5 Times "Thinking Outside the Box" Landed People Their Dream Jobs
At any given time, you probably know a handful of people who are job-searching. So, when you’re the one who’s looking, you know the competition is fierce.
As a founder of the startup Notey, I regularly lead the other side of the hiring process. Most qualified applicants submit a cover letter and resume, but without a little chutzpah, they may very well get lost in the pile. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get my attention. Throughout my hiring adventures, I’ve come across several unique applications that have intrigued me, and in each of those instances, enough that I’ve wanted to reach out to learn more about the candidates.
So, how can you find your dream opportunity and make yourself stand out as the obvious choice? Here are five creative and unconventional ways to find your next career move. And yes, they sound bold, but they all paid off big time when the brave job seekers ended up getting hired.
1. Write About Your Dream Job
If you’re a wordsmith, you can use your writing skills to your advantage. A great way to showcase your ability—and professional interests—is to start a blog on something you’re passionate about. When I’m hiring for a role, I love reviewing an applicant’s personal website or blog. Along with a candidate’s expertise, it also demonstrates her or her writing style, thought process, and personality.
Alice Ko, the digital lead at Notey, previously blogged her way to a job by writing about why an up-and-coming fashion startup was the company she just had to work for. The blog post made its way through social media and landed in front of the company’s founders, who brought her in for a chat over coffee. Soon after, she was the newest member of their marketing team.
Even if your posts don’t go viral and catch your dream company’s eye, they will help you build your professional reputation and brand—which are key to landing any job.
2. Compose Your Own Position Description
Don’t see a job description that suits you at your dream company? Take the initiative and write one up yourself. The position you create should do two things—highlight your skill set and demonstrate a clear value-add for the company.
A good friend of mine took this route to score a position at a startup. Based on her past experience, the responsibilities she wanted to have, and what the company needed; she created a job description for an editor, which she then submitted as a digital application. The CEO saw it, loved it, and not too long after, hired my friend as the digital editor for the company.
This approach is a risk, because in looking for what you can add to the team, you’re potentially pointing out what you think is missing. So, be sure to keep the tone of your application positive—think about how your position would take the company to the next level, as opposed to trying to demonstrate that the organization is doing something wrong. And no matter what, do significant research to make sure you’re presenting a new role, not duplicating an already-filled position under another name.
3. Solve a Problem
As an employer, I want team members who can identify a problem and come up with a viable solution. In my opinion, one of the most attention-grabbing things you can do is show how you’d solve a problem the company is facing.
So, do your due diligence: Research the company, find out what’s being said about it in the news, and review customer feedback. Pinpoint a specific problem or need (with stats to back it up), and create a plan that will address it. Show that you’ve crafted a solution, but don’t show your entire hand—you want to incentivize an interview (not work for free).
Perhaps you’ve heard of Nina Mufleh, who really wanted to work for Airbnb. When she didn’t have luck reaching out through traditional job postings, she created an online platform that matched Airbnb’s website. She used her experience living and traveling in the Middle East to discuss why Airbnb should expand there.
Both the CEO and CMO responded on Twitter, and she was ultimately invited in for a job interview. In addition, she also garnered widespread media attention and demonstrated her skills to a vast audience.
See What It’s Like to Work for Airbnb
4. Think Outside the Box
You can probably imagine how many cover letters and resumes hiring managers receive each day. I speak from experience when I say it becomes monotonous looking at paragraphs of text on application after application. I love when an applicant thinks visually and applies through a fun, engaging video.
Christina Guan saw an internship posting for an experience of a lifetime and, eager to stand out, she whipped up an impressive application with a video detailing eight reasons why she was the perfect fit. In it, she outlined her love for travel and storytelling, as well as her aptitude for writing, video editing, and social media—all with a captivating visual presentation. Needless to say, she was hired and has just begun her three-month, 14-country adventure writing for Europe’s largest river cruise company.
Sure, making a video might not always be the answer. But do take the time to research the company culture and come up with a fun way to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Just remember, it only works if you’re showing off your best self. In other words, if you’re not comfortable on camera or skilled in graphic design, now is not the best time to test out anything crazy.
5. Look Everywhere (Seriously)
The right opportunities might be waiting—in the last possible place you would expect. So it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open. Whether you’re at networking events, on social media, or somewhere completely expected, you never know what you’ll come across.
My favorite example comes from the community manager at Notey, Namoi van der Velde. She first came across our company name in—wait for it—a bathroom stall on her college campus.
A few stickers were plastered on the stall wall, one of which was our signature teal tag. Intrigued, she snapped a photo and made a point to reach out to us via email in the following days. It just so happened we were looking for a summer intern at the time. We got on a Skype call, and the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s said that looking for a full-time job is a full-time job, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a monotonous grind. In fact, putting in the time—with a dash of ingenuity—is the secret to coming out on top.
Catherine Tan spent ten years in the investment banking world with Barclays and Morgan Stanley before co-founding Notey, a beautiful discovery and curation platform for the best of the blogosphere. Search stories on anything imaginable with over 500,000 topics. When she's not busy hustling and working between Hong Kong, San Francisco and Vancouver, she can be found hiking, working on her personal style blog and supporting students at Arch Community Outreach - a non-profit organization that supports high achieving and talented students from under-resourced communities. Find Catherine Tan at http://www.notey.com.More from this Author