This post is the first in our How to Find a Job You Love series. Check out the second post here!
Time to get a job! Fortunately, you know just what to do. You do what everyone does when they’re looking for a job: spend a day polishing your LinkedIn profile and a really spiffy looking resume. You fill out applications and post your resume to every job posting site you can find. You start attending job fairs and “networking” events.
Congratulations! Now you’re competing with everyone else.
This means you have to win the resume arms race and hope your 4.0 GPA, those 19 leadership positions you’ve held since you were five, those 3 years you spent volunteering abroad, and the 4 languages you’re fluent in will catch the attention of an HR Director as he sorts through the 47 applications he received for that entry-level position.
What? You don’t have a resume like that? Oh.
Well, in that case you’ll have to play the resume lottery. You can increase your odds of winning by applying for every open position you find on Google. Hopefully you’ll eventually get an interview.
Of course, if you do get picked, you’re probably one of a half dozen. So make sure you sharpen up those interview skills and be ready to answer questions like “what is your biggest weakness?” and “what salary do you think you deserve?”
Wait a minute. You didn’t follow the crowd and earn a college debt sentence like everyone else. Why would you find a better way to do college and then join the crowd to find a job?
Before looking for a job the way everyone else does, consider taking a different path to find a career. One that’s not only more likely to succeed, but also more likely to help you find a job you truly love.
It will take a little longer to get a job on this different path, and in some ways it will take more work, skill, and effort, but in return you’ll have a much better chance of not only landing a job, but landing a great job that is an excellent fit for you.
So, without further ado, here are five unconventional strategies to getting a job you love:
1. Don’t Apply for an Open Position
Think about it. If the position is open and being advertised, you face three immediate disadvantages:
- You have to compete with everyone else who is applying for the position.
- The job position is already set, which means you have bend your skills and experience to fit a predefined box.
- You have to compete with the person who just left that position. You’ll be measured against their success or failure.
What if you could highlight your unique skills and experience? What if you could explain how you specifically could benefit the company and help them accomplish their mission? What if you could do all that without being compared to someone else’s accomplishments? Sound a lot better?
Don’t wait until you are desperate for a job to start searching. Don’t apply to open jobs like everyone else. Start early, way before you need the job, and do things differently.
2. Work Your Connections
Don’t attend job fairs and “networking” events. That’s where everyone else who is desperate for a job hangs out—exchanging cards, passing on resumes, making small talk, and hoping they make a better impression than you.
Work your connections instead: family, friends, people you know from church, neighbors, gym buddies, even people you know casually. Ask where they work and what they do and don’t like about it. Ask what they do. Ask what their company does.
Consider yourself on a quest to find the best and worst places to work in your area. Or think of yourself as a detective who is searching for clues that will lead to a great job. Always be on the lookout for opportunity.
3. Figure Out You
Don’t think your resume will get you a job. You are a living, breathing, thinking, feeling, value-producing human being. You are not a sheet a paper. Besides, everyone knows a resume is just an exaggerated version of who you think an employer wants you to be. That’s not helpful for you or an employer. Instead, take some time and define your value.
What are your unique skills, abilities, personality, and experience that will bring value to an employer? If you’re just starting out and don’t have unique skills and experience, make sure you are very clear on the value you do bring. Instead of skill and experience, you may bring energy, a willingness to learn, hunger, flexibility, and a willingness to work for a lower salary than someone with more experience.
4. Figure Out Them
Don’t think it’s about you. Finding a job is not about your skills and ability. It’s about how your skills and ability will bring value to the people you want to work for. That means the hardest part of your job search will be taking the time to research and get to know the short list of places you will look for work.
What do those companies do? How are they succeeding? How are they failing? What do they need? What are their challenges? What are their opportunities?
Once you know what a company needs, you can connect that to what you can do and the value you bring.
5. Build Familiarity
Don’t fill out applications. Find out who does the hiring (or better yet: that person’s boss) and communicate directly with them.
The best way to connect is through a friend or an acquaintance. Being introduced by someone means you start out with instant credibility. If you don’t have any mutual connections, the next best way to connect is in person. If that’s not possible, consider a handwritten note. Everyone gets email, calls, texts, and voicemails. A written note is more personal and it is unusual enough to attract attention.
Just remember: your goal isn’t to get a job on the first contact. Your goal is to start a relationship. No matter how you connect, make sure you keep the visit or message short, simple, and easy
- Short. Keep your visit to less than five minutes unless invited to talk longer. If you are sending a note, shorter is better. More than three paragraphs is too long.
- Simple. Your goal for your first meeting is to introduce yourself, make a good impression, and communicate your value and your interest in working for the company.
- Easy. Don’t ask for a job. Don’t ask for anything. People resent people who show up unannounced and than give them new things to worry about.
Here’s a sample outline of what that conversation should sound like:
“Hi my name is Jonathan, it’s great to meet you! I understand you are the Marketing Director here. What’s the best part about working here?
I’m really interested in what your company does. I’m especially interested in what you do for digital media marketing. I saw your latest series of posts on Facebook, and I was impressed with how much interaction those posts generated! How did you come up with that idea?
Thanks for your time and telling me about your work and that campaign, I really appreciate it! I just finished an internship in digital marketing, and I will be looking for a full-time job as soon as I graduate. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, and this conversation was really helpful. Thanks!”
In the next day or two, follow up with a note or message thanking him or her again for their time. Follow up a few more times after that.
In future messages, you could:
- Ask for advice. People love to give advice. It makes them feel like an expert and they like helping someone at the same time.
- Provide something of value for them. This can be as simple as passing on a useful article about the company or the industry.
- Connect them to someone. Do you know someone who provides goods or services that could be beneficial to the company? A low-pressure introduction that provides possible benefits to both sides is always welcome.
If you follow up 3-4 times and get no response it’s a dead lead. That’s when you should concentrate on one of your other leads.
Putting It All Together
Let’s consider this again.
It will be time to get a job soon! For a while now, you’ve been in the habit of asking people you meet what they do and where they work. From those conversations, you’ve identified five companies you think would be interesting places to work.
You dedicate some serious time to investigating your top five companies, learning about what they do and how they do it. As you investigate, you start connecting the needs of the companies to the skills you have and what you enjoy doing. This reduces the list to the three companies whose needs best match what you think you can do.
Your friend has an older cousin who works for one of the companies. You use this connection to ask the cousin for a tour. On the tour, you meet one of the managers and have a brief conversation. You follow up that conversation with a quick email saying you enjoyed meeting her and enjoyed learning about the company.
A few days later, you send the manager a link to an article you think would be useful. A week after that, you send a message saying you are about to be graduating soon and would she have time to meet you for coffee to share some advice?
She does, and the meeting goes well! At the end of this meeting, you mention that you’ll be looking for a full-time job in a few months. You really like the company, and you mention a few ways you think you could bring value.
The manager is impressed with your knowledge of the company and their challenges! You brought some perspective and ideas she hadn’t considered before. On her drive back to the office, she’s thinking about the fact that Charlie just put in his notice. She wasn’t planning on rehiring that specific position, but there will be some room in the budget now. What if…?
A month later, you get a call from the manager offering you a position. It’s a brand new position, created with you in mind! Since it’s brand new, it’s not being advertised and nobody else is applying. She wants to know if you can come into the office to discuss some details.
Oh, and when you get a chance, just go online and fill out the application. She’s not going to need it, but it will keep HR happy to have all the paperwork completed.
Jonathan is a homeschool graduate, homeschool dad and Executive Director of Student Life at Lumerit. Jonathan lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley with his wife Kara, and their six children.Read more by Jonathan