be persistent in your career

Published on May 18, 2020

Be persistent in your career.

Last year, I wrote dozens of cold emails and Tweets to people for whom I wanted to work. In each email, I gave a quick elevator pitch, and then I outlined the specific ways in which I could help the business achieve their goals.

I was doing things that didn’t scale. I had to put effort into each and every email. I had to research the company, figure out what they were looking for, and tailor each email to the individual company. There was no guarantee that a founder or employee would even read my email; I was sending them with blind faith that someone would read one.

What I learned in doing this was that the key to building a career in tech is to be persistent.

When you are young, you may lack the credentials that you think you need to break into technology. You don’t actually need credentials though: you need to be able to prove your worth to other people.

Proving your worth is a two-step challenge. The first challenge is to get people to listen to you, and this is the stage at which most people give up. You send a few emails, don’t hear back from anyone, and think that you are wasting your time.

If you give up at this stage, you’ll never be able to find the job that you want. You need to be persistent, and keep pushing forward.

I was talking with a friend yesterday who said that he “wouldn’t take no for an answer” when it came to finding an internship. He kept following up with companies. He kept pushing to get the positions that he wanted.

Did he succeed? Yes, he did. The reason why he succeeded was not just that he had the skills, but that he was willing to be persistent. To the extent that he could, he saw every “no” as an opportunity to convince someone that he was valuable. He didn’t give up after the first “no,” or the second “no,” and so on.

Looking back at how I started in tech, I realize I had a similar experience. I remember writing a three page document on how I could help a company achieve their goals. They didn’t hire me. To get the job I have today, I wrote two long-form pieces of content, and worked as hard as I could to demonstrate my value. The founders were interested, and hired me.

Like anything in careers, you only need to hear one “yes.” Only one person needs to see your value, and if that person is convinced that you have something that nobody else does, you will be hired. You’ll be employed.

Especially in the startup world, you need to be persistent. Being persistent means following up when people don’t respond. It means asking people why they said “no,” and trying to figure out ways to convince them that they should reconsider their position. The more persistent you are, the more likely people are going to listen to you.

As I mentioned earlier, proving your worth is a two step challenge. The first step is getting people to listen to you. If you get the attention of someone, then you need to do the work of convincing them that you are right for the job. But getting their attention is half the battle, and if you pique someone’s interest, you are already on your way to getting the job you want.

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Made by @jamesg_oca. Code on GitHub.