3 Easy Tricks for Getting a White House Job (or Any Dream Job)

Boss shouting at employeeHave you ever had a job you HATED? I think we all have.

Maybe you couldn’t stand your colleagues. Or maybe the boss sucked.

Or maybe the work was so boring you wanted to slam your head against the wall.

I know I have had jobs like that.

If I’ve just described your job situation, then listen up: it doesn’t have to be that way.

You don’t have to dread Monday mornings.

You don’t have to daydream about the weekends or count down the minutes until 5 o’clock.

You can actually get not just a good job but the job of your dreams, even if you didn’t get the best grades, don’t have the best work history and don’t have high-level connections.

I get asked about how to get a great job all the time, because I was really fortunate to land my “dream job” at 23 – as a Writer in the Clinton White House – even though I didn’t go to an Ivy League school and I was never a straight-A student.

I actually had to do kindergarten TWICE and I went to a college that is mostly known as a party school.

(Seriously… when was the last time you met someone who flunked kindergarten? How bad do you have to color outside the lines in order for the teachers to say “yeah, I don’t think John’s ready to start working with paste.”)

In fact, when the FBI agents were interviewing me for my background check for the White House, and they were asking me about drinking in college, one of them actually asked me if I had a drinking problem in college. True story.

So today I want to share a few job search strategies you can use that helped me land my “dream job” at 23 years old.

These same strategies helped me to get a job working for Steven Spielberg at DreamWorks at 20 years old and later to get a job working with startup founders in the heart of Silicon Valley, right across the street from eBay.

This is all part of my larger mission with Smart Business Revolution.

My goal is to help you to develop relationships with the right people at the right time and to use these relationships to grow your income.

That may mean founding and growing your own company. Or it may mean working your way up the career ladder.

Below, I list three little “tricks” which I used that helped me land my White House job, but more importantly, you can use these techniques to get your own dream job.

Will these strategies apply for every job you apply for? Of course not. But I have seen these strategies work over and over again and in a variety of industries.

1. Be Different

When most people apply for a job, they want to make themselves as similar to all the other applicants as possible. They want to be plain vanilla.

I think that’s a total mistake.

Think of it like shopping on Amazon. When you are faced with dozens of products being sold by different sellers and all the products seem to be the same, you’re going to go with the lowest priced one because there’s no other way of differentiating the products.

The same goes for job applicants. If you just make yourself identical to all other job applicants, then the employer is probably going to pick someone who went to a better school than you, had a higher GPA, or worked in a prior job most similar to the position they are hiring for.

Because it’s dead simple for the employer to make an “apples to apples” comparison.

However, if you don’t fall into a neat bucket – if you actually have some interesting work history that makes you stand out – then employers can’t do a direct comparison between you and someone else who is just like you, but with better “traditional” qualifications.

When I was applying for a job at the White House, I was actually working for DreamWorks in Los Angeles. Most of the other people who were applying for White House jobs were already living and working in Washington D.C., perhaps for a Member of Congress on Capitol Hill.

If I had moved from Los Angeles to Capitol Hill and worked for a Member of Congress or a Senator, I don’t think I would have gotten the job.

Why? Because I would have been just like almost everyone else who was applying.

Instead, I was different. I was novel. I was unusual. My experience was still relevant for the job I was applying for, but I did not blend in with the hundreds of other job applications they got for the position.

Think about that the next time you are looking for a job. Are you applying for jobs where you will stand out as different? Or are you applying for jobs where you are almost the same as all other applicants?

2. Practice the “Standout Strategy”

What do you do when you apply for a job? If you’re like most people, you send in your resume and a cover letter and then you wait… hoping to get a phone call.

Not me. Even before I applied for the White House job, I took action. I had gotten a heads’ up from a speechwriter who I knew that there was an opening for a writer and he told me that he had passed along my name and that the person who was hiring for the position (my future boss) might give me a call.

Sure enough, about a week later I got a call from the woman who later hired me. She asked if I could send in my resume and a cover letter and some writing samples.

“Sure, I’d be happy to,” I said. And then I added “but if you’d like to see some of my writing right now, you can open up today’s New York Times, because I actually have a letter to the editor on today’s op-ed page.”

It was a bit of a coincidence, but I had known that I might get that phone call, and so I’d sent in a letter to the editor to the NY Times which they happened to run on the very same day I got the phone call.

The point is: if you know an opportunity might be coming your way, be sure to position yourself so you can truly stand out, by doing something extra.

How can you apply the Standout Strategy? Here are some ideas:

  • If you have a friend or supporter who knows someone at the company that is hiring, you could ask them to reach out preemptively and put in a good word about you.
  • You could write a letter to the editor, an article, or an op-ed on a topic relevant to the position you are being hired for and try to get it published around the time you are applying.
  • You could get involved in an organization relevant to the position you applied for and help to organize a presentation on a relevant topic.
  • You could figure out who are the hiring managers for the position you are applying for and find out where they are active online (i.e. LinkedIn, Twitter, other forums) and engage with them.
  • You could tell your references that you are applying for a job so they are prepared to receive a phone call and to sing your praises.
  • Shoot, you could even write and publish your own book in the Amazon Kindle store and establish yourself as an expert.

All of these ideas are ways you can truly stand out when you are in touch with a potential employer.

3. Build Relationships with the Right People

According to some sources, as many as 70 to 80 percent of all job openings are not advertised. That means you need to know someone if you want to hear about the vast majority of job openings.

This was certainly the case with my job at the White House. I knew if there was a job opening, I wasn’t going to hear about it on Craigslist. I was going to hear about it from someone else – and probably someone else who worked at the White House.

So what did I do? During college, I had interned in the White House speechwriting office. But hundreds of college students serve as interns at the White House and not all of them get a job afterwards.

After I left my internship, I made sure I wasn’t forgotten. I kept in touch with many of the speechwriters, sending them articles, speeches, and quotes via email and old-fashioned snail mail that I thought would be helpful to them.

In other words, I kept in touch and ‘top of mind,’ so that when a job possibility came along, they thought of me. Which is exactly what happened.

Are you building relationships with the right people – the ones who engage and inspire you, who you want to support and help, and who you want to be in your close circle of connections 3-5 years from now? If not, get started here. or check out my massive page of networking tips here.

Now, if you’re reading this and you are looking for more career advice on how to get the job of your dreams, I want to tell you about my friend Ramit Sethi, because I think he can help.

Ramit is a NY Times bestselling author and successful blogger. Ramit is holding a webinar on Monday, March 23rd at 9:00pm EST (6:00pm PST) on “Beyond 9-5: How to Build a Career You Love.”

You can reserve your spot for free here

Ramit is one of the most knowledgeable career experts I know. His strategies are totally aligned with my vision – he advocates strategies and approaches that help you stand out rather than getting lost in a sea of vanilla.

(If you haven’t heard of Ramit Sethi or his blog – the admittedly ‘scammy-sounding’ I Will Teach You to Be Rich – trust me. He is one of the savviest business minds I know. He turned a dorm room blog into an 8-figure business. And his trainings helped me take this blog from $100 per month to as much as $30,000/month in 9 months.)

So definitely reserve your free spot for that training (which is not being recorded), and I’ll see you on the webinar.

Remember: my mission with Smart Business Revolution is to help you grow your income by building better relationships. That may mean helping you to attract more clients. It may mean helping you to build relationships with VIPs.

Or … it may mean using relationships to get your “dream job.” I’m here for you, no matter what your goal.

Now, I want to hear from you.

What would your ‘dream job’ look like? Leave a comment below this post describing in detail what your dream job would look like. What would you be doing? Who would you work with?  I will see how I can help.

Comments

  1. Hello John,
    Just a quick thank you – I’ll be passing this valuable information on to the children of friends who are a little demoralised. Bad enough that the job market may be a little tricky but worse is that there is little useful guidance. But you have a practical plan!
    Thank you again – I am long retired from paid employment and now operate for my own entertainment.
    Kindest.

  2. Excellent points, John! My hubby recently got a lead position at work because he had constantly been doing #3 since he was initially hired. Then, when the internal position opened up, we used tactic #1 to write his resume using the 5 company goals as the main format, instead of following a traditional resume style. It paid off!

  3. Daniel Hamilton says:

    Ha. I would love to get into film. I’ve spent the better part of the past 2 decades in a position of tecnical authority but I am also required to be creative – not just in terms of financial or production efficacy, but actual right-side-of-the-brain kind of stuff. I also effectively lead large teams of people and draw on them heavily for input and inspiration. At the same time, I have a steady salary which is a good thing – especially with a wife that just graduated school and 2 young ones at home. Still… I think I could do it if I just had the right angle and motivation. And perhaps some sort of safety net. 😉

    • Hey Daniel – it sounds like you have a good background with some applicable skills. What’s the easiest, smallest first step you could take towards moving in that direction?

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