I remember getting my first “real job” out of college. It was with a construction company as a project engineer. Coming aboard was a matter of singing a few papers and meeting with HR—no resume, no scouring job boards, no endless strings of interviews that may or may not lead to something.
I just showed up one day and started working.
When I look back, I realize that every job I’ve had worked this way. I’ve never once waited in line for an interview and I’ve never submitted a résumé as anything more than a formality.
How can this be?
I don’t have a wealthy family. I’m not super-connected. I don’t have friends in high places (at least, I didn’t back then).
What I did have, though, was an entrepreneurial spirit about work. I looked at job opportunities a little differently than the average job seeker. And, until I became completely self-employed in 2010, this different perspective benefited me greatly in the corporate world.
The economy is better today than it has been in years, yet millions of people here in America struggle to find employment. Highly educated, skilled workers get passed over for jobs they deserve every day.
It has to be disheartening to know you’re the best person for the job, but lose out to some kid who knew a manager.
But there’s good news. It need not be like this. At least not for you.
With a simple shift in strategy, you can be the one who skips the line, lands any job, and never sits around hoping someone reads your résumé. Here’s how.
The Problem With The Traditional Job Hunt
Here’s what the traditional job hunt looks like for a professional today (and has for many years):
- Spend days crafting your résumé and finding the perfect paper to print it on.
- Write a cover letter that highlights your greatest attributes without coming across too self-important
- Blanket your city (or industry) with resumes. Let every company in town know you exist.
- Spend weeks playing phone tag to be sure your package was received.
- Sit around and wait for an invitation to interview.
- Go through three rounds of interviews and still not know if you’re getting a job.
If you’ve ever gone job hunting, you’re probably familiar with (and just a bit tired of) this process. It’s frustrating as hell. You have to get your name in front of as many people as possible just to get the odds high enough that one of them will call you back for an interview.
When you follow this recipe, you’re competing with dozens of others who are just as smart, talented, and determined as you for the same job.
You’re a commodity with the same value as your competition. The hiring manager could pick any one of you to serve their needs, so that’s what they do. Getting hired becomes a matter of odds. Send your résumé around enough and, eventually, you’ll get picked for something. No telling what, though.
If you don’t care where or who you work for, the recipe works… eventually. But it’s no way to go about finding your dream job—one that’s personally fulfilling, challenges you, and pays top dollar.
To get that job, you must use a different recipe.
A Better Way: How A 35-Year-Old Became VP As A New-Hire
In my last job, the company had a well-defined hierarchy and career path—you started at the bottom and, if you were good at your job for 20 years or so, you might become a vice president if the conditions were right and an existing VP was retiring.
At least, that’s how I thought it worked until I met Nathan. One day, we were all called to meet the company’s newest employee. He must have been in his mid-thirties. Charismatic guy.
Nathan hadn’t worked in construction management before and he was brand new, so we were all a little confused about why Nathan was such a big deal. That’s when we learned Nathan was the new VP of Healthcare Construction.
Just like that, an outsider skipped the line. He jumped ahead of guys who’d waited to become VP for 30 years or more. VP of Healthcare Construction didn’t even exist before! They created the position for him!
Why? Because Nathan was an entrepreneur who’d built a successful business in a field my company was interested in. And when he went looking for an exit, my company did everything they could to snatch him up—including create a position out of thin air just to hire him.
Does this mean you have to start your own business just to get a decent gig? Of course not. But Nathan’s story is full of important lessons for landing your dream job.
Dream Job Success: Think Like An Entrepreneur
Nathan skipped the line on the path to a lucrative traditional career because he set himself apart from the masses specifically by thinking like an entrepreneur.
And learning to think like an entrepreneur is exactly what’s going to make your next job hunt more successful than any resume-bombing campaign you might have run in the past.
Here’s the primary difference between a typical job hunter and an entrepreneur. This is what you’ll need to internalize to land your dream job:
The typical job hunter searches where a job looks like it will serve him. The entrepreneur considers this, but focuses more on where she can be of the most service.
Where the typical job hunter looks only for the best hours, pay, and benefits package, the entrepreneurial job hunter searches for the company that desperately needs her unique expertise because showcasing her ability to solve a specific problem will make her indispensable to her employer.
When you’re indispensable, your work is highly valued and compensation is negotiable.
The typical employee at any given company can be replaced any day by someone with the same qualifications, but the entrepreneurial employee cannot be replaced without great pain because he brings unique solutions to the company’s difficult problems.
The typical employee does not consider the company’s most difficult problems or how he’ll solve them. He thinks only about trading some of his time for some of the company’s money. He doesn’t think about the real value of the service he provides and how it’s tied to his compensation.
This is why the entrepreneurial employee not only has an easy time getting his dream job in the first place, but keeps it for the long-term.
If you want the benefits of becoming an entrepreneurial employee—higher pay, more meaningful work, greater respect—here’s what you need to do.
3 Keys To Job Hunting Like An Entrepreneur
When you start your job search, think about finding work the same way an entrepreneur would start a new business.
1. Identify the ideal customer. When an entrepreneur starts a business, she first has to ask herself, “What does the market need? And how can I offer it?”
Translated for the job hunt: As you start your job search, spend less time thinking about what you want to do (yes, this is still an important consideration), and more time thinking about what the companies you might work for desperately need. Your company, after all, is like your one and only customer. How will you provide them a valuable service they can’t get elsewhere?
2. Create a unique selling proposition. An entrepreneur will not succeed if she tries to start a business that runs the same way her competition does. She has to set her business apart from the rest by creating a unique way of delivering whatever she’s selling.
Translated for the job hunt: You must go beyond your qualifications and experience. If a job requires a master’s degree and a amount of experience, guess what? Everyone applying will have that. Meeting the qualifications is not enough.
What you must do is communicate how you’re uniquely qualified to solve the problem they struggle with better than everyone else. You can do this by spinning your life experience (in any job, industry, hobby, etc.) into a benefit to the company. Paint a picture for them that shows how each and everything you’ve done in your life has led to this moment where you’re offering them your extremely valuable service.
3. Build relationships with key partners. An entrepreneur can bootstrap for years and never grow her business past the startup stage. Or, she can find a few big players who control a major part of her market, work like crazy to build relationships with them, and grow very quickly as a result.
Translated for the job hunt: You must work to build connections with the people who can hire you. This is how the kid who’s built a big social circle beats out older, more experienced, and more qualified candidates. If you have a personal connection with someone who can vouch for you, you’ve immediately become infinitely more valuable.
Trust is paramount to landing your dream job. Your resume—what you say about yourself—does not provide any. Trust is built in the beginning by what someone else who is trusted says about you. Explore every connection you have to find a link to the place you want to work. If you don’t have one, start building one. Go to trade shows. Set up a job shadow. Start a podcast and ask someone high up in the company to be a guest. Hell, stalk your future co-workers at happy hour.
By giving yourself a unique selling proposition and building a personal connection with the people who control your paycheck, you’ll create the one-two punch that will land you your dream job over any other qualified candidate.
Your Homework Today
If you’re going to put an end to a string of boring, unfulfilling work, you must change the way you look for work in the first place. You must become an entrepreneurial employee.
Today, I want you to start down this path by making a list of the companies you dream of working for (big or small, it doesn’t matter), and then create a list of your life experiences that could become a unique selling proposition. In other words, what about these life experiences make you a better fit than anyone else to do the job you want to do.
Here’s an example:
I want to create marketing campaigns for Apple. I’m the best person in the world to do this because Apple needs qualified data scientists (field of study) who deeply understand human psychology (personal expertise) to create testable and effective marketing campaigns that will grow revenue for years to come (what you can do that someone without your life story cannot).
This is the starting point. Where do you want to work? And what makes you a better fit than anyone else?