Learning From Your Hilarious Career Mistakes with Jaron Mader

Photo by Lindsay Elliott

Jaron and I used to work together (it feels like another life), which is where we laughed at our own sarcastic commentary and connected over our shared experience as unappreciated marketing geniuses. 

When Jaron decided to do his own thing and take clients of his own, I was pretty excited to see his personality and talents really let loose.

I'm pretty lucky that he's kept me in the loop of his career and after he sent me a copy of a recent cover letter with an email that simply said 'OMG Why?'. I thought it needed to be shared, not because he's hilariously candid about reaching for the stars and failing but because we've all been there and we can all learn from what he has to say about his experience so far.

Jaron Mader Designs

Jaron Mader Designs

Can you tell us about your distinct style and specialty as an artist?

I think I'm getting a reputation for bold colours, unique font choices, and a vibe that is like East Van come Olympic village– somewhere between hip and professional. My speciality is pretty broad, I have a lot of experience in digital marketing, but more recently have been doing a lot of branding and package design which is super fun. 

We know that lately you've been working on your personal brand and looking at a few different opportunities. What has that been like? What have you learned?

Hoah boy. I've learned that I'm a really annoying client! I have a really hard time self-branding, as what I might think is cool won't necessarily get me a job or a contract.

There's a temptation to be ahead of the trends and show how in vogue you are, but as with fashion you might end up a little too "out there" for many folks. Will you get more business by being accessible like Urban Outfitters, or by being like Rick Owens where the models are belted to each other while Donald-Ducking down the runway? 

Jaron Mader Designs

Let's get to the good stuff, you recently shared with us a hilarious example of an effective cover letter and one that sort of...missed the mark. It happens to all of us. In retrospect, what happened and what can others learn from you?

Haha, missed the mark is putting it lightly. I wanted to really stand out, and was also super stressed. As a result, I think I came across as an arrogant, fedora-tipping nerd. 

First, I was trying to be subversive by writing it in prose. It took me forever to wrap my head around the structure and it felt forced. I would say if it's taking more than an hour to write a cover letter, you need to start over. This took me like 6.

Secondly, my main point was how great it was to read a job-posting that you're a fit for. While I thought it would offer an opportunity to brag about skills without being boring, it came off as telling the company how great they were for me rather than how great I was for them. You should seem like a commodity. 

THIRDLY, I obsessed with a joke about how perfect job postings always drop bombs half-way through like "must have a degree in astrophysics" or speak another language. In an effort to not seem ignorant I thought "I'll use a fictional language!" and ended up referencing KLINGON on my cover letter 3 TIMES. I don't even watch Star Trek. If you're applying to a chic Gastown software company they probably want to hear how you're a dog person or a foodie, something breezy. Save the Klingon for the bedroom.

What's next for you and what would be your dream job or project?

I'm currently interviewing for a couple in-house positions, and just started conversations with a few new clients so I'm kind of in limbo. My dog is ecstatic that I'm home all day. 

As for my dream job would be to work at a small agency–in a cute office that has beer and dogs on Fridays– where we help small to medium businesses look beautiful and get famous.

Want to read more about design and branding? Check out Kristen's series on Creating a Successful Brand Identity.