Maybe you lack the “right” type of college degree. Maybe you are young, or inexperienced, or struggling to transition into a totally new industry. Maybe you can just can’t seem to make any headway in your job search.
If you’re currently swimming in a sea of competition and feeling despondent because you’ve read facts along the lines of two million people apply to work at Google every year, your discouragement’s probably increasing.
It might feel like all the odds are stacked against you—like the door to a fulfilling career is completely and totally closed. But with enough creativity and persistence, any opportunity can be unlocked.
Here are three ways to do the impossible, to get yourself in front of the people who matter. Really, these simple, highly effective methods might just lift you out of your professional rut.
1. Be a Fan First
You wear Lululemon pants five days a week. Or, you download every episode of Radio Lab the moment it’s available. Or, maybe you open every single newsletter from The Fetch the instant it pops into your inbox.
If you’re job searching and are having no luck, ask yourself, “What are the companies and brands that I am already obsessed with? Are there any opening at those places?”
Have you sought out those companies specifically? If you’re a huge fan, then you’ve already got an edge on the competition, most of whom have probably done the requisite research and little else.
Use your genuine excitement about the organization to write an enthusiastic cover letter. Convey your knowledge and love of the product, services, or mission during your interview. Companies want to hire people who are going to be emotionally invested in the company’s success—so if you’re a loyal fan, say so.
Proof that this method works: Kaylin Marcotte, community manager at theSkimm, was a big fan of the startup long before she ever reached out to inquire about a job. She read the email newsletter daily and was intimately familiar with their mission, tone, and style. At their first coffee meeting, the company’s two founders could tell that Kaylin was genuinely obsessed—and they loved the fact that she already “got” them.
2. Unlock a Door for Somebody Else
Most people—including hiring managers at amazing companies—have public social media profiles, and most people share an amazing volume of detail about their lives, preferences, and passions. Use this information to your advantage. Look for opportunities to help someone out without necessarily asking for any type of favor in return. (At least not right away.)
For example, you can peruse your contacts on LinkedIn. Let’s say one of them, Miranda, is someone you want to know or has recently connected you with a potential client. You can go to her profile and peek at the section called “Opportunities Miranda is looking for.” In that section, she states that she’s interested in “joining a nonprofit board.” Maybe you’re aware of an amazing nonprofit that Miranda ought to know about? You could message her privately with that info.
Try out this method with someone who works at your dream company: the founder, a manager, or someone else you want to connect with. Make a recommendation. Make a referral. And then write to let her know about it.
Although you shouldn’t look at it as though you’re building someone up with the hopes that she’ll reciprocate, what you’re doing is starting a relationship that may ultimately unlock a door for you down the line.
3. Create Your Own Audition
In certain industries—theater, fitness, restaurant—you’re usually asked to “audition” as part of the job interview process. You get onstage, on the gym floor, or into the kitchen, and you demonstrate exactly what you can do.
Unfortunately, too few fields offer you this opportunity to showcase your talents. Instead of getting a chance to show off your skills, you write a cover letter and you submit a resume. If that step goes well, you’re asked in for an interview, where you answer the questions the interviewer has prepared, and maybe you propose a few of your own at the end. It can feel quite limiting.
If you’re serious about landing a specific gig, then it’s up to you to create your own audition. Before your next interview, ask the hiring manager, “What are some of the most frustrating things that you guys are dealing with right now?” Or, “What are some of the problems you are hoping your next [job title that you want] would be able to solve?” See if you can get him to give you a list of dilemmas, goals, or needs, and then prepare a presenation (of sorts) that offers solutions and achievable goals.
If you don’t have any interviews coming up, you can still create your own opportunity. In fact, you can turn any conversation, email exchange, or follow-up note into a presentation that demonstrates your resourcefulness. Research the company that you're interested in. Peruse its website for ideas and hints about where it's headed. If it’s in need of a stronger social media presence and that’s your beat, go ahead and reach out to the CEO with your thoughts and suggestions.
Volunteer to set up an Instagram account or write an article about the company and suggest a few well-placed sites that might be willing to publish it. Show your skills and suggest concrete ways of helping the organization.
Bottom line: Keep searching for companies that inspire feelings of passion, excitement, and fulfillment. Find ways to make a difference for other people, and you very well may unlock big doors for yourself.