When I first graduated college, there were few jobs available. It was a bummer, as just a couple of years earlier, a bunch of my friends were getting signing bonuses for their first job after graduation.
The existing jobs were hotly contested, with often hundreds of applications. I had about a zero percent chance of getting one of those posted jobs as my prospective future employer also had to sponsor my work permit. Applying for actual jobs wasn't a path available to me. So, I contacted senior executives directly to set up an informational interview. It worked. I got hired as an unpaid intern working directly for the company's president. That ultimately paid off, as a few months later, I got hired as a "paid" full-time employee, complete with a work permit.
When others zigged, I had to zag.
And it kept working.
As I started my career, everyone wanted to do the kind of widely seen and admired advertising - speak TV, print, or outdoor ads. Nobody wanted to work on anything that had to do with the Internet. It's understandable: world-class creatives don't want to do banner or search ads.
Not only did I have zero drive to create television ads, but I also didn't have the necessary skill set or experience. However, marketing on the Internet made sense to me and was something I had been playing around with during college. I leaned into it and eventually sold a client to start a blog. It was a big hit, and my career as a digital marketer started.
When everyone else zigged, I zagged. Not because I knew something others didn't, but because I couldn't compete in the game everyone else was playing.
Here is why this is an important lesson. Too often in life, we follow the herds. And whenever you're following herds, you will compete with many people. Not getting trampled will be hard. Coming out ahead will be near impossible.
- When everyone emails, make a phone call.
- When everyone calls, shoot a text.
- When everyone swipes on Tinder, tell your friends you're single and ask them to keep an eye out for you.
- When everyone applies for the same job, try informational interviews with people at companies that are not hiring.
- When everyone struggles to find parking, walk. Or ride a bike. Parking won't be an issue regardless.
Rather than figure out how to compete with other people, look for opportunities to zag and play a different game altogether.
You want blue ocean ahead of you.
When the world zigs, see if you can find an opportunity to zag.
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