In 2013, I graduated from college with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do.
Having spent most of my senior year squeezing out the last drops of bacchanalia, I entered the real world without a plan or vision for the future. I took a job that fell into my lap and realized two weeks later that I absolutely hated it.
I knew I deserved more — work that was fulfilling, a flexible schedule, and a salary that paid me what I was worth — but I had no idea how to get it.
Following my mantra of “you should only take advice from the people who have what you want,” I set out to determine how people in their early 20s were landing jobs at the world’s top companies with salaries to match.
12 months, two side gigs and 50-plus interviews later I had effectively dissected the hiring process, scoring interviews and offers from places like Google, Uber & Twitter in New York along with a significant bump in salary.
Throughout that journey, finding effective career advice proved to be a challenge. The goal of this article is to share five unconventional takeaways from my personal experience that proved to be the most effective when it came to landing my “dream job.”
1. Ignore Traditional Qualifications & “Experience”
One of the largest myths that exists in the professional world is the idea that experience can only be gained through traditional means. Many people suffer from the catch 22 of needing experience to be hired, but needing to be hired in order to gain experience.
Experience isn’t a formal entity that is earned inside the four walls of a corporate office (although that is one form of it). It’s the result of taking on a challenge, seeing it through to the end, and learning along the way.
I began my career in the medical field. My dream was to work at a world-class tech company, but my current job offered me zero opportunity to gain any relevant experience. I worked in the operating room where the only computers monitored heart rates and blood pressure.
I decided to take matters into my own hands. I used my time outside of work to learn about digital marketing and developed a foundation for critical industry skills.
Once I had the basics down, I dove headfirst into the world of freelancing. I managed my own sales process, landed several clients in a small niche, and went above and beyond for them. Six months later, I had concrete results that I could leverage as “experience.”
If you’re interested in marketing, create a social media account or blog and grow the following.
If you’re interested in programming, learn the languages and then create a free tool that solves a problem.
If you’re interested in sales, leverage your existing skills to create a consulting firm and sell your services.
Don’t pray for someone to hire you just so you can gain “experience.” Get out there and create a reason for your dream company to offer you a job.
2. “Job Hopping” Is Actually A Good Thing (If Done Correctly)
“Job hopping is replacing the concept of climbing the corporate ladder” — Ryan Kahn
Traditionally, job hopping was considered to be the equivalent of professional suicide. The “experts” told us that we need to stay at a job for at least a year before we consider moving on…or else.
Personally, I had four jobs during the course of the three years it took me to go from graduation to landing my dream job.
To be perfectly clear, I am not advocating for this as a long term solution. However, if done correctly, job hopping is one of the most efficient ways to accelerate your career and your salary.
When you work at several companies in a short period of time, you:
- Gain exposure to different business models and practices, allowing you to consolidate the most effective methods into your skill set
- Rapidly develop your network by building relationships with a diverse group of people from all sorts of backgrounds
- Build success stories in different environments that you can then leverage across a wide variety of situations down the road
- Accelerate your earnings. According to Forbes, employees who stay at companies for longer than 2 years, make up to 50% less over the course of 10 years:
Inevitably, someone will read this and say “nobody will want to hire someone like you” or “good luck, you’ll burn all of your bridges.”
This might put me in hot water, but the people who say things like this typically:
- Have taken the traditional path of “climbing the corporate ladder.” They have been in the professional world for 10+ years and are only beginning to reap the benefits
- Have never worked at a top company
- Have not had a consistent track record of high performance
Their points only become a concern if you spend your time providing very little value to the people and organizations you work for.
I did whatever it took to ensure that I was a top performer at every company I worked for. This allowed me develop strong relationships, accrue top tier results to showcase on my resume, and ensure that my references were positive.
When you are applying to “dream companies” like Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. they realize that they are the cream of the crop. They don’t care if you’ve been hopping around. They are only concerned with hiring the best talent because they know that they have the resources to retain those people.
3. Stop Wasting Time On Conventional Networking
How many times has someone given you the advice to “network?” It’s a buzzword as old as the corporate world itself. Still, 99% of people don’t do it correctly.
Networking has nothing to do with big events, business cards or boring small talk. It has everything to do with finding the one person who can have the largest impact on your goals and building a relationship with them.
If you want to land a job in Product Marketing at Snapchat, the best person to know is the Director of Product Marketing at Snapchat.
But how do you go about creating a relationship with an established, influential person who you have never met?
By selflessly adding value to their lives. Ryan Holiday calls it the Canvas Strategy:
It’s [about] finding the direction someone already intended to head and helping them pack, freeing them up to focus on their strengths.
1) Find new trains of thought to hand over for them to explore. Track down angles and contradictions and analogies that they can use. Ex: I was reading the biography of ______, I think you should look at it because there may be something you can do with the imagery.
2) Find outlets, people, associations, and connections. Cross wires to create new sparks. Ex: I know _________, and I think you two should talk. Have you thought about meeting ____?
3) Find inefficiencies and waste and redundancies. Identify leaks and patches to free up resources for new areas. Ex: You don’t need to do ___________ anymore, I have an idea for improving the process, let me try it so you can worry about something else.
In my experience, the most effective way to do this is to reach out to the person and ask them to describe their biggest challenge. This will give you a concrete problem to solve and any solutions you offer are much more likely to add value.
If you’re wondering how you’d ever find their email address, or what you’d say, I put together a list of tools and email templates in this article.
I have personally used this method to connect with people at top companies, as well as influencers like Arianna Huffington and John Lee Dumas:
4. Don’t Follow The Crowd, Make Your Own Entrance
Have you ever been to Penn Station in New York at 5pm? If not, here’s a live look:
At Penn, trains are assigned a track roughly 10 minutes before they are scheduled to depart. As soon as the track is posted on the board, every person in this picture makes a beeline for a door that’s not much wider than the front door of your house.
The same thing happens when a new job is posted at Amazon, Google, or Facebook. The floodgates open with online applications, but only ~2% will get invited for an interview. One will receive an offer.
It’s true, we currently live in the most competitive job market history has ever seen. However, it’s not the volume of competition that’s preventing people from landing jobs. It’s their approach.
According to a recent survey conducted by Jobvite, 75% of people apply for jobs online. Around the same time, the Wall Street Journal released the results of another survey stating that only 20% of open jobs were advertised (online or anywhere else). The remaining 80% of roles were either filled by referral or word of mouth.
Think about it. If you’re applying online for a job, you are competing against 75% of the population for 20% of the available openings.
If you want to land your dream job, you need to land a referral.
The question then becomes, how do I get a referral if I don’t know a single soul at my dream company? I walk through that process in detail here, if you’re interested.
5. Negotiation Is Mandatory
“Only 15% of people who negotiate walk away with nothing.” — Ashley Stahl
Nine times out of 10, the first offer a company gives you is on the lower end of the compensation scale for that position.
Let’s take a second to think about the goals of the company you want to work for. They’re aiming to maximize the amount of revenue they bring in while minimizing the expenses associated with generating that additional income.
Employees are obviously the #1 revenue generators for companies, but they are also its largest expense. Any time HR can bring on someone below market value for their skill set, that’s a win.
If you’re in their shoes, why would you start the hiring process with your strongest offer? That violates every rule of Negotiation 101.
Companies tend to lead off with a weaker offer banking on the hope that you’ll accept it without much fuss. Their strategy isn’t unfounded.
According to Salary.com, only 18% of people actually negotiate their salaries. You’ve been through the grueling job search process and you finally got an offer from a company you want to work for. Why not just accept it and be happy?
Because you’re leaving money on the table.
People who don’t negotiate lose out on an average of $500,000 over the course of their career. If the average career is 30 years, that’s over $16,000/year!
The #1 reason people don’t negotiate is because of fear. Fear that they might:
- Have their offer revoked because they are asking for too much money
- Damage their relationship with the company before they have even started
- Be flat out rejected
All of these points appear to be valid, but the truth is that they are myths your new employer is happy to take advantage of.
Companies have money. Lots of money (at least, hopefully the one you want to work for does). An additional 10, 20, or even $50,000 over the course of a year is next to nothing for them. Especially if it means that they will be getting top talent in return.
While they would definitely love to bring you in below market value, they understand that paying you a little bit more is going to make you happier and happier people tend to perform better.
Don’t settle for the first offer, your future self with thank you.
Want More Advice On Landing Your Dream Job?
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