Try the Opposite


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Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Work Week, started out after college in a job he hated. He sat in a cubicle “Smiling and dialing,” making cold sales calls to busy executives. It was hard work, with practically a zero success rate. Then he had an epiphany:

One day, I realized something: All of the sales guys made their sales calls between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Obvious, right? But that’s part one. Part two: I realized that all of the gatekeepers who kept me from the decision makers—CEOs and CTOs—also worked from 9 to 5. What if I did the opposite of all the other sales guys, just for 48 hours? I decided to take a Thursday and Friday and make sales calls only from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 6 to 7:30 p.m. For the rest of the day, I focused on cold emails. It worked like gangbusters. The big boss often picked up the phone directly.

He tweaked some other techniques in the same way, and it paid off. “My last quarter in that job, I outsold the entire L.A. office of our biggest competitor.”

If you’re in a job search, you may have the idea that you should be looking for jobs. What if, instead, you flipped the script and forgot about jobs? What if you spent your energy finding a company you wanted to work for, regardless if they have any openings that fit you – or even, any openings at all?

That’s the theory Brad Raney proposes. He’s a motivational speaker, author, sales trainer, and life coach. He spent over 25 years in sales and sales management in the broadcast industry before becoming a speaker and author. His theory on job search strategy is that culture is the most important factor in your career satisfaction. “Find a great company that you want to be a part of, then figure out where you’ll fit in.”

Raney coaches candidates to get to know people inside the company to learn what it’s really like to work there. Make a connection and ask for a few minutes of their time to learn  more about what they do and how they like the company. If they ask about your interest, you can say that you’re not sure yet, but the company may be someplace you want to work. You’re looking for a fit, and people are the best source of information.

Eventually, as your form relationships, you’ll get closer to someone in the company who can help you out with connections that might have opportunities for you. You’ll get information you’ll never get from a job posting. “Karen in the hiring manager, and she’s incredibly hard working.  She’s at her desk every morning at 6:30, thinking about how to improve her team. That’s a great time to reach her for a conversation.” (Tim Ferris nods wisely.)

Brad Raney says that most jobseekers focus too much on their prior experience and skills. They also let the company drive the interview.  “After the first screening all and serious interview,” he says, “You should be asking the questions.” Come in with a list of 10 – 20 thoughtful and detailed questions that will give you the information you need to make a decision about the company. “I see that you’re planning an expansion into Canada over the next two years. How does that impact your logistics operations?” “What’s the biggest problem facing your staff this year? How do you see me helping with it?”

These kind of questions help the interviewer see you in the role, Raney says. “I’ve had people say ‘it feels like you work here already.’ If the company is that good a fit for you, you will seem like you belong there.”

The idea of doing the opposite works to help you get unstuck in your job search. Instead of pursuing only jobs that meet your requirements, you are free to interview for any job that lands you in the right company. If an interviewer says you may be overqualified for the position, you can flip your response. “Thanks – I hope I am. I’d still like a chance to work for you – this seems like a place that values real talent. If not this job, I hope you’ll keep me top of mind for anything else that comes up.”

What else could you flip the script on?  Leave a comment and let me know.

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One thought on “Try the Opposite

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