The best people that’ll help you get your dream job: those who already have it.
You’ve made a list of career paths that you want to try out. You’ve done some quick research and ruled out most of the careers narrowing you down to 3-5 careers. Now you need to do proper investigation to see which career path you want to test first and how. How? By talking to someone who’s already done it.
The book Designing Your Life calls this a Life Design interview, because you’re talking to others who will help you design your life by sharing their own experiences. It’s an informal interview where you learn about the story of the person… along with a hidden perk… which we’ll talk about later 😛.
What is a Life Design interview and why it’s useful
A Life Design interview is meeting for coffee ☕ (or drinks or anything) with someone who’s in a career you’re interested in doing yourself. You ask about their story, how they got to where they are now and what it’s like to work at their job/activity. This is extremely useful when it comes to understanding more about a job. Not only do you learn about what the job actually entails, but you also learn about the very important ‘hygiene factors’; are the co-workers nice, are you overworked, is it easy to get a promotion, etc.
This is extremely useful information to you, but you might be thinking; why on Earth would this (usually) complete stranger want to meet me for coffee and talk to me about their job?
It’s simple; first of all, you’re not asking them for a job, you’re asking about their story. You’re inviting them to coffee to talk about themselves. Everyone enjoys talking about themselves, and if on top of that they feel they’re helping someone else… why not? 🤷♀️
If you’re walking on the street and someone stops by in a car, rolls down the window and says ‘Excuse me, can you tell me where the next petrol stop is?’, will you feel they’re taking advantage of you? Will you feel they’re asking too much? No, you give them directions and then feel good that you helped someone else. This is the same. We all need directions when it comes to choosing a career, and someone already in place can help.
Life Design interviews are key to helping you understand your working world. On your way to building career capital, you want to be doing as many Life Design interviews as possible. But before talking about the hidden benefit, I’ll give an example of how to get those interviews, so you know how to get started.
Conducting a Life Design interview
Personally, there are 4 career paths that I’m interested in following: freelance journalism, consulting, working for a startup and working for an NGO.
Here’s what I did to schedule 1 Skype interview with a freelance journalist, 3 with startup employees, 1 with an NGO employee and 3 with content writers. I’ll use the freelance journalist as an example:
- First I researched ‘freelance journalists’ in my area (Edinburgh) in Google. For startups I looked up something simple like ‘Best startups in Edinburgh’.
- By clicking around and searching, I found some names and popped them into LinkedIn. When it was a company, I put the company in LinkedIn and then went to ‘People’.
- I put the names that interested me into LinkedIn, and then sent them a message along the lines of ‘I’m interested in what you do, I’d love to hear your story, would you be open to meeting for coffee?’
- Of those who responded, we would then arrange to meet for coffee.
- When meeting, I came with prepared questions on their story and their job.
I contacted 40 people and ended up meeting 8 for coffee. There is a little bit of upfront work involved in doing the research, but these kind of interviews are an excellent way to get a peep into a potential job.
I learnt a lot from the different interviews I did:
- I finally understood what business development means and why it’s a position I’d really like to try
- I learnt about the importance of LinkedIn marketing
- I learnt how much a freelance writer based in Edinburgh could really make
- I was warned against going into freelance journalism because of the low pay
- I learnt about the day to day tasks of working for an NGO
I had a lot of fun doing those interviews and learning about people’s careers. My questions ranged from ‘Did you need a degree to get to where you are now?’ to ‘What do you wish you had done differently?’ and ‘How can others get into a similar career?’. Some truly fascinating stuff came up.
Oh and something else…
The hidden benefit: trust
Just by meeting someone for coffee and asking about their story, you’re making a trusted connection. It’s networking, but with a better purpose – you’re after their story, not the connection. But the great thing that comes with networking well and making connections is that suddenly very interesting opportunities start popping up.
Think about it, only 30% of jobs in the world are posted online. Of those 30%, applications are all made online and reviewed by a robot. And even then, most employers are after the wrong thing – they think they want the highest skilled, when really they want the one with most grit and drive. The robot does finds the highest skilled, but not the one that fits best into the company.
The point is that most jobs in the job market are hidden. The other point is that meeting a connection for coffee is getting to know a job without presenting a CV. You wouldn’t know that they happen to have an opening for an internship and you could be a candidate unless you met with them. Maybe they know could even offer you a job, or know someone else who could. The hidden benefit of these Life Design interviews is that you’re also opening yourself up to a potential job, or a potential opportunity to work with someone.
But it’s important not to ask for a job, since the purpose of the interview then is completely different. When meeting with your future contact, you’re meeting to hear their story, to see if this is a career path you could potentially follow. And then when you least expect it, something interesting comes your way.
These interviews not only will help you figure out your career path, but you might even get a job in the process. This is a real strategy to getting a job. I’ve been given some great advice from the people I interviewed, and was offered several interesting opportunities, even though a job isn’t exactly on my radar at the moment.What career paths are you interested in? Would you be able to contact the employees working at your ‘dream company’?