Some people do really insane things during a job search. You can waste a lot of time getting noticed. But someone who got through a programming bootcamp -- a course that purports to make you a programmer in a few months -- learned to avoid those career mistakes and succeed at getting a six-figure job. There's also good news for the entrepreneurial set: It's easy to see how to apply the approach to making sales, marketing, and business development as well.

Felix Feng applied to 291 companies over three months. Even though many bootcamp graduates make more in the $60,000 to $70,000 range, Feng was one who ultimately got an offer of $125,000. The difference was two-fold. He got some great advice from a fellow bootcamp participant who had been a recruiter, and he experimented, seeing the effort as a process. Here are the critical things he learned:

Go for big numbers

As experts like John Lucht, author of Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+: Your Insider's Lifetime Guide to Executive Job-changing and Faster Career Progress in the 21st Century, point out, when it comes to a job search, only a percentage of companies will be a match for you and only a small percentage of them are likely to be hiring for the type of position you want at a given time. It's a game of big numbers and the law of averages. You need to make a lot of attempts so timing ultimately works in your favor.

The same is true in sales, marketing, business development, and other activities for an entrepreneur. You'll get turned down frequently. Don't take it personally. Keep working the numbers to find the few percent that are your opportunity.

It takes time

You're out to conduct serious business and you're working hundreds, if not a thousand (literally), potential contacts. Don't make the mistake of thinking it should be a quick process. If you're out of work, find a job you can fill in with to help make ends meet while you undertake the search. If you're an entrepreneur, keep things going with other accounts and business. It's critical to have enough time to achieve your goal.

Reach real people

Sending your resume in to HR is generally a waste of time. Chances are low that anyone will pay attention. To get someone to notice, contact real people with each application or approach. Even if the person isn't the right one, you've greatly increased the odds that someone will read what you sent and forward it to the correct contact. Feng went from getting a 5 percent response from resumes to 22 percent, more than quadrupling his success rate. Can you imagine getting interest from one out of four companies you approach?

He used email, look at formulas like FirstName@CompanyName.com for smaller firms or FirstName.LastName@CompanyName.com for larger ones. From my experience in journalism, I've seen many other patterns. Do some research, looking on web search engines for a company name, a job title, and the term email. You want to find the right pattern.

Also important is to get the name of the real person. Check LinkedIn, do web searches, check speaker lists for industry conferences, see industry directories, and find other ways to locate someone who currently works in the appropriate department of the company in question. This represents a lot of work. That's fine, as the eventual pay-off is strong.

Feng used Rapportive.com to add LinkedIn profiles to his Gmail. That let him double-check to see if the person he was trying to reach was the correct one.

Experiment and work your way up

Feng made the wise move to treat his search as a learning experience. He started with smaller, less demanding companies that had easier interviews and provided lower offers. The point wasn't to take a five-figure offer. He built experience in the process of interviews for a programming position and turned down the lesser money. There's no reason to take the first offer. Over time, he worked his way up to prestige companies and was ready for what they demanded.

The same can be true for an entrepreneur. If you want to sell into a large company, start with smaller ones. Learn from the experiences and move upward.

Study to succeed

You don't advance based on what you have known. Expect to study hard. Feng saw that he would need to learn a lot to answer the tougher questions the bigger companies would ask. Find where you're weak. Identify the areas you need to improve and, while working on landing the job, work on improving your knowledge and skills.

Look for the specific resources that address your industry and what you need to learn. There are massive amounts of expertise in the world available to be tapped. Start now and keep going.

Present yourself smartly

Whether looking for a job or working to promote your business, you need to be good, of course. That's what the studying is for. But you also need to look good. For example, Feng didn't mention his time in a programming bootcamp because that would immediately put him into the junior developer box and limit his opportunities. Focus on what you know, what you can do, and communicate both. You must give the hiring manager or customer or whoever the gatekeeper might be the justification for doing business with you.

Also be sure to ask insightful questions about the company you're talking to. You need to be sure it will be a proper match for your needs as well and the information helps you better understand the industry and how company operate and the tools they use. All that improves your knowledge and helps you move ahead, even if not with that given company.

Published on: Nov 28, 2016
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