Recently I’ve heard a few women talk about how they pitched their current jobs. As a typically rule-bound female, this came as a surprise. Pitch a job? It would never have occurred to me. Still, knowledge is power. Perhaps it’s not too late.
Jessica Bennett is a journalist in her early 30s. She lost her last job earlier this year, but she was luckier than most: She got a call from the patron saint of women in the workplace, Sheryl Sandberg. She soon found herself interviewing at Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation.
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“I knew they had education and PR needs,” says Bennett. “Neither was a perfect fit for me. So I pitched an editorial job and wrote up a 10-page memo,” explaining how she thought LeanIn.org could tap into its community. Lean In invented a position for her.
Conjuring up the job you want is far more common than some of us may think, but according to Allison Hemming, CEO of placement agency The Hired Guns, you have to be judicious. When you go for an interview, you can’t forget you’re auditioning for a particular spot. “You have to know what the company’s pain points are.” So don’t start by enumerating all the extra things you can do (or would rather do); gain the trust of the interviewer first. Listening to and questioning your interviewer, according to Hemming, “is the most under-utilized skill set when it comes to job hunting.”
“Companies are hiring for the first time in several years,” she says. “They want a lot of things.” Meaning, you have a good chance of getting what you want, if you go about it right.
Hemming says it’s key to address “fixing the core things” the company needs. “But while you’re in the interview, look for cues and signals: laughing, smiling, nodding. It’s just like a date — you know when it’s going well.” When those signals are in place, you have a chance to say that you’ve been thinking about the business, and there are some additional things you’d like to explore.
She has one more tip for anyone itching to move. “Think about companies you love that drive you crazy, and how you’d fix them.” Write those things down and think about them — a lot. It’s a question, she says, of convincing the interviewer that by doing something slightly different than advertised, “you can get them there faster.”
—Ashley Milne-Tyte is a radio producer and reporter based in New York City. She hosts a bimonthly podcast called The Broad Experience about women in the workplace. Hear more from Jessica Bennett in Episode 26, "Get ahead. No Guilt" below.