The average American works 2,080 hours a year (40 hours a week, 52 weeks in a year). If you’re a New Yorker, like me, that number easily climbs to +3,000 hours.
Can you imagine how much happier the world would be if we all genuinely felt present and in touch with at least some joy during those 3,000 hours? Of course, every now and then you meet someone who seems to love what they do. And I'm sure you've wondered how they landed that gig.
Sometimes people are just lucky, but most of the time getting the job of your dreams takes a lot of resourcefulness and a few risks. Here are 11 tips that nobody told me.
1. Always be searching.
People say it's better to look for a job when you have one. I’d say it’s best to look when you’re actually happy in your current role. Not only will you interview better, but also you’ll judge an opportunity by how excited you are about it. So don't wait until you're at rock bottom; always be looking for opportunities out there and interesting people to connect with.
2. Narrow your focus.
Apply to a bunch of jobs through online portals, and the odds are slim that you’ll get picked out of the pile (even if you are a solid candidate). Instead, discover what you want to do and what type of company you want to work for, and then focus on building connections in those specific areas.
3. Chat up family and friends.
A quick note to family and friends with a list of your top three dream companies (or simply areas of interest) is one of the best ways to open doors career-wise. Remember, those around you will have no reason to tell you they have connections at your dream company (or somewhere close to it) unless you tell them where you're at in terms of career goals.
4. Don't just think of LinkedIn as a source of many email updates.
Instead, make LinkedIn your new best friend! A warm lead is much better than a cold one and it’s always better to have a conversation with someone at a company before applying online, since they can usually fast track your application. Use LinkedIn’s search functionality to make a list of second connections (your connections’ connections) who work for companies you are interested in.
Instead of reaching out directly, politely ask your mutual connection to introduce you. When they introduce you, ask their connection for a phone call or coffee date to chat about their experience, instead of asking for a job upfront (which can come off too pushy).
5. Stay alert!
Google alerts are a fantastic way to get a daily summary of articles that mention your favorite companies and professional interests. This is how I landed my current role. I had a Google alert set to “NYC startup” and one day it flagged an article that mentioned the launch of a company called UrbanStems. Then after some research of my own, I discovered they didn’t have anyone running marketing. I used the article as a talking point in my initial outreach and got to interview before the role was publicly posted.
6. Go to the source.
Instead of applying through a job portal or speaking with HR, email the founder. A founder’s email address is usually not found online, but you can look at the company’s website to get a sense for their email format (most use a variation of first and last name). Then, you can guess multiple variations of the founder’s address and add these variations as BCC when you send your email.
Chances are, one of them will work and your email will end up in the founder’s inbox! Your email should show that you’re passionate about the company and that you’ve thought about how you can contribute. If the founder thinks you're a good fit, s/he'll pass you on to someone for an interview. Trust me, that person will follow up.
7. Put up your happiness radar.
You’re going to spend 3,000+ hours a year with coworkers. The more you like them, the more likely you’ll love coming to work every day. When you interview, pay attention to the people in the office. Do they seem happy? Are they smiling? Those are signs it’s a happy place to work.
8. Make a pro/con list.
One of the best decisions I’ve made was to take a pay cut early in my career. It allowed me to change industries and led me to a job I love. If you receive an offer for your dream job, but the compensation is less than expected, it’s time to make a pro/con list! Money should be a factor, but one of many (with happiness at the top). If it's truly your dream job, you'll likely climb your way to the top quicker, which will mean more money (and more happiness) in the long run.
9. Get creative with your questions and concerns.
If you’re struggling to decide whether to take a pay cut, get creative. Ask your future employer if they can offer you more equity, flexible work options, or more vacation days. You’d be surprised how willing companies are to negotiate benefits when they won’t budge on salary.
10. Skip grad school.
Many 20-somethings turn to graduate school when they realize they’re not happy with their career path. The unfortunate reality is grad school is expensive, and unless you have very generous parents or a trust fund, you’re going to be paying off that debt for a while. Grad school isn’t going anywhere. Figure out what you love doing before you write that check.
11. Take Sheryl’s advice
Not sure what your dream job looks like? Focus on things that make you happy in your current role. As Sheryl says, we should all “lean in." What does that mean? Well, start by raising your hand for a project that you’re interested in — a manager might notice your enthusiasm and give you more responsibilities in that area. Express yourself and make your skills known. Your dream job might exist at your current company without you realizing it.
Have you already landed your dream gig? How’d you get it? Share your tips in the comments!