Creating a Life Sciences Job Where One Doesn't Exist


Frustrated by your job search? Does your dream employer rarely have openings? A little-known technique – the job proposal approach – can open doors for you. This hack is especially useful when you are convinced the most important outcome of your job search is to work for a particular employer, or perhaps you are targeting a small group of desirable employers.

The job proposal approach is aimed at creating a job for yourself – where one currently doesn’t exist – based on the employer’s needs, challenges or problems. It’s about discovering where a company may be challenged in its operations and make a compelling case for why the firm should to hire you to mitigate the issues. With this technique, the job seeker identifies employer’s needs and/or problems and proposes the employer create a job that the job seeker will then fill and meet the needs or solve the problems.

So how do you find out about the needs and problems? Research is an excellent way, especially research into recent news stories about the organization. Start with the idea that a company’s most basic needs are to make money, save money, and increase efficiency. Employers hire for these positive reasons, among others:

  • Expanding to new markets
  • Introducing a new product
  • Undergoing digital transformation
  • Seeks to enhance its social media presence

They also hire when they have problems to solve:

  • More business than the firm can handle, causing lags in customer service
  • Staff members overworked, overwhelmed, and working overtime. Senior staff spending too much time assisting junior staff
  • Demand outpaces supply because of production or distribution issues
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Another way to investigate company needs is by networking with organization insiders and asking them about company needs and challenges. But the best way is through informational interviewing, a sub-set of networking in which you conduct brief interviews with people inside targeted organizations and ask what keeps them up at night. Here are questions you could ask in an informational interview to uncover company needs:

  1. In what areas do you perceive there to be gaps in personnel in this company? If the company had unlimited resources for creating new positions, in what areas should those positions be created?
  2. In what areas do you see the company expanding? Do you foresee the opening of new markets or greater globalization? Do you predict development of new products and/or services? Building of new facilities?
  3. What do you see as the company’s biggest challenge in the next 5 years?
  4. What obstacles do you see getting in the way of the company’s profitability or growth?
  5. If you needed someone to assist you in your job, what tasks would you assign to your assistant

Take your time comprehensively researching the needs and plotting out exactly how you can fill those needs before approaching the company about addressing its needs by hiring you. Then, send a job proposal letter with a request to meet with your interviewee again. (If your interviewee does not have hiring power, ask who in his or her department does the hiring and approach that person.)

One of the earliest proponents of job proposals was Denise Bissonnette, author of Beyond Traditional Job Development: The Art of Creating Opportunity. Bissonnette recommends one proposal style in which the document is titled with the name of the proposed job role. It then includes an employer-focused rationale for creating the job (how will the employer benefit?), brief qualifications of the job seeker, and sometimes even proposed salary and benefits. See samples here. Another job proposal format resembles a cover letter and is sometimes called a Pain Letter since it focuses on a pain point for the employer.

Here’s an excerpt from a cover letter-style job proposal that references a previous informational interview:

When I interviewed Ms. Tranter six months ago to obtain information about a career as a Health Educator, she mentioned that the organization was looking to build its program aimed at the opioid crisis. Having written my master’s thesis on the opioid crisis, I’d like to combine my interest in health education with my knowledge of opioid addiction to help you bolster the program. I’ve even sketched out some preliminary ideas on what an enhanced program might look like, and I’d love to get together and share them with you.

Two cautions about your communication about the company need:

  • Don’t come off like a know-it-all. No matter how much research you do, you’re not an insider, so don’t sound like the voice of authority in discussing the need.
  • Don’t point any fingers or say anything negative about the company or its staff in discussing problems and challenges.

Be aware that this technique can be a bit of a longshot. You may encounter hiring managers who would love to hire you but will insist the budget won’t accommodate doing so. However, some will be impressed enough with your proactive, problem-solving approach and will reach out to you months later to offer you a position. You may also encounter an employer with neither open jobs nor jobs in the pipeline – but with a compelling need to create a position for someone with your talents and experience.

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