Why Being A Copy Cat Will Help You Start Your Career

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Young professionals are often told that, in order to succeed, we need to set ourselves apart, seek out niche markets, carve new paths and, ultimately, do things differently.

But, I’m here to tell you from my own personal experience that being a copy cat is the new best practice for young professionals.

I’ve learned that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to stand out in the job market and mimicking the best practices of others with more career experience than you can pay dividends.

Through my simple copy cat techniques, I hope that you are able to:

  • Foster a personal brand
  • Develop a network of industry professionals that can help you along your journey
  • Step outside your comfort zone
  • Learn more about yourself and your career goals
  • Make career development a fun, exciting and unexpected process

These are really simple suggestions, but I’ve learned that many people my age haven’t seemed to catch on. Here we go:

1. Choose your dream job

Determine what success looks like to you and be specific: What company would you love to work for? What position would you love to have?

Perhaps this won’t be attainable for another 10 years, but that’s OK. Dream big! Don’t let yourself get away with having an easily-achievable dream job.

2a. Get a LinkedIn account

Do it. Do it now.

Correction: Do it after you read this post. LinkedIn is an invaluable networking tool. If you would like some insights on how to lay out your page and appropriate content to use, take a look at my page.

2b. Go on LinkedIn

Who currently HAS your dream job? No, this isn’t stalking. This is using LinkedIn for what it was designed for – networking and career development.

It’s not hard to locate people; just search the position or company and you should have a name within a few clicks.

3. Who? What? Where? When?

Once you figure out who currently holds the position you would absolutely love to have, scan their LinkedIn profile.

  • Where did they go to school?
  • What program did they take?
  • What work/volunteer experience did they gain when they were YOUR age?
  • What steps have they taken along the way to get to where they are today?

Once you figure this out, strive to do just what they did. If you haven’t attended university, college or grad school, start searching for programs similar to theirs. Seek out volunteer or entry level employment opportunities that resemble ones they had.

I can’t stress this enough: do not underestimate the value of volunteer experience. You will often be given more responsibility in a volunteer position than you will in an entry level job…you won’t get paid to do it, but it looks great on your resume.

While you’re on their LinkedIn page, check out the other people with whom they have ‘connections.’ Who do they report to? Who reports to them? You will quickly learn the entry level positions within that particular company which may serve as stepping stones to your dream job.

Next, through LinkedIn or a simple Google search, check to see if these individuals have a Twitter account and/or a blog. If they do:

  • Follow them – They just might follow you back!
  • Determine the topics they tweet or write about – Write about these topics as well. People with similar interests are drawn to each other on Twitter through hash tags (#) and trends. By discussing similar topics (e.g., sports, politics, technology, music, etc.) as the person you are copy catting, you will slowly form a network of like-minded tweeters/tweeps/tweethearts.
  • Who do they follow and who follows them? Follow these people!
  • Tweet at them – I am always blown away by the level of transparency and engagement social media fosters. I have made connections with individuals I never thought possible all because of Twitter. It seems to break down barriers and allows people to interact in a free-form, low-expectations environment…and, it’s a lot of fun.

(I suppose my first bullet should’ve been “Get on Twitter!”…Rachel’s Guide to Effectively Utilizing Twitter should probably be another post.)

4) Coffee, coffee, coffee

Through Twitter, LinkedIn or email, ask the individual you aspire to be like if they would mind taking part in an informational interview over coffee. You can write something to the effect of:

“Hi _____, my name is _____ and I’m really interested in learning more about the ______ industry. I know you are very busy, but I was wondering if you had a few moments to go out for coffee so I can ask you a few questions about your career experience and your industry.”

I guarantee that they will say yes. Things I’ve learned from informational interviews: people like talking about themselves and their success. People like helping other people. People like being mentors. People like coffee.

I have gone on countless informational interviews and they’ve resulted in references, volunteer opportunities, job offers, expanding my network and more informational interviews.

My friend and mentor Jaime Stein told me to “strive to go out for coffee 52 times this year.” (Hint: that’s once a week!) Inviting people out for coffee looks really good on you. It demonstrates initiative, determination, motivation and drive – all very hire-able qualities.

When you go out for coffee, bring a pad of paper and a pen, your up-to-date resume, a list of questions, and be prepared to talk about yourself and your own experience.

I attribute much of my early career success to being a total copy cat and I’m not ashamed to say it! It’s actually one of the reasons I started my blog. I noticed that people I truly admire (Amy Jo Martin of Digital Royalty and author Don Miller) had blogs and they were effective tools for extending their network, promoting their personal brands, growing their businesses and engaging with people across the globe. If it worked for Amy Jo and Don, why couldn’t it work for me?

I’d love to hear about your progress, successes, lessons learned and how you got to where you are today. Maybe I’ll copy you!

Photo credit: Bolobilly

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