How To Land Your Dream Job: Work Hard Before You Get Hired


There’s this one company you absolutely have to work for. You will die unhappy if you don’t, sometime in your life.

It could be a big one, it could be a start-up, it could be a non-profit.  But, maybe that was in the past and you’ve already got another job (or perhaps you don’t). Have you given up on your dream job?

Keep hope alive. There is a tried and true approach to getting that job. It all starts with a story about a young man who wanted to work for a particular social network.

Ever heard of a little social network called foursquare? As a brief primer, foursquare is a geographically-based social network that has over 20 million users as of April 2012.

Ryan Graves knew what he wanted. He was quite fond of the start-up and was determined to get a job with foursquare. Only one small problem: exactly how would he do it?

He started off by going door-to-door to pitch foursquare to local bars and restaurants in Chicago. The journey started off kind of rough (sales, as many of you may know, isn’t exactly the easiest thing to pick up), but his pitch gradually got stronger and Ryan ended up signing around 20-30 venues. He also continued to blog about the idea of foursquare having sales reps, and how he developed customers for foursquare.

He did all of this before he even thought of firing off his resumé to foursquare.

He didn’t exactly drop off his cover letter at the foursquare office. Instead, Ryan got foursquare’s attention by having multiple CEOs, friends of foursquare and a foursquare investor simultaneously email Dennis (one of foursquare’s co-founders). In response to this email siege, Dennis connected Ryan with foursquare’s business development manager Tristan, and Ryan became the pseudo-intern. In essence, Ryan created his own internship at the company that he wanted so badly to work for.

As Ryan was exploring other opportunities after foursquare (he’s now leading start-up Uber), he explained in a blog post: “I knew who the big names were, I knew the strategies that the best start-ups had employed, and I knew how to apply those strategies in different situations. I was in the trenches as much as possible, showing that I would hustle my ass off for this opportunity.”

  • Can you show people you will work hard, instead of just telling them what you can do?
  • Do you know the big players in your field?
  • Do you know the business models and strategies that each companies used?

A more comprehensive list originally meant for entrepreneurs (written up on Forbes) can be extended to this list of questions. They will guide you in learning more about your industry:

  • Who are all the established companies and start-ups in this space (historically and now) and what happened to them and why?
  • Who are all the successful entrepreneurs/teams in this space? How did they achieve what they achieved? Where are they now?
  • Who are the entrepreneurs and teams that failed and why?
  • What is the customer base in this space like? How is it segmented?
  • Where is the industry moving? Where are the white spaces, the unsolved problems?
  • Who are the best writers/bloggers/journos giving the most unique insights into the space?
  • What are the best events/gatherings/conferences in the field where everyone gathers?

It could be about directing traffic to a company’s Facebook page and tracking it using for a marketing internship. Perhaps it’s about offering free work (make it your best) and building your portfolio and network while improving your graphic design (or other sort of craft). Or, you could land accounts before you apply for a business development position, à la Ryan Graves.

Grab your beloved company’s attention by targeting an executive or person in power with an email campaign, or a series of Twitter mentions (like experiential business conference C2-MTL did to persuade Sir Richard Branson to speak at the conference next year). Or, you can do what Ian Greenleigh and Grant Turck did, and use Facebook ads to target executives and get their attention. The point is to stand out from the resumé-shotgunning competition. While they’re busy trying to fit in, you will stand out.

MasterCard Canada has been at this for two years formally with their radical #internswanted campaign. In order to become a MasterCard intern, students must work hard to promote themselves as well as the #internswanted movement on social networks; in the process, proving to MasterCard that they can do for themselves what they should be capable of doing for MasterCard. MasterCard selected from the most creative and those that produced the most impressive results.

There are tons of things you can do today that will benefit your search for a job. Do you dare try something new? Are you up to the challenge? Are you ready to hustle?

Photo credit: dreams and wishes by Nicole Pierce Photography
About the author

Herbert Lui is exploring the intersection of entrepreneurship, art, and technology. He is passionate about writing and design, and believes in learning by doing. Herbert is currently a contributor at Techvibes, a VP at the Impact Entrepreneurship Group, and experimenting with new media through CutEdge. If you’d like to get in touch, you can follow Herbert on Twitter (@herbertlui).