How to Land Your Dream Job—Even When The Company Isn't Hiring

Waiting for your dream job to post an opening? You're doing it wrong. Here's how to go after the position you want.

When you work in television, your performance review is a show’s ratings. A program can be critically acclaimed, but if the numbers aren’t good it risks cancellation.

Starting his television career in 2004 as a freelance producer for networks such as Discovery, National Geographic, and Smithsonian, Jon Blumberg worked on his share of winners, including Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch and MythBusters. He also worked on some losers and soon realized there was a strong element of business to the shows that were successful. Looking to become more balanced in what he could offer, he went back to school in 2011 to get an MBA.

“I enjoy a big-picture landscape,” he says. “None of my counterparts were exploring the business side of television, and I knew I could stand out.”

Using what he learned from business school, he contacted networks and shared his idea of forming sponsored or branded entertainment at a show’s inception and not as an afterthought when the program was about to launch. “I met with network executives, suggesting that they hire me and create a hybrid position that combines programming with storytelling,” he says.

Many people he talked to didn't bite, but finally, Blumberg met Bill Howard, director of programming and partnerships for the Travel Channel.

“I hit the touch points of what he believed in and eventually sold him on the idea of building programming while building revenue,” says Blumberg, who was hired to be manager of programming and partnerships for the Travel Channel.

He believes he was successful in creating a job because he understood his strengths and value, and didn’t give up. “The more people you can talk to the better--I contacted about 200 and talked to about 100. Eventually you’ll find ones who think like you do; those will be people open to your ideas.”

Joe Weinlick, vice president of marketing for the online career network Beyond.com, says it’s possible to get your dream job even if a company isn’t hiring. In addition to playing the numbers game and talking to anyone who’ll take your call like Blumberg did, Weinlick says there are three more things you can do to get your foot in the door:

1. Offer to work for free.

Some of the most successful professionals started their careers by pinpointing the company they wanted to work for and offering their services without pay.

“If you are young and the company has an internship that you can get, awesome!” says Weinlick. But don’t think that free work means subpar work. “Even though you’re working for free, you need to be the hardest-working person there.”

2. Ask for an informational interview.

Getting an interview for a job opening can be hard enough, but it can be nearly impossible if no job exists. Many professionals will gladly provide a short informational interview, however, to help someone in their career.

“If you can identify leaders in the organization who work in your desired or chosen career, send them a polite note and ask if they would be willing to meet for a coffee (on you) to share insights they've gained in their career, and to let you know what it is like to work for their current company,” says Weinlick. “Ask questions and keep the focus of the conversation on them.”

Don’t forget to send a thank-you note, and after you’ve established a relationship, stay in touch and let them know you are interested should any opportunities arise. If they enjoyed the conversation, they’ll likely think of you when an opening arises.

3. Become a brand advocate.

One potential way to get noticed by a company is to become an advocate for the brand on social media, says Weinlick.

“If you feel strongly about the brand and are socially savvy, then evangelize or engage in conversation about the company on your blog, Twitter page, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or other social channels,” he says. “Be genuine, and share real experience or insights that would be of value or interest to others.”

Your activity may not cause the phone to ring, he says, but if you apply for a job or ask for an informational interview, the company will be thrilled to find a candidate who has demonstrated a connection to the brand and its values.

[Image: Flickr user Stephanus Riosetiawan]

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6 Comments

  • 100% agree with all of the points raised above! Our team faced this exact same problem and decided to create https://riipen.com/ to help others in the same situation! Proactive companies should ALWAYS have an eye out for top talent even when they are not hiring. Enter the Riipen Project. A low risk, non-committal way for companies to engage and test the skills of rising emerging talent.

  • My first job started out with me working for free, which led to other opportunities with that company. That one opening job has become my springboard for my career spanning over a decade.

  • I actually did this in my former company. I saw a need, had the skills, refined them into a job description, pitched my boss and a couple of executives (one of which had been a mentor). It was so well received that they each claimed credit and hired their cronies from outside the firm. Three hirings, three failures. They missed the point that I was the one with the perfect skills - hence why i created the position. I eventually left the firm and was told a few months after I left by my former mentor that I was right. Thanks to this article I think I'll refine the idea and pitch my new companies of choice!

  • Vicky Wu

    I did offer to work free once, but then the interviewer said it's illegal to have someone working without being paid. ;/