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Working, but daydreaming of a better job?
What if you could just chat with a colleague, maybe at a conference, and hear the magic words, “Hey, we’d love it if you’d come work for us”? When you get into a spirited professional conversation, career magic happens. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
It’d be much easier if you already knew plenty of colleagues who could tell you if their workplace is awesome — or awful. And put in a good word for you. But you don’t know people at every company. Most of us don’t network as much as we should.
Your challenge is to get your foot in the door, get to know the company and get them to know you, without the knuckle-biting stress of an interview.
Here’s a trick few people have tried, simple as it sounds. But it works.
1. Find a colleague in a company, someone with a cool job at your level. If you’re a senior software engineer, for example, look for another senior software engineer.
2. Ferret out their email address, then cold-email them. Introduce yourself and give a link to an online profile or two; they’ll most likely answer. They enjoy chatting with other smart professionals. (That’s you, right?)
3. Set up a phone call and maybe grab a coffee. The two of you can talk about your profession and experiences on the job.
They’re your peers, not managers or HR people. You can trust them to tell it like it is.
The groundbreaking career book What Color is Your Parachute? suggested the unemployed should do informational interviews to ask experienced professionals about opportunities in the industry.
You, the employed professional, should do informational interviews from a position of strength. You have the skills employers need. Talking with you is a privilege.
Employers want these conversations; they’re sick of mass-spammed irrelevant resumes
Employers have started using a straightforward but underestimated recruiting trick: offering access to their top professionals to attract their peers. They want to make it easy to send those cold-emails.
This sort of friendly conversation goes beyond the usual dull interview questions to find ideal pairings. Will Critchlow, CEO of the digital marketing agency Distilled, says, “We love hiring people who are passionate about working for us specifically.”
And Critchlow isn’t worried engineers lack sales skills. “We find that the right people just want the unvarnished truth about what it’s like to work here,” he says.
Don’t be shy to contact an interesting company. The Internet startup Kloudless, of Berkley, CA, draws in candidates this way. CEO Eliot Sun says that cold-emailers love hearing about the corporate culture and end up choosing Kloudless over larger companies across the Bay.
Interesting colleagues are more effective in attracting top candidates than boring job ads
If you’re among the lucky few who are completely happy where you are, consider volunteering yourself as a company ambassador. If it’s done right, you’ll get a great opportunity to talk to smart people across the industry and bring the best ones on board.
Many companies already have some sort of ambassador program, but even if not, it’s simple.
Here are the steps:
1. Ask your manager to set up a small ad highlighting you at the company’s careers page, with your name, title, photo and online profiles like GitHub, LinkedIn or StackOverflow so other professionals want to talk to you.
2. Potential candidates send you a message, with a few of their own professional profiles, to prove they’re worth talking to.
3. Your manager or HR screens each contact. You’re busy, but you enjoy talking to smart, experienced professionals, and it’s their messages that’ll get through to you. About one to three of these contacts a week is ideal.
4. You answer briefly. If you and the incoming contact hit it off, you can do a phone call or lunch. And maybe, if it goes really well, refer them for a job interview.
This way is better for everyone. If you’re a potential candidate considering a new job, you go into discussions with the confidence that insiders already support you. If you’re an ambassador, you get to talk to some fascinating potential colleagues and create a rapport as you pass the good ones on for interviews. What could be better?
Josh Fox decided that peer-contact programs should be fast and simple for employers and software developers, so he created an easy way for employers to provide an ambassador program, based on FiveYearItch.com. If you’re an employer who’s considered the idea of an ambassador service, please be in touch.