just going to point out the pain they’re already in and then demonstrate how you can alleviate that pain.

You’re going to define how “You” the product, if purchased by the company, would solve their problem.

Maybe you’re an environmental science major who is also a vintage junkie. You know how to take the “Ew, it’s been worn by someone else” thought and turn it into “It’s been worn but it’s clean and green! No new factories have been used to produce these already manufactured clothing items!”

Or perhaps you have a degree in modern fashion merchandising but grew up watching movies like The Godfather and Guys and Dolls? You can spot clothing that will appeal to both vintage lovers as well as modern fashionistas.

Once you understand how you can help the company it’s time to…

6. Create your offer they can’t refuse.

Just like the Godfather showed the studio executive that he’d be much better off with Johnny in the movie, you must show your future employer they’d be much better off after hiring you.

When preparing your business pain pitch, you don’t want to jump into the ailment right away. First, you have to make sure the company knows that you have done your research and that you understand their values.

For example, if we stay with the vintage clothing idea, you might start by pointing out why you admire how their current buyers purchase both lower and higher-end pieces that can work together.

After pointing out why you admire and would love to work for the company, you can ease into your “pain-spotting.”

You may start with something like:

Vintage clothing is beautiful and fun to wear and your buyers have an impeccable eye for choosing the best items to sell in your store, but I know how expensive it is to purchase those items. I realize how difficult it is to have a profitable turnaround because vintage clothing is limited to a specific consumer type.

You’ve pointed out the business pain. The clothing that they sell is of high quality and costs them a good amount of money. It’s difficult to sell to enough people to make a profit.

That’s when you introduce yourself as the solution to the problem. Explain how having you join the team will expand their clientele from just vintage enthusiasts to modern fashionistas and “green” business people. With your help you’ll make sure they have enough customers to turn a profit.

This conversation can be had at a networking event, during an interview, or (better yet) as a replacement for your cover letter. It doesn’t matter where it takes place as long as you present yourself as the solution to a problem. Without YOU the company would be “swimming with the fishes.”

If you’re determined to get a job then you’ll have to take a cue from The Godfather and replace your cover letter with the “pain letter.” What is a pain letter and how can you write one? Check out Liz Ryan’s post to find out.

Don’t leave getting hired to chance. Make employers an offer they cannot refuse.

Homework time! Start now! Discover who you are as a product. Explore jobs on AfterCollege and then narrow down your job prospects and begin researching them. Where is there business pain? What can you do to alleviate that pain? Read Liz Ryan’s post on writing a “pain letter” and start drafting your own!


13 Responses to “How to Channel The Godfather and Use Pain to Get a Job After College”

  1. Winter is Coming: Game of Thrones and the Job Search - AfterCollege

    […] You have to do the same. After you’ve Explored jobs on AfterCollege, read the AfterCollege Blog, and figured out what industry appeals to you, it’s time to start doing your research. Find out as much as you can about the company you want to work for, their competitors, the industry as a whole, and then pain-spot your way to a job interview. […]


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