The best professional opportunities need to be created.
Although we were taught in school that the hiring process begins when a company puts out listings for specific jobs, reality is a bit messier. The truth is that most companies don’t have the time or money to spend time managing a robust recruiting system. They’re also strapped for talent and are thus ready to hire at any moment, even if they haven’t updated their listings.
Don’t believe me? I got my current job at Praxis when they weren’t hiring.
You can do it too.
Whether you’re in high school, recently dropped out of college, fresh out of graduation (ugh), or an experienced professional, this post is going to show you exactly how to create your own job at a company.
Why would you want to do this?
Simply put, most jobs are boring. I don’t know about you, but I personally have no interest in marching entirely to a drum other than my own. I tried it before in by attending college. Big mistake.
The good news is that you don’t have to. By creating your own job at a company, you’ll be able to focus your energies on things that make the company rich and make you come alive.
What’s more, you can do this in one week or less. Before you read any further, resolve now that you’re not going to sit on what I’m going to tell you. Go out and make it happen. Then let me know here in the comments.
Here are the steps you can take this week to create a job at a company.
Step One: Finding companies or people to work for
Though many of the following steps will work for a traditional job listing, our focus here is on companies that aren’t currently hiring. Rather than picking the best among many boring jobs on a listing site, we’re going to get a bit more ambitious.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What products and services do I love? List the companies out and determine if there’s one you might be interested in working for.
- Which one of my friends, family members, or acquaintances is doing something cool professionally? List the ones you think would be valuable to work with.
Even though I have a job and a company of my own, here are my results:
- Tom Woods
- Stefan Molyneaux
- Suite Commerce Advanced
I chose these because these companies and individuals all look interesting to work with and they’re easy to contact.
Notice that this approach is pretty different than normal job searching.
In school, we’re told that when we want a job, we should go onto Linkedin or Indeed.com and apply to as many jobs as we can. With this approach, rather than asking “who is hiring?’ we’re asking “whom do I want to create value for?”
Subtle differences in mindset go a long way.
Keep in mind a few things before you start brainstorming:
1. You don’t need a college degree. Ever.
As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, when employers say “I want a degree,” they really mean “I want someone who can create more value than they take out in salary.” That’s it. It’s your job to prove that to them.
This doesn’t just work for your typical sales and marketing job. Last weekend I spoke to a fellow traveler I met in Greece who dropped out of college and used the principles listed in this post to get himself a gig as a news anchor.
No excuses. The only limits are the ones you impose on yourself.
2. You probably don’t need much more education.
Don’t get my wrong, I’m a fan of learning. I help others do it for a living through Praxis. I just think that people use “education” as a convenient excuse to postpone action more often than not.
There are exceptions, but either way, the best learning happens on the job. If you feel you need more education, lower your sights a bit and just get yourself in the door in a position where you’re able to create value on day one. You’ll find you can move up the food chain much more quickly than you think.
Step Two: Figuring Out What You Can Do for Them
Now that you’ve got some companies listed, you’ve got to do a bit of research to figure out what you can do for them.
The three questions to keep in mind are:
- Will this be valuable for the company?
- Will this excite me? (less important)
- Am I capable of doing this?
With smaller companies, this process is easier because they normally have a ton things falling through the cracks. I’ve been paid to set up Slack and Trello for small businesses even though bigger startups would laugh at me if I offered to do that for them.
You’ll want to do a deep dive into their website, their marketing and sales funnel, their business model, their employees, and anything else that you can find online.
Maybe their social media presence is image heavy but lacking videos. You could create videos for their social accounts.
Maybe their customer service team could use some kind of help desk to manage inquires. You could set that up for them.
Maybe their product listings could use videos that you could produce.
Whatever it is, remember this often forgotten truth: you are not owed a job and companies do not exist for the purpose of creating jobs. They exist to sell products and services. It’s on you to figure out how you can help them do that if you want them to pay you.
I would personally recommend starting with someone you know you can execute on. It’s common for people to bite off more than they can chew and this can create a headache for the employer.
Step 3: Crafting Your Value Proposition
After a talk I gave at a conference in D.C. the other day I was approached by a student who told me “if you ever need anything, let me know. I’d love to work with you.”
Believe it or not, this is how most people ask for a job. They make it all about themselves!
You need to have a value proposition, especially if you expect to be able to create your own position. Your value proposition is what signals to the employer that you’re worth giving a shot. It also sets the expectations for the kind of role you plan to take on within the company so you don’t get stuck in something you hate.
To illustrate what I mean, contrast what the kid told me with this email that Charlie Hoehn used to get hired by 4-Hour Work Week author Tim Ferriss.
After visiting your site countless times since May ’07, I’ve come up with a few suggestions that could improve your readers’ experience. Here are two of the things I think you need…
1) A network of your followers: Right now, you have a lot of passionate and devoted readers who comment on your blog. These are people who are likely to spread your ideas. You need a place where your loyal readers can interact with each other more freely, and share their stories about how your book has inspired them.
What it would take: A micro-network. You could frame it as “a crusade against the 9-5 workday.”
How I could help: While I was interning for Seth Godin, I learned how to create micro-social networks for very specific niches. I could easily set this up for you, making it a more exclusive “invite-only,” if you wish.
What the benefits are to you: Allowing your most devoted readers to share their lifestyle design stories will provide you with even more case studies for blog posts (or for a follow-up book). It will also serve as a spot for your readers to get to know one another, and they’ll appreciate that you’ve given them that opportunity.
2) A more dynamic “About” page: Currently, this page starts off with a quote about you from Albert Pope, followed by three thumbnail pictures of your face and a great deal of text outlining your achievements. While your credentials are impressive, this page doesn’t really capture your personality or the lifestyle you’ve designed for yourself.
What it would take: You need a video, between 2 and 5 minutes, that captures the excitement that comes with lifestyle design. The video would showcase exciting things you’ve done (skydiving, tango, motorcycling, etc.), and would be a great way to show your readers that you are the real deal.
How I could help: I can make this video for you for free. I’ve been editing video for more than four years and started a business in creating movies for special events. All I would need to make your video are great pictures and videos of you. The more they show the human side of you, the better.
What the benefits are to you: Reading something is fine, but an image is far more powerful. This video will establish an even deeper credibility with your new (and old) readers. Even if you end up deciding that it’s not right for your site, you’ll still be getting a great video about you that would normally cost several hundred dollars. If you like my work, we can discuss other ways to implement videos into your site (including higher quality and more exciting videos for your blog).
In exchange for these things, I hope that you’d consider taking me on as an intern (real-world or virtual). I would love to help you out on future projects. Let me know what you think, and I look forward to hearing from you.
This is just about the most effective value proposition I’ve ever seen. It’s brief, it’s bright, and it has a couple solid deliverables that Charlie clearly spend a good deal of time thinking about in advance. It shows Tim what kind of job Charlie wants to take on and it makes it easy for him to say yes or no.
It’s also formatted very well. The reader should be able to skim it and get most of the main points.
Your value proposition should but crafted for each company to which you apply. While traditional wisdom says “you need only one resume,” you’re going to need an individual value proposition for each company if you want it to be taken seriously.
If you want to take it a step further, you could offer to work for free. I’ve done this to great effect.
A word of caution before you do this though. Free work is NOT a substitute for an effective value proposition. I’ve had people tell me before that they’d like to work for me for free and the obvious question is always “what can you do?”
If you offer to work for free, it’s still your job to define exactly what you’re going to do.
Does this really work if I don’t have a degree?
Yes. It works so well it will become addicting. I have no degree and have never been asked if I had a degree after submitting a value proposition. They simply won’t care if you help them see dollar signs.
Step Four: Submitting your value proposition
If you’ve come this far, don’t get ahead of yourself. Most people blow it at this step.
They send a giant email and wonder why they get no response.
While context matters, I generally like to include my value prop in an attached ONE PAGE document if it’s as long as Charlie’s. My email will be something to the effect of:
I’ve been a customer of (Business name) for a while and noticed you didn’t have videos on your product page. I’d love to produce three of these for you for free. I can update your analytics on the site to track how many buyers watched a video before they purchased — if the videos work to drive sales, you can hire me to do more or hire someone else.
Here’s a link to a few videos I’ve made in the past and a document outlining the project in further detail.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Thanks for your time,
If you don’t get a response, you can send a short followup email a few days later with maybe a video of you on a webcam discussing further what you’d like to build for the company. If possible, you could also simply build it and give it to them.
I landed a web client once by building the website in advance and sending it over to them.
If it’s good, they won’t say no.
Step Five: Transitioning to full time
Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door you’ll have much for room to figure out other things you can do to create value.
Deliver the first project ahead of schedule and get them excited about working with you. From there, make another proposal! This time you can ask for money and take on something a bit more complicated.
Do this enough and you’ll become so valuable they’ll have to keep you around full time.
The interesting thing about this path is that it often leads to much more freedom than you would have if you started out as a standard employee. You’ll have already proven that you can set your own tasks and deliver on those tasks, work on your own schedule and at your own location, and the employer will likely take mental note of this.
Now It’s On You: I’ll review every step for you
I’ve used this approach time and again to get opportunities that both excited and enriched me. Whether you want to work at a startup, as an event photographer, a graphic designer, or as a blue collar worker, you’ll find this cuts through all the barriers that are usually in our way.
The only obstacle now is you. Get up and make something.
If you do, I’ll promise to make myself available to review each step. I’ve done this for dozens of people and have had great results.
If you’re serious, please feel free to leave a comment and we’ll begin a discussion. I look forward to helping you create a new opportunity for yourself.
This post will be delivered in person at a talk I’m giving in Prague on March 18th. Here’s a link to the event for further details!