Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Best Job You Can Apply For

The best job you can apply for is one that doesn't exist yet. Many people looking for a job make the bad mistake of basing their hunt on job postings. This is a great strategy if you want to minimize your chances for landing a job and to maximize the number of interviews you get without actually getting a job offer. Think about it: if you see a job posting, thousands of other candidates are seeing the very same posting. In these days of high unemployment, you know that each job posting garners dozens or even hundreds of applications, many of these by well qualified candidates. Your application, if it is seen at all, is considered among many others and should you be lucky enough to get invited to interview for the position, you will be one of several candidates, each striving to be the last one standing at the end of the process. Too many steps. Unattractive odds.

There is a better way. How about a job that is tailor-made just for you? Seems like too much to ask for in an economy where jobs are scarce? Well, I got news for you. This is a tried and true strategy that works a lot more often than you think. In fact, this strategy worked for me twice in my career - my current job and my last one. Unfortunately, getting such a job involves the "N word". That's right, networking. I know everyone says it's necessary, and pretty much everyone hates doing it, but this is a special kind of networking, it's networking at the top.

Here is how it goes:

Step I - pick an industry or market
Step II - make sure you understand it well (ideally, this is a market you already know)
Step III - network your way into meeting CEOs in this industry
Step IV - make your pitch

Of course, the trick is step III - CEOs are busy people and are not sitting around waiting for your call. In fact, the only viable way to meet a CEO is to be introduced to one through a mutual acquaintance. That's where the whole networking thing comes in. Don't even think about cold calling or spamming. That's not going to get you hired.

Why a CEO? The good thing about a CEO is that he has no boss (technically it's the board of directors, but they don't deal with such things). If he likes you, he may very well create a position for you where none existed previously. Presto, a position out of thin air. What's more, the position is yours. You don't need to interview against hoards of qualified applicants. Another possible outcome is that the CEO will refer you to a member of his staff to interview with them. That's what happened to me in my previous job. After meeting with the business unit CEO for a networking meeting, he liked me enough to recommend me to his VP of Marketing. A recommendation from the CEO is almost as good as an offer letter... almost...

By the way, before the angry comments start flying my way, I am not against applying for jobs you find on the Internet. Someone has to be getting all those jobs, right? All I am saying is that this is a very competitive and impersonal process and that many applicants (myself included) feel that it's difficult to shine or stand out from the crowd in an e-mail application. I have never gotten a job from an online post. Your results may vary.

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Rob Bennett said...

I think this is a smart strategy.

I was once hired by the Executive Director of a non-profit without even telling him that I was interested in working for him. I had done an internship with him when in school and when the organization was too small to be able to hire me. Then I went to work for a for-profit that did similar work. After seven years, I happened to talk to a high-level manager there who I knew about a job there. He turned me down. But work got out to the Executive Director and he did indeed create a new position for me at much higher pay.

So I think the basic concept here is right. The head of an organization has an ability to get things done that no one else in the organization possesses. You can spend a lot of time spinning wheels talking to those at lower levels. Get the top man or woman on your side and things happen fast. It's the decision-making ability (rare today) that makes a difference.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I'm a sales guy and for me it's very clear that the place you want to get a job from is a trade show where you will meet with your future colleagues. They should let you know if there are any openings and may also let you know whether they like you or not.

Shadox said...

Yes - a tradeshow is a good place to network. Many companies all in one spot, and you may be lucky enough to find yourself face to face with an executives it may otherwise take you months to meet in person.

Revanche said...

My mentor makes this point all the time: if you meet the right people and make the right impression, they'll create a place for you.

It hasn't happened for me yet as my target companies are still not hiring, but I'm still reaching out to, and meeting, a lot of the people who I would LOVE to work for to start building a relationship.

Shadox said...

Revanche - first of all, well done on the initiative. Three pieces of advice for you (i) be patient, this is a long process. Don't expect results immediately; (ii) network as high as you can within the organization. Networking with lower level folks is good, but they can't create a position for you. The higher up in the organization you go (i.e. CEO if you can get there) the better; (iii) do a lot of preparation and homework before going to such networking meetings. Read up about the company, about its competitors, about the market, about the product. Impress with your knowledge, not just with your personality.

Good luck!

Revanche said...

Thanks for the encouragement and advice, Shadox, I'm already seeing that things happen slowly and strangely but the connections DO happen.

We'll see what actually comes of it in the future.