It’s the age of talents: engineer your own job opening

Industry 4.0, talent shortage, employer branding, demographic shifts and candidate centricity. All buzzwords which we see a lot when we read about the labor market of the future and especially in these days, when the world leaders are meeting to discuss the outcome of these trends at the World Economic Forum 2016. Undoubtedly, the world is changing at a speed and scale which we never have seen before, bringing lots of change. As with so many changes, this one poses an opportunity – or an obstacle, depending how you deal with it.

The opportunity for talents lies within flexibility, lifetime learning, mobility, developing an individual career path etc. The downside could be a lack of job security and the need for constant qualification as technology and labor market requirements are changing rapidly. In this new realm, we, the talents, have gained a new power. A power that we suddenly “gained” through the global talent shortage that is about to get even bigger. Already today, about 38% of companies worldwide say they have difficulties filling jobs!

So, what do we do with this power? The first step would be to get a job that excites you everyday, right? Talking of which – how did you get your last job? Was it a contact that could make an introduction to your current employer? Did you skim several hundrets job ads and applied online? Have you attended a job fair?

This is the conventional path that most people choose to find a job – and there is nothing wrong with it – it worked after all for many people. There is only one thing that makes these methods seem quite at odds with current labor market developments described above and therefore inefficient: Talent Shortage, the so-called “war-of-talent” or the “Human Age“, which describes “talents” as the main resource for companies to increase their competitive advantage. Finding, developing and retaining talent is not only part of the HR department anymore. This task started to appear on the agenda of CEO’s, CTO’s, CMO’s and other management departments. Employer Branding is the keyword of the year with many companies trying to identify every benefit they have to polish it and afterwards “sell” it to potential candidates.

So if we, the talents (let it be a good college degree or a good training paired with drive), are so in demand, then why are we choosing application methods that mostly suck? Filling out long application forms on websites that might crash any minute while you’re thinking to yourself: “Why can’t you (#%&/)), (fill in corporation of your choice) just look at my carefully prepared CV? The same applies to tedious career fairs.

“But there is no other way to reach my dream employer” you say? Let’s think about the unconventional path for a minute.

  1. You know what you want to do, in which industry and where. This is enough to find several companies you can imagine working at! Make a list.
  2. Take a close look at the companies. What is their culture, their main topics? Can you find the pain points of the department you’d like to work at?
  3. Define what you can bring into that company. Clear, precise, pro-active and goal oriented! Write it down. Why wait for a job opening for your dream job? But please do not call it an unsolicited application (especially in the subject line) –> it goes right into trash at most HR departments.
  4. Research the head of the department of interest. LinkedIn is a great resource.
  5. Write him or her a message with the content of #3 and explain how you can help – and why you’re the right fit. Explain your interest in the company (which is the reason why you’re writing even if though there is no job ad. Include your CV and some good references. What else can you bring to the table besides good grades? Example: you see that they have a corporate blog or facebook page which needs some polish. Mention it! The trick here is to make is actionable. If you say you speak French but the company obviously doesn’t need it, then it’s useless (for them). This bold approach shows an employer that you have drive, guts and will to take the unconventional path. Innovation is a sought after skill after all!
  6. Take some risk! Include something personal. Of course you shouldn’t go overboard with very private details of your life, but give the other person something to identify with.
  7. Polish it! Your first, second,thirst and probably even 10th draft will suck and still contain grammar mistakes. Take the time to go over it until you feel it’s you speaking in the email.
  8. Comment: Of course this approach works better in certain industries than in others. Finance and management consulting might not be the right industries to try this approach. But many other industries, like HR, marketing, etc. are worth the fun.

How did I came came up with this and why did it work for me? When I just finished my Master’s in marketing in London, friends of mine invited me to spend the summer with them in San Francisco. I was thrilled and ready for the adventure. At the same time I wanted to explore the start-up scene in Silicon Valley and get some first hands-on experience in the marketing world. So I started applying. Most of the start-ups there either did not have the job ads I was looking for or required a US citizenship/work permit. I couldn’t offer neither of it. I had to find a start-up with my envisioned internship opening that would at the same time organize a work permit for me. My chances seemed slim, but I got started. I wrote to more than 80 start-ups, following the steps described above. I got some rejections, but most of the companies didn’t answer at all. Except for 3. I had a skype interview with all of them and then decided on one.The feedback I got from all three of them: we had to talk to you – your “application” was bold! I spend three wonderful month at WahWah networks, a startup in the heart of San Francisco, gaining first marketing experience while enjoying the bay area life.

So, what are you waiting for? The power is your’s!


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