November 10, 2008

Go big.

When people ask me how I’ve been relatively lucky when it comes to my career and the opportunities I’ve had, I always tell them it’s because I’ve got great people around me and because of the law of large numbers.

Yup, the law of large numbers. Here’s an example of the law in action:

Say there are a hundred pretty women at the bar, and you’re unhappily single. The law of large numbers says that if you try and chat up all hundred of them (one at a time, discreetly and appropriately, of course) you’ve got a better chance of getting one of their phone numbers than if you just talked to two of them. Apparently, it has something to do with odds, but math was never my forte.

Silly example, perhaps, but the concept is an important one: the law of large numbers opens up more opportunities.

Don’t pre-screen yourself.

Sure, the advantages behind the law of large numbers seem evident, but just this week I’ve talked to two people who have flagrantly disregarded the law in their job searches.

Apparently, people pre-screen themselves much to closely for a job.

Now, I’m all in favor of doing some research and ruling out a position because you feel it would be a bad match for you, or you won’t be comfortable in the work environment, or even if you feel as if you won’t be sufficiently challenged. I’m not in favor of ruling out a position because you only have four years of experience and the job spec is asking for five.

If you honestly feel like you can do the job and do it well (and that you’ll enjoy and thrive in the work atmosphere), apply. Don’t pre-screen yourself. The human resources pros are paid to screen applicants, so keep them busy.

Don’t let minor qualifications get in your way. Too many people hold themselves back from opportunities because they underestimate their skills and experiences — in job searching or elsewhere. Apply to and immerse yourself in opportunities where you feel you can make a difference.

People will say no.

Sure, you’re going to have to deal with rejection. A whole lot of rejection.

Get used to it.

Every no you get is one step closer to getting a yes. If you stop after getting your first no, then you’re never going to get a yes. It’s that simple.

Just make sure you’re not the person looking in the mirror and saying no. If you know that you can do something, eventually someone else will notice it too.

There’s no harm in putting yourself out there.

In high school, I applied to 18 universities instead of 3 like everyone else. Before I launched my freelance career and I was still in school, I applied to a different job every week. Sometimes two or three.

I didn’t get in to all of the universities where I sent an application. I didn’t get most of the jobs I applied to. I did, however, get into a great school and end up with a few great jobs because I didn’t let the fear of not being qualified enough stop me from trying.

Go big. Think big. Remember the law of large numbers.

And when you finally get that job (or that phone number of that pretty girl at the bar) after 47 attempts and applications, let me know and I’ll take you out for lunch to celebrate.