5 Moderately Difficult Steps To Creating Your Own Position

Submitting online applications into the infinite internet void wasn’t working. I decided it was time to try creation instead of application.

Photo: Doug Wertman/Flickr

I was skeptical when I first read Jen Dziura’ s philosophy that the best opportunities do not have applications. Making my own opportunities and bypassing the system sounded fantastic, but I had doubts about how realistic this strategy was for me. I’m young, not an expert in anything, and I have little experience. However, submitting online applications into the infinite internet void wasn’t working. I decided it was time to try creation instead of application.

Talking to Jen Dziura About When to Quit Your Job

Fast forward a few months: Now, I’m in the midst of creating three full-time job opportunities for myself. The three positions I created were: head of a cancer non-profit, a position I can best describe as “goat coordinator,” and a traffic coordinator at a trendy ad agency (yes, I do contain multitudes). And if I could create multiple opportunities, so can you! In just five moderately difficult steps, you too can create your own position:

Step 1: Have a Good Reputation

Here’s a harsh truth: It will be nearly impossible to create your own position if you are an awful person. No one will advocate for you, let alone hire you. Reputation is even more important when creating a new position because it requires more trust. The best way to build a solid reputation is to be kind and competent in all aspects of your life. Hopefully this is not a revelation to anyone.

Step 2: Make Contact With Prospective Employers

One simple but effective way to make contact is to create a list of all the companies and organizations you admire. I found that discovering where I would like to work besides “anywhere but here” was surprisingly difficult. Once you have that list, reach out to these companies. Make it clear that you want to be involved in any way with what they are doing. Show your wild enthusiasm for this organization; don’t play it cool.

In any job search, whether you’re seeking opportunities with or without applications, you must let it be known you are looking. While on the hunt, I put all of my friends and acquaintances on high alert and told them I was looking for a new job. They in turn recommended me to people they knew at various organizations. I’ve found through this job-creating journey that companies want good, vouched-for people; often they’ll find work for you to do after they’ve found you.

In order for this method to be effective, it’s important to have a wide network of friends and acquaintances. Let me be clear: I do not believe in the modern-day definition of “networking.” The word “networking” evokes sleazy suits and uncomfortable events with shitty cheese plates. Every official networking event I’ve attended was a total waste of time. I never want to tug on a scratchy pant suit to collect business cards again. I do not believe in networking.

However, I do believe in being involved in your community and industry. Volunteer for programs you’re passionate about, attend community events, hang out where people you want to be like hang out. And then talk to the people at these places. Being engaged with the wider world is good and healthy, even if you’re a ridiculous introvert like myself who panics before making small talk with a cashier.

In order to prove the old adage, it’s not what you know, but who you know, I’m going to list the exact connections that have led to job opportunities:

  • My friend’s coworker’s girlfriend’s brother
  • A fellow community activist’s religious center
  • A fellow attendee at a film festival’s sister’s company
  • My friend’s boss’s friend.
  • My former coworker’s (from the religious center—TRIPLE network) friend’s company

Step 3: Create Your Position

Now that you’ve made contact, and the organization is open to creating a new position for you, it’s time to create a plan. You’ll likely be asked to create a job description, job proposal, or business plan. I’ve learned through trial and error that it’s important to be extremely detailed and ambitious in these documents. Show them why they need you, solve their problems, and use pie charts. Send it to them as soon as possible to show how wonderfully competent you are. And splurge at FedEx to get it on fancy paper if they want a physical copy.

Step 4: The Waiting Game

You’ve submitted your mind-blowing proposal. But now the head honchos need to decide if it’s worth creating this new position. Several people need to read and analyze your proposal, make edits, etc. This period seems to take twelve eternities. People at the top are busy and creating a new position is more effort for the organization than copying and pasting old job descriptions. Keep in touch by emailing every week or so, unless they’ve given you a date by which you’ll be notified. In my case, it took months before I was offered a position.

Step 5: Go Hard or Go Home

The organization has just called to let you know YOU’VE GOT THE JOB! Now you must spend the next few months working your ass off to prove they’ve made the right decision. Make yourself indispensable and prove that the creation of your position was necessary.

Or maybe you’re rejected. In that case, write them an impeccably gracious note thanking them for their time and reiterating how wonderful their organization is. I’ve been hired after being officially rejected twice. I like to think it’s because of my notes.

The process of creating my own positions has been much more exciting than the typical job application process. I feel much more in control and I like the collaborative relationship this process fosters. I’ve also mastered the art of advocating for myself and marketing my abilities. No matter how this wacky job search ends, I’m glad to have gained this skill.

Spoiler Alert: I have accepted a position working with a goat herd to remove invasive plants. This is my ideal job and I can’t wait to start! Dreams really do come true, but you’re not likely to find them on Craigslist. Create them instead.

Rachel Ahrnsen lives in the unexpected paradise of Birmingham, Alabama. She writes half as much as she reads.


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