How do you land your dream job? The one where you say to yourself, “Wow, if I could work for one company, this is it!”  All it takes imagination, creativity, a few good skills, clear thinking and of course, quick action. 

One day in 2013, I was checking my LinkedIn profile. I noticed a friendly (and familiar) face in the “suggested” area. It was Jesse Ellenbogen. I messaged him and asked for a connection. To my surprise and delight, he accepted! Then we had a back-and-forth email conversation about GoPro and Usability Labs. Call it Serendipity or Providence, it turned out he was reading my latest blog post about using Telestream Wirecast as a usability lab tool.

Hero3 Silver by Craig Burgess

At some point I mentioned I was picking up a GoPro the next day. Naturally his response as a good product researcher was to say, “Let me know what you think.” And since I love to help make products better, that’s all I needed to hear. When I got the GoPro, I photographed it (shown here) from a couple of angles, focusing on the parts and pieces I didn’t really like from a new user’s view. Then I spent 3-4 hours writing up my insights, challenges and suggestions. The next day I finished the report and sent him a three-page PDF.

Hero3 Silver by Craig Burgess

About 2 weeks later he emailed me back and simply asked if we could have a phone conversation. At the end of it he then asked if I would like to help them build a usability lab at their headquarters. I did a silent fist pump (YES!), and said calmly, “Absolutely, I’d be delighted.” This started a very exciting, interesting and energizing period in my life. Along with Jesse, I met and worked with dozens of other smart, fun people, did deep dives on video and gear, got to play with many GoPro products and eventually worked on a new model prototype.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I’d made his job of hiring me much easier. He was a busy researcher, and didn’t have the bandwidth to do all the detail work of assembling a complete lab with all the moving parts to make an in-house UX lab.

This is a concept I like to call “Next Level Thinking”. It means to think deeply about what you really want and then figure out how to help others make a decision – hire you, buy your product, whatever – leading to an outcome you would be happy with. That is, take it to the next, higher level: decide and create the best thing they could bring to their own boss to help both make a decision in your favor. Make it easy for them to say yes!

If I hadn’t done the report, the conversation might have ended after the first email. But I decided to show what I could do with writing, photography, and usability in a way that would benefit both Jesse and the decision-making process of his boss. And, ultimately me and my goal of working for a killer company.

Now, honestly I can’t say I was thinking this way exactly. But to have Jesse (or the person you want to influence) take something like a three-page work product, present it to his boss and say, “Hey, look at this guy. He just wrote this great, unprompted usability report on one of our products. He’s articulate, has good skills and works well independently.”

I figure he said something like that to his boss, well, because we went on to build a world-class UX lab that has impacted GoPro products ever since.

If you are frustrated with regular channels, or a little discouraged about reaching the right people with the right message at the right time, try Next Level Thinking:

  • Select your next “Wow!” goal, client, position or challenge
  • Connect with who is on the inside and get a conversation going
  • Take the initiative – use your imagination and domain skills to show what you can do
  • Offer it with no strings attached
  • Follow up!

Zig Ziglar always said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want”. Next Level Thinking is all about helping others get what they want. Give it a try!

Now it’s your turn. Have you done something like this that worked for you? Please share in the comments below, I’d love to hear it. If you write a blog post or already have something related, I’ll link to it and push it on Twitter too. Thanks for reading!