A possible employer praised my work but I can't say I did it. What now?
November 17, 2017 7:20 AM   Subscribe

I wrote copy for a web project a few months ago. A potential employer praised in on LinkedIn. I'd like to raise my hand and try to get a job with his company. But the work was under NDA. I REALLY need a job. How do I handle this?

Earlier this year, I did some copywriting work on a project for a big global corporation (BGC). My agency, and each of us individually, had to sign a really strict NDA -- we can't even say that we worked on the account. (There's no expiration date.)

I've since been laid off and I'm (desperately) looking for work. Yesterday, I came across a LinkedIn post from a marketing executive at one of BGC's competitors praising the project I worked on, and singled out the writing.

Working for this company is exactly the kind of job I'm looking for. I want to reach out to him, say it was me, and ask if he'd like the same great writing for his business. Obviously, this would violate the NDA. I'm not overly paranoid that BGC would sue me into the ground -- they'd probably send me a threatening letter at best. But breaking an NDA to a total stranger on LinkedIn is not a great first impression. (And how would he even be able to verify it was me?)

I have one connection in common with the guy who made the LinkedIn post, but it's someone I did a small bit of work with, many years ago -- he may not even remember me. Would that be the way to go?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"I noticed that on FaceBook you praised some work from BGC while I worked there. Everyone at BGC works under a really strict non-disclosure agreement, so I can't say anything as to the authorship of that particular piece. But I have a number of samples that I'd love to show you that I think you'd find equally interesting."
posted by ubiquity at 7:40 AM on November 17, 2017 [99 favorites]

+1 for what ubiquity just wrote. You hint without telling. And stay cool on the I NEED A JOB RIGHT NOW front.
posted by giraffeneckbattle at 7:42 AM on November 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

If I read your post correctly, it's that NO ONE from your old company is supposed to say they worked on the BGC account at all (not that you worked at BGC directly). I don't think you should do anything that hints around the NDA, largely because now the first thing this potential employer knows about you is that you're a risky hire who won't stick by legal/ethical agreements if they hire you. No matter how good your writing, that's going to be a huge red flag in your application. This goes beyond getting potentially sued by BGC, which I agree is unlikely -- the bigger issue is that it seems more likely to completely tank any chances with this new company, now or in the future.

Also, as you say, literally anyone could write to this person claiming to have written this particular copy, and there is no way for him to verify the information one way or another.

Instead, I would take this as a good sign that yay, your writing style may be a really good fit for this company! Create an original writing sample that really shows off your skills using a similar style but none of the same content/branding.

Also, since "laid off" implies to me that you were not fired for cause but rather there were staffing cutbacks or something similar, I would check in with your old supervisor and make sure they're able to talk up your writing skills when giving recommendations, even if they cannot use that specific example -- but I'm sure they could say something along the lines of "I can't list specific projects because of the NDA agreements our firm signs, but I can say X about anonymous's writing more generally." And fill in X with lots of great/specific things.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:06 AM on November 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

Do you have a point of contact at the company you did the writing for? Even if they generally have a strong policy of not letting contractors say that they worked for them, they might be willing to provide a limited reference to one external entity.
posted by Candleman at 12:29 PM on November 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with rainbowbrite. There’s enough chance they’d find coy rule-skirting a turnoff.
posted by kalapierson at 8:06 PM on November 17, 2017

Thinking out loud: Maybe you could say something like, "Hi FirstName, I hope you're doing well! I did some work with Mutual Connection years back, and I noticed your post in my feed earlier this week on X Project. It caught my eye, since I've worked on some similar packages recently. I'd love to connect and see if I might be able to bring value to any projects like this you might have coming up. I'd be happy to provide examples and discuss further if you're interested." The examples would be non-NDA work, natch.
posted by limeonaire at 9:53 PM on November 17, 2017

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