If you're looking for a new job, it's understandable if you feel the system is somehow rigged against you. Cumbersome application systems. Automated filters that identify keywords instead of talent. Lazy hiring managers content to fill openings rather than find the perfect candidate for a specific role.
And that's just what happens when you respond to posted job ads.
If you're looking for a job you'll love, there's an even bigger problem: Many -- maybe even most -- jobs aren't posted. (The last job I had before becoming an entrepreneur wasn't posted; the company actually created the job for me.)
So if you want to find and get hired to do a job you love -- either as a side hustle or as a full-time job while you prepare to start your own business -- simply responding to posted job ads won't cut it.
You'll need to find the jobs that aren't posted. And connect with the people who can not only help you land a job you'll love but, because of the way you approach your job search, will want to help you land a job you'll love.
How do you do that?
1. Create a target employer list.
Many job seekers respond to as many job postings as possible; they see landing the perfect job as a numbers game. But shotgunning applications put your resume in a huge pile hiring managers must sift through. The odds of emerging from that particular pile are pretty slim.
Instead of wasting time responding to every job posting, use that time to create a short-list of companies you really want to work for: The industry, the customer base, the work... and the company's culture.
Finding the job you love means being a part of a company you'll at the very least like.
And then dig deeper...
2. Really know the company.
It's impossible to know whether you want to work for a particular company unless you know a lot about that company; that's the difference between seeking a position and wanting an important and meaningful role.
Talk to friends. Relatives. Vendors. Customers.. Employees. Talk to anyone you can find. ("Anyone" can be a pretty long list if you leverage a few social media tools.)
Learn as much as you can about key managers and executives -- when you know the people, you know the company.
Learn as much as you can. That knowledge will pay off.
3. Get a referral.
Anyone who has hired more than five people has made at least one bad hiring decision. Anyone who has hired more than twenty people realizes that interviewing is an imperfect science.
In short, we've all made bad hiring decisions -- that's why we love getting referrals from people we trust. (If my friend Randy says I should hire you... I'll hire you without hesitation.)
You may have to dig deep into your network. You may need to make new connections. Either way, the effort is worth it. (Speaking of Randy, he convinced the CEO of the company I mentioned earlier to interview me even though there weren't any openings. That's the power of a trusted referral.)
Knowing that a person we trust is willing to vouch for you is a data point that often tips the decision scale toward giving you an interview -- and even giving you the job.
But before you ask that person to actually make the referral...
4. Create a plan for how you will hit the ground running.
Training is important.
Training also takes time, money, and effort. Showing that you will immediately make an impact and generate at least some return on your salary -- because hiring an employee is an investment that needs to generate a return -- will give you a huge leg up.
Granted, you may not have all the skills and experience required. But you should have some. And, since you know the company inside-out, you should know how the skills you do possess can be immediately leveraged.
Every great product solves a real problem or fills a real need. So does every great employee. Identify at least a few ways you can contribute on your very first day and you'll make the company's "purchase" decision a lot easier.
5. Make your pitch.
At this point you don't need to wait to be called for an interview. You don't need to wait for a job to be posted. You've identified ways you can immediately help the company you want to work for.
If you've done your homework, you don't need them -- they need you.
Use your referral -- and the connections you've made -- to open the door. And then pitch yourself.
The key is to show the person you contact how they will benefit from speaking or meeting with you.
For example, you might say, "I really want to work for your company. I know you're in charge of social-media marketing, and I've developed a data-driven way to analyze activities, ROI, and brand awareness, I'd love to take you to lunch and show you. Worst case? You get a free lunch."
A friend of mine who runs a tech company has hired a number of people who approached him in a similar fashion. He's a hard-charging, door-knocking, "no" means "maybe" kind of guy. He loves hiring people like him. And he loves when they find him.
Just make sure your pitch goes straight to describing how the company will benefit from hiring you. Don't talk about why you want the job, why you would love the job, why the job will change your life... talk about why the company will benefit from hiring you.
Approach people in the right way and I promise they will pay attention. That's especially true for entrepreneurs and small-business owners. I know very few entrepreneurs who aren't eager to find ways to improve their businesses.
6. Show what you can do.
Tell is good. Show is great.
If you're a coder, mock up a company- or industry-specific new application. If you want a sales position, create a plan for how you'll target a different customer base. If you're a marketer, lay out a blueprint for implementing advertising strategies the business doesn't currently use.
Show is how you to prove you know the company -- and that what you bring will make a real difference.
Plus, your initiative will make a huge impression. And you'll prove that you're not all talk. You're action.
Maybe you think it's unfair to have to do a little work on spec. Or that you have to create a mockup or project plan to get the job. You might even be right.
But don't let being "right" get in the way of landing a job you'll love.
7. Don't just say you want the job. Ask for it.
If you truly know you want the job -- and by this point, you should -- ask for it.
You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. If you've worked hard to truly set yourself apart you might get hired on the spot.
I liked when people asked for the job. Most hiring managers do.
Think of it this way: A company you will love to work for loves employees with initiative and drive. If they don't like the fact you asked for a job you really want... you don't want to work there after all.
Decide you will be different than every other job seeker.
Then work hard to actually be different.
Do that, and you'll stand out. And you'll have a much better chance of landing a job you will love -- especially if it wasn't posted.