Over the course of your career, you will likely encounter certain people, organizations, or causes you want to work for. But what if there aren’t any available job opportunities?
You may think there’s nothing to be done—but there is. Why not pitch yourself for a job that doesn’t exist yet? Here are our best tips for creating and pitching for that nonexistent dream job.
What are you looking for?
Whether you’re scanning the job listings on Idealist.org or looking for more responsibility at work, clarity is your best friend. It’s not enough to know you want a job or that you want a promotion; you need to know what you are looking for. If you know at least some important details—such as your target job title, desired salary, or ideal organization size—that can help you focus and be more discerning about available opportunities, as well as shape what your dream opportunity looks like.
Identify opportunities as a job seeker
Once you know what is important to you, you can identify opportunities that are relevant for you. The best-case scenario is that you find a job description that is an exact or close enough match to what you’re after.
Then there are those other times when you find the right organization, but there are no relevant, open positions. So what can you do?
- Do a deep dive. Research that organization’s projects and pay attention to the ones that pique your interest. Why do these appeal to you?
- Know—and list—your strengths. As a job seeker, you probably already have a good grasp of what your strengths are, but now you’ll need to consider them more specifically. Write down what all your professional strengths are, then circle the ones you actually want to enhance. For instance, your writing and networking abilities could both be strengths, but you may be more interested in networking than writing.
- Identify transferable skills. Are there areas of overlap between your organization research and your strengths? For example, if you are most drawn to donor relationship projects and one of your strengths is networking, your strength could help serve similar project work.
- Make connections. Now, write down what you specifically bring to the table. It’s not enough to jot down “networking.” You want to write down, “I know how to find new prospective donors for this cause and, because of my past outreach experience, can organize and lead a quarterly call to onboard new donors.”
- Design a new job description. Using your research and brainstorming, create a new job description. Include what this job entails, such as qualifications and responsibilities.
Identify opportunities as a current employee
If you are currently an employee who is seeking professional growth, but there are no formal opportunities available, you, too, can do something about it:
- Focus. Because you are already working with an organization, you have had exposure to different aspects of the work being done. Now is the time to ask yourself: What do I want to do more of? Your answer to this question will help you focus on what your potential areas of opportunity could be.
- List your demonstrated strengths. The keyword here is “demonstrated.” How have your strengths supported results at work? Let’s say that social media marketing is one of your strengths, you could have demonstrated this by spearheading a new, engaging campaign for your organization’s annual fundraiser.
- Time to compare. Where is there overlap between what you want to do more of and your demonstrated strengths? Be specific in how you answer this question—it will be the foundation of the new opportunity you’re designing for yourself.
- Design your new job description.
Make your case
Now that you have created your new opportunity, it’s time to pitch yourself for that job that doesn’t exist yet. If you're a job seeker, you should:
- Determine who to contact. Based on what you wrote when you made connections, you will know if there is a specific department you need to appeal to. Study the organization’s website or LinkedIn to figure out who you should email.
- Craft your cover letter. Because you’re pitching yourself for a role that doesn’t exist yet, your cover letter will need to succinctly and unambiguously define what that role is, demonstrate your familiarity with the organization’s work, and how your strengths can support the work.
- Update your resume. Make sure your resume highlights your strengths, especially those strengths you want to continue to focus on, nurture, and that are relevant for the job you’re pitching yourself for.
- Send in your materials and do the requisite follow-up.
And you're already working within the organization, there are a few things you can try:
- Speak to your manager. Whether you schedule an in-person meeting or write an email, don’t be afraid to respectfully ask for what you are looking for. This could be as simple as: “Do you need additional help with the new research project?”
- Highlight your demonstrated strengths. Remind your manager of your value. For example, you could follow up your question with, “I have experience doing research interviews since I’ve been a contributor to Idealist Careers for two years and was a researcher for five years before that.”
- Make their life easier. Let your manager know what you’re willing to do to help them figure out if your help is a value-add. That may mean sharing a copy of a past interview you conducted or suggesting you submit a test interview for evaluation.
Specific, concrete, and strategic
There’s no guarantee that your pitch will succeed. This is especially true when you are pitching yourself for a nonexistent job at a new organization. But that doesn’t mean that your efforts are ever for naught: learning to pitch yourself in this way will help you think more concretely and strategically about what you bring to the table, which can only help you with future applications and interviews.
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Nisha Kumar Kulkarni is a writer and creative coach in New York City. She helps women living with chronic illness and mental health challenges to pursue their passion projects without compromising their health.