Create Your Own Hiring Opportunity
By Mark Hopkins
Boulder is the unofficial cycling capital of the country and many of us
get a ride in at the end of the workday. Driving home one especially hot
afternoon I encountered a young man who had flatted and was walking his bike
in his socks (it’s hard to walk in bike cleats). Having been in this
unenviable position before myself, I pulled over and told him to throw his
bike in the back and hop in. As we were driving the few miles back to his
apartment, I was amazed by his mood. Most people in his position would be
whining about his broken pump, aching feet, searing heat, etc, but this guy
was smiling and talking about what a great day it was.
Small talk turned to employers and school. He had just finished a two-year
tech degree and was looking for work. He asked about my employer, listening
intently as I described what our company did, and asking insightful
questions about the product. This guy seemed incredibly interested and so I
ended up explaining that our company had more demand for our product than we
could handle. We ended up talking about the current production bottleneck
(product calibration) and the skilled, and highly compensated technicians
that we needed to hire in order to ramp up production. You can see where
this is heading. In 15 minutes, Dave’s optimism, interest in my business and
winning attitude won me over. I didn’t hire him on the spot, but I did refer
him to my production manager with a good recommendation. He got the job.
Was this just luck? Maybe. Was he opportunistic? Certainly. The lesson
contained here is that your next big opportunity may come from a direction
that you didn’t anticipate, and that it pays to model some specific
behaviors when you get the chance to interact with someone in a position to
help you. I’ve seen it happen this way over and over again. Everyone,
especially corporate managers, go through life consumed with their own
challenges. They aren’t looking for people to provide the opportunity of a
lifetime to; they just want help solving their problems. And if the solution
to one of their problems happens to mean giving you a shot at a dream job,
well that’s just a really nice unintended consequence for you.
It’s pretty simple really. You need to exhibit behaviors that cause
people, especially those in positions of responsibility, to think about you
when they need help. And why would they? Two reasons. Because you make them
feel good and you solve their problems. Here’s a list of behaviors that
decision makers find irresistible:
1. Become a “can-do” problem solver: People avoid the
whiner and gravitate toward (and promote) the person who has never seen a
problem that couldn’t be solved. Look around the table and you’ll identify
this person. He’s the one with the “I got this” smile when a nasty problem
has just been discovered.
2. Go All In! Decide what’s important to you and go
“All-In”. It is clear when someone is fully committed to a cause, company,
or person and it is extremely attractive. Someone who is All-In leaves
nothing to chance, managing the smallest of details, much like a hockey
player finishing a check. Bosses, like coaches, take notice.
3. Be a world class listener: Integrate what you hear
with your own life experience and see what you can add to the mix. Leaders
are dying to interact with people who understand their thinking and can add
4. Be upbeat / engaging / open: Invite interaction with
your attitude and facial expression. Be the person that everyone is always
happy to see. The more you can wear a smile the better. Replace cynical
comments with a good-natured sense of humor.
5. Strive for humility: No one likes the cocky jerk.
It’s much more enjoyable to be around the confident but modest professional
whose performance makes it clear that she is the real deal, not her entitled
Adopt these behaviors and you will earn a spot at the table. You can
decide later whether this table is one you want to join.
Mark Hopkins is the author of Shortcut to Prosperity:
10 Entrepreneurial Habits and a Roadmap For An Exceptional Career. After
building a leadership career with companies like Hewlett Packard and Emerson
Electric, Hopkins founded Peak Industries, a medical device contract
manufacturer, which he grew to $75 million and later sold to Delphi. He then
founded Crescendo Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Catalyst, a
private foundation supporting Colorado-based nonprofits and micro-lending in
the developing world. For more information, please visit
and follow Mark on twitter @10shortcuts.