How to Land Your Dream Job — even if you’re unqualified
When we graduate college, most of us have no idea what we want to do.
We take whatever jobs comes our way without thinking about it too much.
But then, some time passes. After a few years of living life on “autopilot” — going to work, coming back home, going out to bars, having the more-than-occasional 3am quesadilla, and doing it all over again the next day — we start to want something more.
Most of us in our 20s want to have impact more than anything else.
We want to just want a job where we can “do our own thing” to some extent and help people without being broke in the process.
But when people start applying for new jobs, it’s hard not to suffer from “job requirement intimidation.” They scroll down the job ad, take a quick look through the requirements, and immediately select themselves out when they see something like “5+ years of experience required” and they only have a couple.
It feels like we have to work for years and years to get a job we love.
But what most people don’t realize is, job requirements are negotiable.
People who know what companies really want can often shortcut the process of “paying their dues”, and get to manager level positions in a few years instead of decades.
That means more independence, more freedom to do what you want and make real impact through your work instead of staying busy doing pointless tasks all day.
It means helping people using your unique talents, instead of feeling like you’re wasting them.
It means jumping out of bed every morning, being excited to go to work, instead of doing things you hate for 10 years in order to (hopefully) end up in a place where you get to do things you hate slightly less.
It all comes down to figuring out what companies actually care about vs what they say they care about.
What employers actually want
When companies post job ads online, they get TONS of applications, especially when all it takes is a resume to apply.
And most of those applications are from “resume blasters” — people who just spam out a million resumes online. Most of them are not good applicants and have no idea what they’re even applying to.
To filter out those people, hiring managers say things like “5+ years of experience required”, etc. It’s not really a requirement, but someone with 5+ years of experience could probably get results.
And that’s what companies actually care about. Results.
At the end of the day, you’re an investment. You’re a number on a balance sheet. Can you provide a good return?
Years of experience and degrees are just proxies for gauging the results you could generate. If you have a track record of generating results in your field, you don’t need decades of experience to get the job you want.
Even if you don’t have a lot of experience, you can “shortcut” your way to your dream job by generating results rapidly for clients as a freelancer, instead of working for a company for years to give you that same opportunity.
Once you prove that you can get results, once you prove that you’re good at what you do, you’d be surprised with what “requirements” you can get away with not having.
This is exactly how Charlie Hoehn ran marketing for App Empire in his 20s (which did $2.6 million in 10days).
It’s how Ryan Holiday became the Director of Marketing of American Apparel before he graduated college.
It’s how some young people “skip the line” to do work they love while others stay stuck for years.
How to leapfrog the “lack of experience” barrier
The best way to shortcut your way to the perfect job is not by working for years at a company. It’s by showing a track record of generating results — results that your future employers would really value.
Maybe that means hitting really high sales numbers.
Maybe that means running successful ad campaigns.
Maybe that means building an app that’s used by a lot of people.
If you put your focus on results, six months of your work experience could be worth a LOT more than someone else’s 5 years of experience if all they did was clock in and clock out everyday.
The fastest way to get the right type of work experience is by finding companies similar to your dream employers, pitching them on a project, and getting results for them as a freelancer.
This way, you’ll get a bunch of different experiences under your belt, generate results for different companies, and learn at an insanely rapid pace.
And ultimately, you can use that experience to land a job where you make massive impact, take ownership of your own projects, and actually use your talents to help people instead of feeling like they’re going to waste.
Today, I’ll break the process down for you — step by step.
Step 1: Determine how much experience you actually need for your dream jobs
Before you can figure out what clients to pitch and what projects to pitch them on, you have to figure out the end goal first. What experience do you actually need for your dream job?
The easiest way to figure this out is by talking to people who are working in your dream jobs, and asking them the right questions.
For example, when I was thinking about applying to a UX job at Facebook, I found a designer from there on LinkedIn, and talked to him.
I asked him questions like:
- “What are examples of projects you work on, on a day to day basis?”
- “What’s an example of something I might work on if I were in the role?”
- “Based on what you know about my background right now, are there any red flags that come up? Any reason why you think I couldn’t do the job well?”
Based on these answers, you’d have a good sense of what kind of experience you’d need for the job, the kind of projects you’d need to have under your belt before applying, and the objections they might have about you.
Step 2: Outline your “minimum viable portfolio”
After you have a good sense of the type of role you’re applying for, experience you’d need, and the potential objections you’d need to address, the next step is to outline a “minimum viable portfolio.”
This is the minimum level of experience that you’d need to be taken seriously for the job. Don’t measure this in terms of years, measure it in terms of results.
For example, if you’re applying for a UX job, it might be designing experiences for products that are used by thousands of people.
If you’re applying for a programming role, maybe it’s helping build product features that are used by a lot of people.
If you’re applying for a marketing role, maybe it’s analyzing data from email funnels and using it to boost conversions.
The best way to determine this is by looking at the past experience of people who are in the roles you want to work in. How much experience do they have? What kind of projects did they work on?
This is the type of experience you’d rapidly get with a few different clients.
Step 3: Pitch potential clients
Once you know how much experience you need and the type of experience you need, you’re in a great position to get that experience by pitching potential clients.
Your ideal clients are companies that are similar to your dream employer in some way.
For example, if you want to work at a big tech company, maybe a good client would be a venture backed startup. If you want to work for a big marketing agency, maybe a good client is a smaller agency that works with popular brands.
To start off, come up with 10–20 potential clients to pitch.
There are a bunch of places to get leads. For example, if you want to work in tech, it could be as simple as pulling a list of companies from AngelList.
Next, reach out to the right person at the company and offer to help them with someone specific related to what you need experience with.
Here’s an example of a script I used to reach out to founders of tech startups when I was trying to get more marketing experience:
And I immediately got a reply:
A good initial pitch is 1) specific about exactly what you want to help with (never ask “how can I help?” Do the work to figure it out), 2) qualifies them for further interaction.
If they say they’d like to learn more, you have permission to send them details of your pitch, get on a call to talk more, and dig into the specifics of what you want to help them with.
Step 4: Get results
After you land a few clients, it’s time to get them results.
Boost those conversion rates. Build a killer feature. Design a great product.
The nice thing about getting work experience as a freelancer is that it’s ALL focused on results. There’s no office politics. There’s no option to just show up to work every day and do nothing from 9 to 5. You either provide a return on investment or you’re out.
That’s great for someone who wants to get valuable work experience fast.
And before you know it, you’ll overtake everyone else and have enough experience to get the jobs you really want — without having to spend a decade doing boring stuff.
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