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I want your job.
07.08.11

A few months ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who was looking for some career advice. She had left her previous job and was trying to figure out what type of job (or company) would really get her going. We had a somewhat meandering conversation for a little while but as I got more and more specific about my questions -- it sort of dawned on me what she wanted to do, she wanted to be an advisor / advise companies. I asked her and she said, "I want your job."

This posting isn't about how to become an advisor -- at least not fundamentally. Instead, it's about getting *any* job that you want.

Let's look at (3) typical ways people get jobs that don't involve friends + family.

1) You're qualified for the job! There were people who I went to school with who had what I describe as the "golden resume". The ones who graduated summa cum laude, did an internship at Goldman, and got a job at McKinsey. They passed every bar and every company wanted to hire them. Unfortunately this isn't true for the other 99% of people. More importantly though, I think this is generally an inefficient use of time. Not that one shouldn't work hard and try and do well -- but that it's always more effective to *do* a job rather than prepare to do a job. I'll explain more in a moment.

2) You're in the company! When a company has a job opening -- they're generally desperate to fill it. Even for highly desirable positions (let's say marketing at Nike or automotive engineering at Ford) -- they may get lots of candidates, but it's often hard for them to find someone they like and they feel can do the job. Most importantly, the standard for an outside person (i.e. all the bullet points on a job description) is *totally* different than the standard for an insider. Do you know what the standard for an insider typically is? "Do I think that you can do the job?" That's it. Why? Because people inside the company are pre-disposed to like other people within the company, you have a body of work people can be familiar with, and they can extrapolate in their mind if you can do the job or not. The real core of this section though is to get in the company. I've known people who started out as temps at amazon.com and Google and risen to rather senior positions in the company. TEMPS!

3) Do the job.

This is the core of this posting and a similar theme when I talk with startups. The #1 way people will know whether or not you can do something is if you actually do it. Let's say, hypothetically, you want to have a wedding planning business. The easiest way to have one is... to plan some weddings! Maybe you won't get paid for them right away -- but plan a few weddings FOR FREE. I'm sure you'll get some takers. Take some pictures of the weddings. Write some blog posts / content on it. Get some quotes from the bride and guests. Put it all up on a website. Do you know what you have at that point? A business you can charge for -- i.e. you're now a wedding planner. 

Let's say you want to be a Product Manager but the company you work for says that you're not technical enough to do the job. What should you do? Do the job anyway! Go find a more senior product manager who has too much work, offer to help in your spare time, and then when the product launches, I mean -- what more can I say? You were the product manager on a product that launched! (By the way, this is what I did at Google.)

So let's take my friend. She wants to be an advisor to startups. Let's say she asks for advice from a lot of people. I'm sure she'll get a lot of negative thoughts -- that she's too young, that she's not qualified, that her experience doesn't lend itself to that, etc. Well, let's take this scenario. Let's say she starts talking to startups. She just makes some friends. She offers to help for free -- maybe help on a pitch deck, do some research, give her thoughts, work on some strategy docs, etc. Call it consulting. That CEO and maybe a couple of others find it useful. Word starts to get around. She tells her friends and colleagues that she does this and who she works with. Other people start recommending her to their friends. Consulting eventually morphs into advising. More importantly, she has built her qualification over time by the very nature of her work. She may not have been qualified to start -- but because of a good attitude and a willingness to work for free -- she got the best payment: great experience.  

We all too often live in a world of permission. We want other people to say, "You can do this." or "You should do this." But that doesn't always line up with what we want to do. And when it doesn't, we're often scared what people might think if we pursued it. That people might perceive us as presumptuous or arrogant. Well, screw them. We have one life to live and in the grand scheme of things, their opinion doesn't mean anything. One of the great great things about our society is that there is not one decision maker. Write a book? Well, you can get rejected by 25 publishing houses and the 26th accepts you and you know what? You're now a published author. A market exists in almost everything and the market doesn't need everyone to say yes... just one person to do so. So you want that job? Go get it. It's there for the taking.

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