Weird question — Back when you were in school, did any of your teachers ever (EVER?) talk to you about what it takes to get a good job?

I don’t mean pre-requisites, like “getting into a good college” or “eating your vegetables.” But actually getting into a particular job at a particular company that would pay you in particular money.

For me, the answer is definitely “Uhhh… no.”

So we grow up, go to college, enter the workforce, and have no idea how to get from here (pre-reqs) to there (a job we actually want).

  • Step 1: Acquire pre-reqs

  • Step 2: ???

  • Step 3: PROFIT!

We absorb a mental model subconsciously, which means we lack the conscious ability to question it (cuz we didn’t know we were absorbing it to begin with.)

It’s Just The Way It Is.


You can see this in action whenever a tech company announces a huge round of layoffs, or abruptly vanishes into the ether.

Like in the summer of 2017 when Soundcloud axed a huge portion of their workforce. For a couple of days, you could search “soundcloud” on Twitter and discover a wave of tweets like these:

  • So SoundCloud just laid off 170 people including me… anyone hiring?

  • hello m8s — soundcloud just laid me off and im looking for a job (along with 170 of my friends). anyone hiring? :)

  • I got affected by SoundCloud’s layoffs, so I am looking for a new role in data science or analytics (Berlin or remote). Please RT, DMs open

  • If anyone is hiring Data Scientists, ML Engineers, or Backend Engineers, DM me. Berlin or remote. Layoffs at SoundCloud. Many amazing people

  • I’m looking for a job: FP, Scala, Haskell, distributed systems. DM me!

  • I was laid off from @SoundCloud today! Looking for product roles in Berlin - tons of exp in b2b, API, integrations and stakeholder mgmt <3<3

  • Here’s to 5 years at SoundCloud - met the love of my life & bffs, & learned a lot to boot. If anyone knows jobs in London, lemme know.

I’m sure all these folks are smart, capable, and good at what they do. (And probably somewhat in shock.) I hope they all get great new jobs.

But this is not the way to get a great new job.

It’s normal. It feels like the way to do things. But it’s ass-backwards.

Someone taught them that the way to get a job is to stack up pre-requisites and hope somebody picks you. That employment is a game of kickball. Somebody else decides when and where to play. You line up with all the other kids, try to look good, and hope somebody picks you first. Or at least not last.

“Hi! I’m a round peg! Anybody have a hole for me?”

There is a much, MUCH, MUUUUUUCH better way.

Now, I was only traditionally employed for a short time. And, frankly, I didn’t like it. But — with my background in consulting — I never had any trouble finding a job. Because I didn’t look for a job. In fact, of my 3 traditional jobs, not a single one began as an open position.

I landed all three the same way:

  1. I met people in the industry at meetups and online and, after
  2. proving my usefulness in general conversation and participation (and in one case, consulting for them),
  3. I asked them to make a job for me.

More specifically, I laid out a case:

Here’s how I can help your company, and you specifically. You should hire me.

I argued how my skill set and experience would do great things for their projects. And they made a position for me.

Which means that not only did I get the job, I was the only candidate for it.

Because lots of people look for jobs. But people who proactively consider the company’s problems and make a “consultative” case for how they can help? Virtually nobody does it. If you do that, you win. And you never have to stand in a kickball line-up ever again.

OK, enough about jobs… I don’t write a jobs newsletter.

THIS APPROACH APPLIES TO CREATING AND SELLING PRODUCTS, TOO!

Because of course it does. Humans paying other humans for things — the same economic rules apply, regardless of what the thing is.

The “traditional” model for product development (if there is such a thing) is much like the traditional model for gaining employment:

  • Step 1: Make something “worthy”

  • Step 2: ???

  • Step 3: PRODUCT-MARKET FIT!

You sit down and think:

“I’m gonna make a product management app (resume). It will have these features (pre-requisites). And people will want it! (They’ll hire me.)”

But this thought presumes that, 1. your audience is walking around with a hole they want to fill, 2. shaped like your peg, and 3. with detailed boxes that match your collection of ticks. You’re relying on demand, on pull. On them wanting something in particular, taking the time to really look into what you offer, and judge it the perfect fit.

Which means they’re also looking at all the other pegs and seeing if maybe they fit even better.

First you gotta wait, then you gotta compete.

It’s the kickball line-up all over again.

Of course, there’s a better way to sell your product

First, get in with the decision maker. The person with buying power, access to a credit card, and the ability to decide if they’re going to use it.

Then make a case for your product that is so good — and feels so tailored to them — that the very second they hear about it, they just have to have it. Whether they were looking or not.

Now, I’m not advocating for customer interviews. And cold calling is the worst.

I approach product development the same way I approached job development:

  • Step 1: Find people.

  • Step 2: Get to know their needs.

  • Step 3: Make a sale.

Yes, you got it… that’s the same approach I’ve been teaching for years on my blog, podcasts, guest interviews, and of course in my class, 30x500.

Your product doesn’t have to be super schmexy either. You could say my entire career is based on selling boring ass shit. I’ve used this same approach to sell:

  • plain vanilla JavaScript workshops (no sexy framework)
  • a book on how to tune your web site performance
  • a workshop on how to analyze internet postings (SUPER FUN)
  • a book about how to ship projects
  • a time tracking SaaS
  • a recurring task management SaaS

And so on. Super hawt, right? Haha.

No, I’ve never sold a product that promises to give you a beach body in 14 days, get you laid, make a million bucks, or even just make you a new friend. But I’ve moved millions of dollars worth of products and made thousands of customers very happy with their decision to buy.

And that’s not even counting 30x500, which is by far the sexiest thing I sell.

So, remember:

Don’t cry “I can do x, is anyone hiring?”

Don’t write, “I built a Project Management App, do you want it?”

Don’t pitch, “I wrote a Book About X, do you want it?”

Get in with your audience first.

Then offer them a compelling story about how your product will help them so much, they just can’t pass it up.