I sought out a couple of companies that I want to work with, researched them, found actual names to contact personally, and got interviews. They are impressed with my background and they want the talent I offer in their organization, but do not have a position open right at the moment. What can I say, or how can I continue to approach them so they do not forget about me?

Nick’s Reply

job futuresI’m going to show you how to stop trying to get a job today, and how to invest in job futures.

You have accomplished what all job hunters set out to do: You got a company interested in you. Even though neither of these two can hire you now, they are very real, long-term prospects and you’d be remiss if you did not cultivate them properly.

But here’s the important lesson: This is how most good opportunities germinate.

Job futures

It’s far more likely for an employer to meet impressive candidates than it is to hire one. Even after the interview, you remain impressive. It’s just that, no matter how impressed it was, the employer forgets you. It’s on you to keep that spark of interest alive by investing in it. Most people just flat-out fail to recognize and nurture “job futures.” Future opportunities are some of the very best if you keep tending them. Don’t let this one die on the vine.

Good opportunities germinate in a first encounter, and bear fruit later.

Imagine if during your life you had five or ten companies express this level of interest in you. At some point in the future, one or more of these seeds could blossom into a serious opportunity, but only if you tend it during all that time. The next step you take is potentially far more important than responding to job postings or tweaking your LinkedIn profile. So get moving.

They won’t forget you

I would e-mail or call the managers you spoke with. Give a gracious thank-you, and ask if there are other positions open — positions for which you might be able to recommend other candidates. Yes, you are offering a professional courtesy. You are helping these managers fill other jobs and you’re establishing a valuable relationship, and you’re helping a friend get a job. (Don’t worry that you’re creating your own competition by referring someone else! If these managers think you’d fit one of those other jobs, they now have even more reason to consider you — they already know you!)

They won’t forget you.

Then ask for a favor in return: Do they know managers in other good companies — managers they respect — to whom they would recommend you? Add, “And if nothing works out, I promise to stay in touch with you in the event a position opens up in your company.” Ping them every three months. Share a relevant article you’ve read, ask for advice about some work-related topic, and otherwise gently cultivate your connection.

Keep tending this investment and they won’t forget you. This is how I cultivate good candidates I’ve found but have not placed. Yet.

Invest now

I’ve seen people miss out on great opportunities because they failed to understand how long-term business relationships work, and because they are in a rush. They want a job now, so they disregard a chance to develop a lasting relationship they will need in the future. Today’s job often arises from diligent follow-up work you started years ago.

In three years, you’ll wish you’d started doing this now.

Has a rejection ever turned into a job offer for you later on? Do you stay in touch with managers you “clicked” with but who didn’t hire you? Do you have other examples of such contrarian experiences, where a thoughtful courtesy — I call it investing in job futures — results in a benefit later on?

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  1. LinkedIn is your friend.

    And if they are local, get together for coffee or wings a couple times a year.

    Bring some others along.

    Slightly related:

  2. I used this technique 35 years ago. Then, it worked with two old school presidents of privately owned companies. One eventually led to a job after 2 years.
    I think it’s more of an anomaly today, especially with the new generations coming up and stepping into leadership roles. What was once viewed as perhaps exhibiting tenacity, initiative and outside the box methodology is now dismissed with contempt by upcoming generations steeped in incivility, ghosting, and coarseness, as well as a “one size fits all” roll of the dice hiring mentality (e.g. cronyism, on-line applications, do you give me the tingles, etc.).

  3. I thought I was doing this when I was in grad school between the networking and the internships. But when I graduated…crickets. even from the people I introduced myself while in school. As the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years I felt like I didn’t have the luxury of waiting and seeing, which is what this concept actually is. This works great for someone who is currently working, not so much for someone who’s been out of work for years.

    • When we need a job, we do what we gotta do…no shame in that.

      Nick writes about farming.

      When it comes to feeding and sheltering our families, we hunt, gather, hustle, do everything short of lie, cheat, and steal.

      That includes using job boards, taking on jobs that we hate, working for companies that treat people like *. And everything else we have to do to get buy.

      Ultimately, we do whatever works. The idea to do what we have to do for the short term. And put in place the things that will pay off in the long term.

      AN aside: I was on a job hunt, feeling really disgusted after learning I was turned down for a role that I was told I was “in.” So I went on LinkedIn Jobs and started clicking on anything that remotely had my skillset. My only criteria was “mouse-clicks only.” If I had to touch the keyboard, I moved on.

      I actually got a call back…like in fifteen minutes. I figured anyone who would call me back on a advert like that was a hack. But she really knew her stuff. The short version it I took the role and was very happy.

      I do not recommend this as the primary way to hunt. But any port in a storm…

      • @Gregory: You’re drawing an important distinction that I frequently mention. Maybe I should have brought it up again in this column. It’s the distinction between short-term needs and long-term goals.

        Many of the job-hunting methods I discuss presume you’re pursuing a job you really want for the long term. This requires a lot of thought, planning, work and patience. And time. It also requires that you be ready and able to say NO to the wrong jobs, even if they have some redeeming qualities.

        Then there are the times you just need to make money, to pay the rent, to put food on the table and take care of your family. The challenge is the short term. And I’ll repeat my advice about these times: Do whatever you have to and take what jobs you must.

        It’s important to keep this distinction in mind when job hunting.

  4. NOTE TO ALL: Due to some technical difficulties yesterday, it may have been difficult to post comments. It’s all fixed. If you were affected, sorry for the inconvenience!


  5. Thx Nick. I just assumed Google was engaged in more of their jerky antics.

    • No, it wasn’t Google! I’m afraid a lot of comments didn’t post! Can you please tell me what happened when you tried to post and encountered a problem? Thanks!

      • When I clicked on the link to join the conversation it froze.