How to Land Your Dream Job Without Actively Applying

By
Jeremiah Ajayi

Happiness streaked through me like a comet. I wanted to shout for joy as I could not believe the message I just received. For a moment, it felt like I was floating.

The message read: “Would you like to work for us?”

It was a follow-up to a voice note where the sender informed me that her employer wanted me to join their company full-time. As someone searching for a new career opportunity, the offer was akin to a stab of hope. A bolt from the blue, unfortunately, crushed that hopeful feeling.

After considering the salary, my experience level, and values, I declined the offer of employment. Nonetheless, the opportunity made me recognize a pattern in my career:

I never actively applied for most of my past jobs.

In 2020, for instance, I got three senior role offers which I never sought. As a person living in a country with a 33.3% unemployment rate, I automatically assume I’m lucky to have gotten those opportunities. On second thought, however, I realized I’m not.

I, too, like many unemployed people, have submitted countless job applications only to get crickets. I’m not immune to rejections. The only difference is, I use a method that doesn’t involve blindly submitting resumes on job boards but continually generates job opportunities.

If strategically applied, that method can help you to get lucky with your job search too. What’s this method, anyway?

Permissionless employment.

Here’s a four-word summary of the entire Permissionless Employment concept:

Adding value without permission.

As a permissionless employee, you don’t go about looking for a job description that fits your skills. Instead, you take charge by creating your own description, then doing the hard work of getting noticed for the skills included in the created description.

By becoming a permissionless employee, you’re volunteering to be an unpaid employee to someone. This person can be your potential customer, a revered figure, or your dream employer. In the course of your unpaid unemployment, you’ll need to bring your A-game and consistently deliver value even if it goes unnoticed for a while.

If you’re lucky enough, you might get hired on the spot. In the worst-case scenario, the best you might receive is exposure. Whatever the outcome, it’s a win-win situation because your work ultimately belongs to your portfolio, and you’re leaving career footprints that would stand the test of time.

If you think the permissionless employment strategy is a get-a-job-quick scheme, I recommend you stop reading this article immediately. Seriously. The strategies you’re about to read will require effort. They’re not “hacks” and I’m no guru.

“The strategies you’re about to read will require effort. They’re not “hacks” and I’m no guru.”

— Jeremiah Ajayi

If you’re still reading, I commend you because you’re one step closer to getting job opportunities without actively applying. Before you leverage the permissionless employment concept, there are four questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What unique skills do I possess that can add value?
  • What projects, industries, and subjects am I most passionate about?
  • Who are the top three people I would love to work with/for?
  • What’s my ideal job description?
  • What small tasks can I start with to leverage my skill set and add value to the previously identified industries, people, and projects?

Here’s a template I designed to help you with this process. Once you identify your answers, it’s time to apply any of the following ideas:

Share your professional knowledge and advice for free

Whether they work at big tech or are simply the average Joe, your desired employer, mentor, or client is somewhere on the internet. Ergo, when you consistently share expert knowledge and experiences that improve their lives, they’re most likely to recognize, approach, and possibly hire you. Not so fast, though...

Because there’s an information overload epidemic, it’s easy for your shared knowledge and experience to get lost in the noise. To avoid this, you need to adopt an angle that differentiates you from other people in your field.

That angle can be your approach to topics (do you break it down or keep it complex?) or your content style. A real-life example of someone who adopts a unique approach to his content is Fadesere Dimeji (known as @dimejistories on Instagram). Through humor and interesting storytelling, Dimeji shares his knowledge and experience distinctively.

Another way to stand out when sharing your knowledge at no cost is to be useful. When people ask you questions privately, establish trust and become useful by answering their questions in the best way possible. For the frequently asked questions, dedicate a series of content to answering them. Don’t ghost people, except they’re plain freaks or asking lazy questions.

“Don’t ghost people, except they’re plain freaks or asking lazy questions.”

— Jeremiah Ajayi

Give away your best work for free

Apart from the weekly threads and resources I share on social media, I’ve written a couple of free ebooks. This isn’t because I’m a socialist who detest profit-making. Heck, “I might just be a black Bill Gates in the making” is my favorite lyric of all time. However, giving your best value away for free, especially at the start of your career, helps in impressing the people who matter. I experienced this firsthand.

When I gave away my first ebook, I got nothing but crickets in the first four months. The next months, however, blew my mind as I enjoyed a refined reputation, rewarding relationships, and a wider clientele base. To crown it all, that free ebook serves as a rich reference point in my writing career.

All in all, I profited from the books despite not turning a profit.

Similarly, if you’re a job/gig seeker, you can increase your luck by packaging your knowledge into a digital product (read: an ebook, course, or a video) and offer it at little or no cost. While this advice works best for freelancers, it doesn’t exempt people seeking 9 to 5 opportunities.

For example, if you’re a young auditor seeking a position in any of the big 4, you can write a short auditing ebook, start a finance newsletter, interview top auditors, and share the outcome with your professional network. If you do this smartly, you’ll capture the attention of your dream company’s employers.

Whatever you do, ensure you don’t just give away your best work. Make sure the relevant people in your industry see and amplify it.

“Don’t just give away your best work. Make sure the relevant people in your industry see and amplify it.”

— Jeremiah Ajayi

Go the extra miles when volunteering

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Jonathan Javier, CEO of Wonsulting, had approached me in need of some SEO advice. I agreed to a free consultancy call which knocked the socks off him.

But I didn’t stop there. A day after the call, I sent Jonathan a SMART, implementable SEO strategy which left him in awe.

He didn’t expect the extra, excellent service, and I’ve been on top of his mind ever since even to the point of me joining the Wonsulting team. Guess who works as the SEO Strategist at Wonsulting now?

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When you start to share your knowledge, experience and work on the internet, you’ll get several opportunities to offer your services on a voluntary basis. Don’t take such opportunities for levity. Deliver just as you would deliver if it were a paid job.

Many people don’t expect free services to blow their minds. Exploit this low expectancy by going above and beyond. For example, if you’re a marketer and someone in your target audience asks you for marketing advice, don’t just advise him/her. Go the extra mile by providing a customizable marketing strategy. More often than not, that will convert the inquirer to a paying client.

If you join a team as a volunteering member, don’t be a slacker. Commit and do your work so well the organization would wish they could pay you. By sticking to excellence, you earn referrals because your expertise can be vouched for.

“If you join a team as a volunteering member, don’t be a slacker. Commit and do your work so well the organization would wish they could pay you.”

— Jeremiah Ajayi

This strategy can set you up for sabotage and exploitation, though. For this reason, set a boundary - a limit to the number of free services you can offer. Then shamelessly and unapologetically commit to it.

“Set a limit to the number of free services you can offer. Then shamelessly and apologetically commit to it. ”

— Jeremiah Ajayi

Solve the pressing problems of your target market unsolicitedly

This permissionless employment idea has worked effortlessly for many people.

Earlier, you identified the top three people you want to work with or for. Now it’s time to identify their top three problems. What key problems are they experiencing, and how can you solve them? Once you identify these, devote your time to solving a particular problem and notify the problem owner once you create a solution.

For example, if you’re a UX designer and would love to work for XYZ company. You can get yourself a job without applying by finding a problem with XYZ’s website design and prototyping a possible solution.

No matter how good your solutions might be, your email might not get opened if the recipient doesn’t know you. To prevent this from happening, create a sense of familiarity before you send a cold email. Here are a few pointers for achieving this:

Get their attention by actively engaging their content online. For example, if your dream employer or client writes a LinkedIn post, drop a brilliantly written comment that adds to his/her point, Appreciate their craft by sending thoughtful messages to them, Make contacts with someone in their network.

When you try any of these suggested methods, your cold email is more likely to get answered.

When solving problems unsolicitedly, don’t attach so much importance to the outcome. Like any other person, the problem owner is most likely busy with other life happenings and might not appreciate receiving emails from strangers. So don’t overthink this. After all, whether the person acknowledges your help or not, the work you did forever belongs in your portfolio and can always be used as a reference point.

“When solving problems unsolicitedly, don’t attach so much importance to the outcome. ”

— Jeremiah Ajayi

Permissionless employment is not a silver bullet. Each of the strategies discussed in this article requires courage, grit, and iteration. If a strategy doesn’t work for you, keep revisiting the board room and improving until the job opportunities start coming, even when you don’t apply.

Jeremiah Ajayi is a Writer, Content Marketer, and an SEO Consultant. His goal as a writer is simple: share ideas that help Gen Zs and Millennials win at work and life. He is in charge of SEO strategy and implementation at Wonsulting.

Jeremiah Ajayi
SEO Strategist

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