# 1 Piece of Advice For Hacking the Job Search After College
Make one up.
You think I'm kidding but I'm not. To be clear, I don't mean "lie on your resume." I mean if there is a job you want, but you don't have the background to get hired for it, figure out a way to do it on your own. Volunteer, create an independent study, do a project around the topic which necessitates interviewing professionals in that industry - anything that gains you insight and experience in the field.
In doing so, you will also be demonstrating another crucial skill employers and investors look for - self drive. Because despite how much you hear about the jobs of the future being unpredictable and skills becoming obsolete over time, self drive is not something that will ever cease being important. One could even argue that the way our labor market is changing makes self-drive absolutely essential to future workers.
Let me give you an example of what I mean "make one up." I did three independent studies. One in undergrad and two in business school. The beauty of the independent study is that as long as you can reasonably tie it in to something covered in existing curriculum, you get a lot of room to define how you are spending your ‘for credit’ time. And when it is over, you have something super interesting to add to your resume.
I used my independent studies as a trojan horse into companies I was interested in working for post graduation. Given that you are still a student, they don’t see you as threatening. You have no incentive to share secrets or strategies with their competitors. You’re just a kid, doing academic school work. It is a lot easier to get a response when you say, “Hi, I’m a student at X University, doing research on Y topic. Would you be willing to have a brief call with me to discuss this?” than it is to say, “Hi. I need a job. Will you look at my resume, even though you don’t know me?”
Below are a few tricks of the trade for designing an independent study of your own:
- Base your independent study or project title on keywords associated with the job you want. The topic should directly align with skills and knowledge needed for the post-graduation role you are seeking. Even if you have no experience in that field, you begin to build a base in that field.
- Consider where the field is going and focus your research on that. In business school, I was interested in Strategy and Marketing. I was at school in LA, so I knew a lot of companies were struggling with the transition from traditional to new media. I focused my independent study on new media strategy, so I had an easy intro to the types of companies I was interested in working at. While in undergrad at Cornell, I was taking a class on Organizational Behavior. I knew the biggest companies in the field were struggling with M&A Integration, so I centered my independent study on that. Those bullets on my resume got a disproportionate amount of attention when I started interviewing for jobs after graduation.
- Work with a professor whom you admire and respect. Bonus points if they have connections in the field you want to go in. In business school, my favorite Professor was Sanjay Sood. I had T/A’d for his Strategic Marketing class and knew that in addition to his wide expertise and innovative style, he was a relaxed and well liked guy. I extrapolated that the people in his network may share those attributes. And this assumption proved to be true. His introductions resulted in me getting an internship with an incredible company that many my fellow peers with experience in that industry (that I didn’t have) would have loved to work for.
- Reach out to companies in advance to find out their pain points. If you are relatively new to a field, take the time to do your homework. Find out which knowledge and skills sets are most in-demand. Your career services office can assist. Or, if you have contacts in your network, ask them. Once you have a picture of the industry, it is easier to direct your attention to the most interesting areas.
- Leverage your findings. Once you have completed your study, reach back out to your contacts. Share with them what you have found. Offer to come in and share your findings with their team. Showcase your work in a way that shows rather than tells what you are capable of. A piece of work is much more compelling than the business cards, resumes, and cover letters we normally depend upon to get a foot in the door.
If this feels to intimidating, start small. Join Quora and follow the professional topics you are interested in. Weigh in on the discussions. Try your hand at answering some. Do the same on Reddit. Don't wait for someone to hire you to do the work you want. Just start doing it.
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