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Career advancement guide
From getting in the door at your dream job, to crushing your interview.
But, it’s one thing to dream about working there, and another thing altogether to actually land that dream job. Don’t worry, though. Even though real life is not Disneyland, dreams still come true. And we have some practical advice to aid you in making them happen.
Before you can even think of applying for a job at your dream company, you better do some high-quality research. Get your private investigator hat on because you need to know the ins and outs of the company if you want to stand a chance.
You probably already know all about your dream company's offices, with their nap pods, their ping-pong tables, and their brainstorming rooms. But your research shouldn't stop there. You want to find out about their core values, their strong suits, and most importantly, what sets them apart from their competitors. Keep digging for information until you feel as if you’re thinking like an employee.
Places to find this information include their "About Us" page, their "History" page, and the CEO’s biography if they have one. Look at every page on their website to get a real feel of their values as a company, and read recent articles about any initiatives or new campaigns they have launched. This should give you an idea of the type of workers they hire, and some reference points to hit should you land yourself an interview.
The best place to find out about a company's culture is through their social media presence. Beyond the latest news about the company you’ve Googled, you want insights as to how they operate on the inside.
Start with the company’s blog (if they have one). Here you'll find the issues and subjects the company is interested in. You can see how they stand on specific topics and if they're keeping up with industry trends. Gather as much information as possible, and see if you can provide any valuable feedback about their posts.
Another platform to find this information is on their LinkedIn page. Here, you want to look at the type of posts they share. For example, are they the type of company to share more social posts surrounding Mother's Day, or are they sharing their latest sales numbers? This will show if they're a company based on performance, or employee interactions and engagement. Knowing this will let you tweak your approach to make sure you land your dream job.
Lastly, go for their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account. Are they responsive? What voice do they use when speaking to customers? Informal, educational, clever? What type of content do they share on these platforms? The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be.
We all want to think our dream company is always hiring, and they're waiting for us to join them—the key word there being “dream.” The truth is that all companies, even Facebook and Google, go through a financial rollercoaster that affects their hiring process.
If you're looking to join a publicly traded company, you should be able to get a pretty accurate look at their financial health through the "Investor Relations" page on their website. Here is where most large companies share their quarterly reports that include revenue, new products, company risks, and so on. Get an idea of their financial health to see if now is the right time, or if waiting for the next quarter is a smarter move. If your dream job is with a startup, you may be able to find information about their funding online using tools like Crunchbase or reviewing press releases.
Having this information is pure interview gold. When the interviewer sees you're invested in understanding the past, present, and future opportunities of the company, they’ll immediately take you more seriously. Be aware: if the company is going through a financial nightmare, it's probably not the best time to go knocking on their door. Or, perhaps you can show them you'll be a valuable asset as they weather the storm. Again, it’s often all about timing.
Armed with your research and your culture knowledge of the company, it's time for the trickiest part: getting your foot in the door. To make this happen, you must bring your A-game. Gather everything you've learned about the company, because you're about to launch a charm offensive to land that dream job.
Hopefully, you have a friend or acquaintance already working for the company. This is the ideal scenario. If you do, go ahead and ask them how to get "in"—they should be able to provide you with some guidance.
But, because we know it is not always that easy, we can also go to LinkedIn for help. Their system based on degrees of connection will come in handy here. Ideally, you want to find a first-degree connection with someone that works in the company. Here's how to approach them about this subject:
I was hoping to connect if you have some time to chat. I'd really just love to ask a couple of quick questions about your experience working with [Company].
If you don't have a first-degree connection, attempt to contact someone you know who has a direct connection to an employee of the company. You want to approach them as naturally as possible, so they can be confident in connecting you. Here's what you should write in that message:
I hope you’re doing great today. I've been [looking for a new job at dream company]. I noticed that you're connected to [person that works at the company] and was hoping if you could introduce us, or tell me anything else you may know about their hiring process? I’m trying to [find a job there, contact them, or whatever reason you might want to add]. I’d be forever grateful if you can help me with this.
Keep your fingers cross that this will get you that introduction. If you don't hear back from them within at least 3 days, you can send a follow-up email just to check in.
Of course, having some sort of connection to your dream company is not always possible. That's where another LinkedIn networking resource can come to the rescue: LinkedIn Groups. If you belong to one, take some time to investigate the members and see if anyone works or previously worked with your dream company. Here's how to approach them:
We’re members of [Group name] on LinkedIn. I noticed you work for [Company]. I’d love to work there—can I ask you a few questions about their hiring process? Thank you in advance.
Show your interest without asking for too much. Remember, you don't them yet. You want to build trust before asking for an interview or an introduction. Hopefully, they’ll get back to you and you can start the “getting your foot in the door” process.
All this previous work was just to get your foot in the door. Now, it's time to make the final move that will (hopefully) get you in. Brace yourself with confidence and send this:
I’m so glad I connected with you. I saw that [Company] is searching for [Your dream open position or similar one]. Do you know the right person to talk with, so I can get additional information about this position? I might be interested in applying.
After hitting send, keep your fingers crossed until your contact directs you to the right person. If this happens, then you're allowed a celebratory dance because you're officially "in."
The last phase of the process is the most important one. All of your previous work will have been for nothing if you run into problems here. This interview is your endgame, so come prepared.
If you haven't worked on your elevator pitch by now, it’s time to get to work. Everyone looking for their dream job should develop a compelling elevator pitch that demonstrates your unique value, while speaking to the needs of the company. Not to intimidate you, but this is critical. Your interviewer may have reviewed hundreds of resumes and cover letters, and interviewed several other candidates, so you want to make sure you stand out from the competition.
To craft your pitch, I recommend grabbing a pencil, a red pen, and five notecards. Fill out each card with an answer to the following: "Who I Am," "What I Do," "How I Do It," "Why I Do It," and "Who I Do It For."
Go ahead and read them aloud, using the red pen to edit every single word that feels off as you speak it. It needs to be as sharp as a samurai sword. By the end, each card should have one or two sentences that explode with engaging messages.
Once you've written your elevator pitch, you have to practice! But keep in mind, you need to sound natural and feel confident—so don't overdo it. If you’re feeling stressed, it’s time to take a breather. Share your pitch with a friend, or take it for a spin at a local networking event to see how people react. If they’re engaged, you did it.
Lastly, make sure your elevator pitch is different from everyone else’s. Throw in a stat about your performance, or a successful project you contributed to. Anything that sets you apart from the competition is an excellent addition to your pitch.
While this 3-phase plan won't magically land you your dream job, it will help you be more prepared for the quest. Beyond making the connections and improving your networking skills, landing that dream job is not just about being in the right place at the right time. It’s also about dedication and hard work. But, most importantly, it’s about knowing precisely what you want and what your dream job means to you.
Most people forget that a dream job is still a job. And whether you find it by working for a company, or by working for yourself, if your heart isn’t in it, you won’t be satisfied.
Keep the endgame in sight, plan accordingly, and strategize how to get there. To quote Walt Disney, "First, think. Second, dream. Third, believe. And finally, dare."