experience designer // public historian



and why just applying for job openings is not the way anymore.

I am 25. I think the age that everyone in my near surrounding is trying to land his or her first job.

This is quite a struggle. For everyone: no matter what age or geographical area. No matter how many jobs you already have had. The thing is, I found a different route to landing my dream job. After receiving automatic replies saying I was one out of 300, sometimes 400 applications, I figured something was broken in this system.

Having explained this way over and over to friends, families, anyone who wanted to hear it: I have already had multiple positive replies and feedback thanking me for the inspiring talk. And the fact that they are now where they hoped to be.

So what is it, that does the trick?

Go to the websites or LinkedIn’s of the companies you want to work at. Look for the person who has your dream job. Send him or her an e-mail. That’s it.

Say what?

Warning: just reading this article won’t help you. See it as a guide. Actually follow the explained steps. (And let me know how it went!)

After some background information I will take you through 10 steps. From positioning yourself to the psychology behind this all and finding out who to e-mail and what to write. Okay, so buckle up. Let’s start with some background info.

Up until finishing university, as is the case for most, most of our paths were already laid out. The hardest decision has been choosing direction of our studies. And honestly, I am the living evidence that this also does not mean what you will do for the rest of your life.

Let’s start with that point. Our parents grew up working at the same company for multiple years, sometimes even decades. Their parents even had professions for their whole lives. 
So that word. Profession. That has kept me pondering for a while. And I have decided that it is what we should aim at.

Profession. To me it means mastering a skill. One never has only one skill. So I am a yoga teacher, experience designer, public historian, sailor, cook. My brother is a entrepreneur, visionair, cocktail specialist, kitesurfer & snowboarder. Full stop. You see what happened here? I am summing up something you could consider our hobbies. Are they still our hobbies when we know how to earn money with them?

Our parents always told us to have at least five skills you could practice anywhere in the world. Next to feeling safe under your university degree, also know how to be real-world-ready. Know a profession. What I try to say here is that it does not matter what you do. As long as you love it, as you can make enough money from it to maintain yourself: go for it. It is a profession. I believe that life is about having a high quality of life, often meaning being incredibly happy over incredibly rich.

So what do you like? And what do you want? I have never had this before, but Melissa Andrada speaks exactly the words I would tell about this topic. So I would start there.

Step 1.

Knowing yourself, your value, your strength but even more so as well your weaknesses is step 1I believe you should develop your strengths, not yourweaknesses. A fabulous tool to find these, is this article. And honestly, don’t just read it. Actually write it down. Fill in this canvas.

Step 2.

This is where you start formulating your elevator pitch. Formulate yourself in 30 seconds. So for me, I would explain you how I studied history and afterwards did a masters in Public History because I have a passion for explaining difficult stuff as easy as possible. After making exhibitions, documentaries, etc. I found that heritage is where I can find my flow. I did have a need for a more commercial side, as I burst with creative concepts but couldn’t find a podium for them within heritage. I did a second masters in Experience Design at Hyper Island where I could shape my passion of creating and executing concepts into meaningful interactions. And therefore wanted to be, and am now, an interaction designer at Fabrique. (Creating meaningful interactions for international heritage institutions.)

So what is yours?
What is your path? Why did you do what you did? What is the red thread? Why is what you want to do logical because of your background? Whyshould they hire you?
Practice your pitch. See if people understand it. Make it simple, clean. In the conversation afterwards you can more deeply elaborate on certain topics. On places you worked etc. Now, you just want to give the few big stepping stones to where you are now and what you want the next one to be.

Step 3.

Figure out what your dream role would look like. Just jot down words. Creative. People. Account. Strategy. Find these words on applications, on-line, anywhere. Find what resonates with you. What I did next, is writing percentages behind them. How much of what would I like in my dream job?

Step 4.

Figure out what your dream company looks like? What kind of clients do they have? What projects have they done? What kind of people work there? I eventually had a list of 20+ companies that I would not -at all- mind working at. So how do you find these companies? Ask your friends. Family. People at birthdays. Try to find sites with networks of your specialism. For me, these are websites such as ‘Dutch Design Network’ etc. These often have lists of agencies, companies, etc. and work with the snowball-effect. You find one, and through this one.. hopefully another. Try to make a list of at least 5 companies.

Step 5.

Now it’s time to take a good look in the mirror. What do you see? What do others see? Create your on-line identity. Align your resume, LinkedIn profile and on-line portfolio. (If applicable.) Show the best of what you have and make it one story. Highlight what would work for this area, this job. Never try to fit everything in there. Just what backs up your story. And make it look sweet & sharp.

Step 6.

So we now have our focus. Who we are. Where we want to go, backed up by evidence. It’s time for the real deal: the psychology behind selling yourself.

One that made me change the most, was turning my limiting into enabling beliefs. Something that doesn’t happen over night and needs hard work and dedication. We all have certain beliefs. What if I would tell you these aren’t true? That, as your mother would use to tell you, you can be anything you want to be? Dream big? Dream bold? What is holding you back? That is exactly between your ears.

If you believe in yourself. Others will believe in you too. 
Working somewhere, means you bring something to the table they want to pay you for. Believe that you have greatness, personality, a lot that makes you special and want to have you for.

Than on the other side. All of above steps, and following steps, ask a lot of decision making from you. So you should know what choices mean.
Choices are hard in this world where there nowadays are endless possibilities. More isn’t always better. It makes you regret, look to the greener grass from your neighbour and forget gratitude. So choose wisely and than fully commit. Read up on this topic, if you feel like you need some more wise words on it.

So finally, if you have chosen. What are you actually looking for? 
A job should give you: a sense of belonging. You should be learning at your job, developing yourself. You have responsibilities at your job. And of course, you feel inspired and get energy from being at work.

Step 7.

So now comes the conversion. How do you now actually land the job?

Go to the websites or LinkedIn’s of the companies you wanted to work at. Go to the people who work there. Look for the person who has your dream job. Send him or her an e-mail.

It is that easy.

Step 8.

So be pro-active and drink coffees is the big advice.
You send them an e-mail, not asking for a job. Asking for their advice. You will be surprised about how much people love to talk about themselves. You ask them for advice about how they have come where they are now. 
In the e-mail I sent, I explained them in two sentences who I was. One sentence why I love the company. One about what I think is incredible about his/her work. 
Than I would ask if (s)he could give me advice on how (s)he came to where (s)he is now. And that I would bring him/her coffee during his/her break. Just to make the opportunity to say no as small as possible.

I had 9 out of 10 replies. Curious how and why I had found them. And everyone loves some inspiration, something you are bringing.

This gives you the opportunity to walk into the company you think you would love. And you will know the instance you walk in, if you still do. I had companies where I directly knew that it wasn’t for me. Also, as I was clearly looking for a team. To me, the people you work with are highly important. Something you can not read from a job opening.

Step 9.

Be yourself when you have a coffee. Maybe you have sent your resume in your e-mail. You have already written your elevator pitch, so no awkward moments there. Next is that this person has something you would like too. So I guess you will know what to ask. And people just love to talk about themselves.

Remember you are not asking them for a job. Probe maybe, to find if there are openings. You and me both know that most job openings go by word of mouth. By network. Do not even get posted on-line. So if there is nothing within the company now, or yet. This person is part of your network.

And you will ask them two names of who you can talk to. To make your own network. If you get told to talk to Brian and Isabelle. E-mail them, they will love the fact they got recommended by a friend. That is how you get in. And have a coffee. Success guaranteed. We all get hired on personality. On what we bring to the table. What we know. And some things that you cannot convey in letters, only in person.

Step 10.

Send a thank you after having talked to someone. E-mail the new names. Keep hopes. Feel inspired. Be yourself. Let’s go !

I am sure you will do amazing. I have the fullest trust everyone will be where they need to be. Some dedication and commitment. Believing in yourself.


stephanie de rooij