Being a student or employee, it can be hard to find a way to reach out to new businesses you would like to be part of. We all have that one company that we really admire and that we dream to be part of one day (unless you’re a pure-bred entrepreneur and will never work for someone else).
As I’ve recently been through some experimenting regarding job applications, I felt like sharing some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
Let me first tell you where I got it from. About 3 weeks ago, I secured an internship position in the US for a small company (Ambition To Abundance, LLC) that I really like. However, I’m still job hunting to find a position in a bigger company after my studies. To keep it short: All I’ve been doing lately is reaching out to companies, and trying to figure out the best way to do that.
I realized that some methods worked better than others. For example, I came to the conclusion that going to job fairs didn’t gave me the biggest return on the investment of my time. Although it might work for some of you, I found better ways to do it.
So what did work then?
Let me share with you 3 tips that are really important in reaching out to companies you admire.
1. Understand the Universal Law of Giving and Receiving
Now, this might sound very formal, I know. However, this is the most fundamental principle you have to understand before you reach out to companies.
This law doesn’t only apply to job hunting, but, to be quite frank, everything you’ll try to accomplish in life.
More specifically, this law states that the more you give of yourself without expectation of return, the more that will come back to you.
This is what makes job hunting so dreadful for many people. Most of you realize that you should give yourself and your skills to a company, but you often expect something in return. You have to realize that the Universe doesn’t owe you anything. It’s up to you to prove and show that you are valuable and worthy enough for that position.
Proving your worth can only happen by giving first. Giving with a heart full of joy and love, and with the intention of making both the giver and the receiver happier. Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
So how does this spiritual message apply to you reaching out to your ‘dream’ company?
Well, you’ll have to find ways to genuinely provide value to the business you admire.
Let me give you a very simple example.
A few weeks back, I walked into my favorite smoothie bar from the block with a piece of paper in my hand. I had prepared 30 use-able hashtags for them to showcase their products in their Instagram posts. I had seen them using hashtags the wrong way (i.e. using hashtags that were not very searchable and highly ranked). As a result, the engagement on their posts and their following was quite poor. So I decided to go for a smoothie while at the same time providing them some value. I didn’t expect anything in return. I just felt like sincerely helping them out since I really like the place.
After talking with the owner for a few minutes about potential hashtag strategies, he invited me for a cup of coffee to talk in more detail about the marketing side of his business, together with the offer of a free health shot and smoothie.
This is the law of giving and receiving at play. People will always feel an urge to give back value once you give them value. It’s as simple as that.
So, to come back to my point. You have to study how you can genuinely provide value to the company you admire.
How do you do that?
Look at the problems they are facing. What could they do better? What is missing in their business? Figure out how YOU can help them solve their problems. You can literally state this in your communication. The more direct you are, the stronger the impact will be and the more likely it is that they will respond.
In doing your research, I would suggest that you help them out with something you have a lot of expertise in. Capitalize on your strengths. Show these companies what you got. For example, I was sure I could provide value to the smoothie bar since I learnt how to build great Instagram pages over the last year. I bet on my knowledge and expertise before I had the audacity to go up to them and give them advice.
Although this law of giving and receiving seems natural to most people, it’s especially of crucial importance in reaching out to companies. Too many people want things in return quickly. That’s not how it is supposed to be. Your giving should always be without expectations. Only then can you receive back.
2. Befriend ‘The Gatekeeper’
This is a concept I learnt from Keith Ferrazzi’s book: Never Eat Alone. In my opinion, the bible of modern networking. I highly recommend you all to read this book.
A gatekeeper in business terms is someone who protects the eventual decision-maker from being bothered every 5 seconds. For example, the decision-maker can be the owner or manager of a company. Since his responsibility is to keep the business running and profitable, he often has a secretary or assistant (i.e. a gatekeeper) to take on your requests and questions.
It is of crucial importance that you get the gatekeeper on your side as soon as possible. In other words, you have to make the gatekeeper your ally, not your enemy.
As we’ll see in a bit, there are multiple ways to reach out to the gatekeeper. The point is that, if you want to work in a significant company, there will be gatekeepers. There is no way around them.
You have to treat gatekeepers like gold.
I realized this the first time when I was contributing to the blog of a successful entrepreneur. Since I couldn’t reach to the guy himself, I was limited to keep contact with one of his gatekeepers (in this case: his secretary). After sending her articles on the topics of her interest, being very responsive to her requests and emails and having several friendly chats, she reached out to the entrepreneur and told him about me. A few days later, the entrepreneur personally reached out to me and gave me access to one his online courses (worth more than 500 bucks!).
This example learnt me one very important lesson: befriend the gatekeeper. Make them trust you as soon as possible. By conversing about my passions and being patient, I was able to create a degree of trust within her. She sensed that I was genuine and not eager to take something from the business. Eventually, that’s what put me in contact with the decision-maker.
But how do you find out who the gatekeeper is?
That’s a very legit question, and it’s a hard one to answer. For me, this is a process of trial and error. It took me several emails to figure out who the gatekeeper was. The best way is to figure it it is to start cold emailing the people you suppose are potential gatekeepers. After a few emails back and forth, you’ll quickly sense who’s in charge and who’s not. So try, fail, and learn!
3. Use Social Media To Your Advantage
Never limit yourself to the most traditional medium of communication: email.
Don’t get me wrong. Email is still important and can definitely work. However, in this digital era, it wouldn’t make sense to solely rely on this means of communication.
In other words: You have to make use of the gifts of social media.
There are many social platforms out there, so where do you start?
Let’s start with the most important one in the professional sphere: LinkedIn.
If there are companies I admire and would like to work for, the first thing I do is check out their LinkedIn page and start following them. You can directly see what the company is about, their latest articles and, most importantly, their updates regarding open positions. Most companies post their job offers on LinkedIn, but always check out their website as well in case they’re forgetful.
The most interesting thing about LinkedIn is that it displays all the employees that are currently active and working in the company. Even better, LinkedIn shows you YOUR OWN connections that are working in that company. This can make things a lot less complicated. If you can introduce yourself via a person you already know, you avoid the hurdle of cold emailing and/or calling other people. In addition, that connection might even pass your details to the decision-maker(s), and therefore potentially help to get a foot in the door of that company.
Even if you don’t have any connections in the company, you can start reaching out to potential gatekeepers via LinkedIn’s ‘InMail’ function. LinkedIn clearly displays the function of each employee. If you click through, you can get to know each individual employee well enough to see if you have anything in common (hobbies, passions, skills, etc.). This can be a great basis to start a conversation. Before you know, you’ll have a foot in the door of your dream company.
Now, don’t rush things. Don’t ask these people for a job right away. Just try to genuinely connect with them. Chat with them and clearly mention your goals and passions. Think about the law of giving and receiving. Great things can happen faster than you think.
It’s obvious that LinkedIN is a very helpful social platform in your job search. I highly recommend everyone to play around with it and use it to your advantage. The best way to learn is by just jumping onto it and experiment.
Of course, LinkedIn is not the only way to make it happen.
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all very good alternatives. I especially like Twitter since it’s an inherently interactive platform, allowing you to re-tweet posts from the company’s or gatekeeper’s page. As long as you don’t overdo it and stalk the other party, it’s a can be a really good way to build trust.
I like to go on all these platforms and follow both the company AND potential gatekeepers. Regarding the latter group, it’s just an easy way to see what they’re up to. It is your job to stay alert for opportunities to reach out to these people. For example, a gatekeeper can post an interesting article on his or her Twitter account that you happen to be very passionate about as well. That’s where you have to go in and start a conversation.
I could go in depth on how to use each individual platform to your advantage, but it would take me another 1000-2000 words. I realize that you’re busy and don’t want to take too much of your time. My final message would be to experiment yourself as much as possible. As they say, experience is the best teacher.
At the end, everything boils down to how badly you want the job. If you really want it, you’ll find a way. It takes courage and hard work to reach out to the companies you admire. There are really no secrets.
Finally, I want to mention that having a strong established personal brand can definitely help you in this process. If you want to learn more about how to set up a personal brand, I recently wrote a 3-step ‘How To Start A Personal Brand Manifesto’. These steps will give you a lot of clarity about how to utilize your unique gifts and skills in your career development.
I hope these tips will help you to find some direction and clarity in your job search!