Three weeks ago, I landed a job in my desired position as a Business Developer/Marketer. Alongside my employer, we may have just pulled off the most controversial hire this year! Under normal circumstances, my lack of a smooth academic background would have driven many average employers away. I’m excited to share this story, and can say that it’s a great feeling to be working for a company that gets it!
Here’s how I found work I was passionate about, without formal credentials
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain
Things Were not Looking Good
I had just moved to Sweden to be closer to my partner. My savings had tanked after failing to launch a startup over the previous months, and the high cost of living here was quickly swallowing up my last cash reserves. I was in a pretty shitty situation where it was challenging just to keep morale high.
You Don’t Know What’s Going To Work
If there’s one thing I’ve taken from the world of entrepreneurship, it’s this: you don’t know what’s going to work. This agnostic idea pushed me to try several methods.
I tried to give out CVs in an attempt to imitate the success of my partner. After receiving the same answer from +50 retail and bar managers (“We have just filled our summer positions, and you don’t speak the language”), I decided to give the CV approach a pass, and instead, would experiment competing on a level where I could tilt the odds in my favor.
You’re The Product
Get In Front Of Customers
My second approach was pretty simple. Network like my life depended on it, and find a legitimate way of helping people. I just assumed payment for my efforts would result in some shape or form. I used the event booking platform Eventbrite, and had been booking tickets from the day I arrived.
I made it a top priority to attend 2-3 social gatherings a week, in order to discover opportunities where I could make myself useful to those with a budget.
Define Your Marketable Skill
I decided to market myself as a Business Developer & Content Marketer because this had been my area of focus for +2yrs, and I was applying it weekly to personal projects. I could leverage the credibility gained from setting up this Facebook page that had generated over $33,000 passive revenue, as well as some other small achievements. I quickly began to get introduced as a smart marketer, and found myself guest posting to the Sweden’s largest entrepreneurial blog with this post, covering the launch of an entrepreneurial community in Gothenburg. I knew I had picked the right field because I would happily do this type of work for free.
I met my boss while attending a Nordic API event. We had spoken briefly before the presentations started; nothing too serious. Personally I felt my networking was a little rusty, but now I appreciate the importance of that first contact.
I listened carefully, and underneath all of the technical jargon, I understood that my boss wanted to create an online community. As appealing as that sounded, it wasn’t until I got home and checked out their website, that I realised they were actively looking for content creators. This was when I had the idea of applying for the job.
I figured my best chance at getting a foot in the door would be to demonstrate a high level of interest; an idea hit me. I’d write a blog post about their field. I had no idea what an application programming interface (API) was before writing the post, so don’t get discouraged, or feel you’re not qualified to have a voice.
Note: If you’re giving to the right people without expecting anything in return, good things will come your way: at least, that’s what I’ve experienced in my life so far. You may hope that something comes back, and make an effort to increase that likelihood, but never expect it.
Having a Good Story
If there’s anything that catches a bosses attention more than Harvard on the CV, it’s a great story — what’s yours? Everyone has a story, and it’s how you tell it that counts. My story (In a nutshell) was that I had just arrived from failing to start a company in Barcelona. Cash reserves were low, but I had a goal: to earn enough so my partner could drop her work hours, as I wanted her to have enough time to figure out in what direction she wants to point her career.
By telling your story, you give someone a chance at understanding who you are as a person, and what your values are. It needs to be real, personal, and counter intuitive to share. Just remember the following;
“If it bleeds, you’re doing something right”
Talk To The Decision Maker
What’s great about networking at events, is you get a chance to speak directly to the decision makers. In my situation, I was able to create a relationship with the CEO without the fuss of navigating gatekeepers. The day after publishing the article, I reached out via email, expressing my interest for the position (including a link to the post of course).
Make It a No Brainer
Decision makers are where they are because they mostly understand the differences between good, and bad deals. Make your employment a good deal, and this doesn’t always mean working for free — we’ve all gotta pay bills somehow. I made it clear that I could get involved as much as they wished, and demonstrated complete flexibility. I always listened carefully, and invested time into figuring out how I could deliver the most value.
People want to work with people that believe in the same cause. I would never want to hire someone that didn’t believe in the company, as it would just be counter productive. Sometimes bosses lose energy for their own creations. If you can come in, and reignite a waning passion, you’ll be on good ground.
My case was being decided. However, I felt it would do no harm to give a slight push. It had to be something challenging, impactful, and real time; something that social proofed my existence, in a way, that would get them excited to have me join the team.
I figured I’d try my hand at engineering a viral post, as it related to their mission of building a community. That’s when I posted “Want to go traveling after graduation?”. It was a success, and reached people across 93 countries.
Here’s what the heat map looked like.
Receiving the email
A few days passed, but I eventually received an email titled; Employment offer. I had gotten the job! If the email hadn’t landed in my spam folder, I would have found out a day earlier too. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of such a story, but it is the first time I feel qualified to tell it. Regardless of your official credentials, if you invest in getting good at what you do, and put yourself in situations where there’s a need for those skills, you’ll figure it out somehow.
I hope this post has entertained, and inspired you as much as it did me to write. Don’t hesitate to comment below, and thanks for reading.
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