A Marketing Director was at a coffee shop in Austin, Texas when he saw a young man working on designing an advertisement on his laptop. The ad was one of the best he’d seen. The Marketing Director complimented the young man on the quality of his work and asked him if he was in college.
In 2014, sometime after dropping out of college (or getting kicked out, depending on whom you ask) and being dumped by my girlfriend, I started getting my first job offers and freelance clients.
I had no degree and no more than a bit of sporadic work experience from my family’s company, yet opportunities started coming my way from industries ranging from commercial real estate to technology.
I was able to get these opportunities by testing two assumptions:
1) Most job “requirements” are negotiable. What employers mean when they say “degree required” is really “value creation ability required.” They want someone who they trust will create more value for their company than they take out in wages. There are better ways to show this than a degree.
2) The common sense job getting strategies are nonsense. What worked in a world where degrees and education were scarce no longer applies when everyone and your grandma have a bachelors degree, volunteered to build a pipe in South America, and a did a summer internship. When everyone is getting mediocre results doing something one way, maybe it’s time to try it another. That’s what I did.
Within a year or so I’d made over $100,000 and not long after became the Director of Marketing at a startup. Life has been a bit of a fairy tale since.
The steps I took to get from 20 year old college dropout to everything that has come my way in the past two years are simple, reproducible, and scalable as you continue you career beyond your first job.
Some may be counter-intuitive to what you’ve been taught, but what worked when I got started still works, and I’ve added considerably to it as I’ve gotten more experience in the real world.
In fact they’re more relevant than ever.
It dawned on me the other day that I would have still been in college this past semester.
Looking back now on the past 6 months or so, it’s interesting to think what I would have been doing if I were in school vs what I actually did instead. My college life is a world away from my life in the real world since dropping out. [Read more…]
Two people want a job at a growing startup.
Person One sends in his application and resume. He’s confident, because he’s put hours into it, digging up every award, achievement and accolade to his name since high school. He’s confident because on paper, he looks like the ideal candidate. He was the captain of his sports teams and the senior class president. He made excellent grades in college and he studied abroad. He interned for a political campaign. He’s a natural leader, his resume says, and he works well with others. He’s a shoe in, everyone tells him.
But he doesn’t realize that hundreds of others applying have the same, or similar, resume. They’ve all jumped through the hoops, played by the same rules, interned here and there. They’ve all been told their entire lives that they’re the best and brightest — their resumes speak for themselves, they think.
Person Two sends an application, but it’s different from all the others. The resume is there, but it’s restrained. He included only enough to let the team know about him, but not enough to distract them from what he wants them to focus on — his value proposition. He spent the days leading up to the application learning about the business, its industry, its digital presence, its successes and its failures.
He asked himself, “What can I do, Day 1 on the job, to create value for this company? What can I do long term that justifies bringing me on board?” He’s not afraid to tell them, “Here’s what I would be doing differently. Here’s how I would do things better than you’re doing them now.” He identifies and outlines a few of these and offers some relevant skills he has and steps he would take towards accomplishing them.
His application is NOT just about him, it’s about them. It’s about the things they know they need and the things they don’t yet know they need, and how he would create both if he were on the team.
Who do you think gets hired?
Your resume doesn’t mean as much as it used to.
The credential you paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for? Most people applying have one.
That study abroad semester where you partied your way across Europe? You aren’t unique.
That “A” you got on a term paper? So did the other applicants.
You did Greek life? Great, that tells me very little.
We live in a period of resume inflation.
When you apply to a job, you’re competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are, on paper, just as qualified as you.
So if you want that job, if you want to stand out, if you want to be the person that is “a shoe in,” you don’t need a resume, you need a value proposition.