Recently came across an interesting article where entrepreneur David Rogier explained a creative way to get a job at a start-up company. His advice is to do work for companies that you want to hire you.
First he told a story about Tristan Walker who wanted to get a job at Foursquare but wasn’t able to get his foot in the door the traditional ways of applying through the website and cold-emailing the CEO.
So what did Tristan do? He started working for them. He wanted a job in business development, so he started doing business development. He called up companies said he was a student and asked if they would be interested in advertising on Foursquare (remember, Tristan did not actually work for Foursquare). He had to explain what Foursquare was — but, miraculously, a few companies said yes.
Tristan then emailed the Foursquare CEO a 9th time and said — I’ve lined up a few advertisers for you.
This time, the CEO replied. They met the next day. Tristan went on to run Business Development at Foursquare.
His take-aways from his article are the following:
- Emphasize the areas you’ll be perceived as weak. Before I applied to IDEO (the revolutionary product design consultancy), I asked a former IDEO employee (the wonderful Emily Ma) what IDEO would perceive as my biggest weakness. Her answer: are you actually creative? I didn’t have a portfolio and I came from supply chain. Instead of filling out their application, I decided to make a book. I spent 10 hours in 4 different airport baggage claims, interviewed 23 people and put together a book on Snapfish about how I would improve baggage claims (the book). I got the internship.
- Do work that you’d actually do if you were working for them. After graduate school, I wanted to work in Product Management. I was super impressed by Evernote. I decided to show them what I could do. I focused on the new user on boarding experience. I interviewed 23 users about it, came up with a few ideas and wrote 10 slides about it. I emailed those to the CEO. He emailed me back in 30mins and asked me to come in.
- Do work they need help on. A friend of mine wanted to work at a popular online dating company. The friend knew from talking to employees that their biggest problem was getting women to join the site (combined with a really low LTV) so he created and optimized Facebook ads that targeted women aiming for a $2 conversion. He created over 50 ads and sent the CEO the top performing ones. Did the CEO respond? Of course!
My two cents: This certainly sounds like it has worked for many people – more power to them. It’s always awesome to see when people come up with creative, entrepreneurial ideas that go on to be successful. My only word of caution would be that this advice ONLY applies if you are applying for a job to a hip start-up. Don’t try this will a larger firm, a law office, a non-profit, anything in the medical field, etc.
If you are applying to a more traditional place, make sure your good old-fashioned resume is in order. The best advice I’ve seen on resume writing in a while is Vivian Giang’s What Recruiters Look At During The 6 Seconds They Spend On Your Resume. Hint, it’s this: