How to get your next role when you have no connections

Karen X. Cheng, is amazing. She hustled and landed a job as project manager at Microsoft. Then she got bored and taught herself to design. When that wasn’t enough, she taught herself to dance in a year.

Below is an excerpt from her blog. You can check out more of her stuff at


How to get a job when you have no connections

The best way to get a job is to know someone who works there, or know someone who knows someone. That’s how I got the job at Exec – A mutual friend made the intro to the Exec team. But what if you don’t know someone?

I spent the last few months job hunting, sending out resumes and emails. For most of the companies I applied to, I had no connections. But I did discover a pretty reliable way of getting a job (or at least an interview) with zero connections…

Here’s what you can do if you want a job, but have no connections:

1. Show them what’s unique about you

Riding in on a horse was brilliant because not only was it unexpected, it also told us more about Lindzi – she loves horses. It made her easier to remember and it gave the Bachelor an easy conversation topic to open with.

What are you passionate about? Are you musical? Write a song about the company and send them a video of you singing or rapping it. Like to bake? Send them a homemade cake decorated with the company’s name and your contact info. Love to run? Use a phone GPS running app to draw your route on a map, then go to a large field and run a path in the shape of the company’s logo. You get the idea – anything goes.

2. Do something that obviously took a lot of effort and time
When someone does something for you, you tend to want to do something for them. This is the basic human principle of reciprocity. But you can’t do this with money or gifts (like sending the recruiter a bottle of wine). That feels kind of dirty, like a bribe. So money isn’t your currency – time is.

When a recruiter or hiring manager sees that you’ve spent all this time applying to their company, they are much more open to give 30 minutes of their time to interview you. In fact, they’d probably feel guilty declining an interview at this point. As a bonus, the interviewer already knows that you’re a hardworking person before the interview even starts.

3. Show that you can do the job
The first two things will get you an interview, but they won’t get you the job. To get the job, you’ve got to show your future employer that you can do the job. Don’t wait until you’ve been hired – start doing the job now. Applying for a web developer position? Give the existing website a facelift. Marketing position? Put together a marketing plan.

And you can mix and match – maybe do one thing to show what’s unique about you, and another to show your ability to do the job.

I admit, this sounds like a lot of work. I’ve spent 100 hours preparing for a job interview before. I did this for Microsoft Excel three years ago and it paid off – I got the job. But I’ve also spent 100 hours preparing for a job that I didn’t get. Rejection hurt, especially when I’d put in that kind of effort, but I’m glad I did it. Better to know I gave it my all than to wonder what if.

Some people have told me that putting in this kind of effort for one company is ridiculous, but I think it’s pretty reasonable. You’ve probably spent 100 hours working on a project for a job you already have (that’s only 2 and a half weeks at a full time job). Why not do it for your dream job?

Above all else…
The best way to get a job is still through a personal connection. I found LinkedIn to be great for this – when I found a company I was interested in, I’d search for the company name on LinkedIn and look for 2nd or 3rd degree connections. I found intros that way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Don’t be shy about the fact that you’re looking for a job. Let your friends and family know that you’re looking, and let them know what you’re looking for. You never know who might know someone. Life is better when you help manufacture some of your own serendipity.


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