Who: Alison Berkley Wagonfeld, 30, VP of marketing, Greenlight.com
Mistake: "Believing that my résumé and cover letter would 'speak for themselves.' "
Payoff: "There are always back doors to opportunities if you want them badly enough."
"Here's what's so great about the new economy: Whenever someone tells you 'no,' there's almost always a way to turn it into a 'yes.' "
"When I was at Harvard Business School, I decided that I wanted to leave investment banking and go into high-tech marketing. So when Microsoft came to recruit for summer interns, I submitted my résumé — without giving a second thought to the fact that it didn't even mention marketing. I didn't get an interview. But instead of giving up, I found the place on campus where Russel Siegelman, a Microsoft rep, was interviewing. He finally agreed to interview me — but only if I brought him lunch. I got a summer job helping to launch Microsoft Network. Everything that I did confirmed that high-tech marketing was what I wanted to do."
"My persistence paid off for two reasons: One, by making my capabilities known, I got an opportunity that I never would have gotten based on my résumé alone. Then, after Russ left Microsoft in 1996 to become a partner at Kleiner Perkins, I got back in touch with him, and he told me about the opening at Greenlight.com."
"Would I be at Greenlight if I hadn't had to reverse the damage done by my Microsoft cover letter? Probably not."