Home > Uncategorized > How to Break Into A Field In 9 Months, According to Michael Ellsberg

How to Break Into A Field In 9 Months, According to Michael Ellsberg

I read this fascinating article by Michael Ellsberg, best-selling author, on how to get the job of your dreams without formal credentials. It works only for ‘soft’ fields that don’t require a formal credential, of course (as law or engineering would)—writing, marketing, design, sales, entrepreneurship (yes, I know that’s quite general!), programming, etc.

It’s essentially about (a) self-education, (b) building a network, and (c) selling (ethically). And showcasing your knowledge and (later) knowledge on a blog (part of (c)) from the very beginning.

The first step, of course, is deciding what you’d like to break into. I am choosing to start with marketing, especially direct-response, and some programming: after some learning, I may get a better idea of what I like and could rock at. The rest of the process can be broken into a timeline of nine months. By the way, I am just summarizing that post above in a  way that makes more sense to me; that’s all I’m doing, so of course it’s not original content. Instead, I’m learning from the first master 😉

Months 1, 2

LEARN. And showcase it through blogging.

Start a blog that follows your journey of learning everything there is to learn in this field. Read two books a week. Aim for classics and practitioners’ books (vs theory). Write two blog posts a week detailing what you learn. You demonstrate (a) education and understanding of the field, (b) willingness to learn and curiosity, (c) writing ability, and (d) social media skills (if you do blogging right!) And–perhaps eventually–even (e) you will establish yourself as an expert and not just a job-seeker.

Time: Budget at least 10 hours/week for reading, and 4-10 hours writing.

NETWORK. Learn how, and start doing it.

Learn how. Watch this and read this. Most people do it wrong: you can do it right. Also read Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone – I really enjoyed it and he knows what he’s talking about.

Start doing it. Aim to find 3 business owners per month, hopefully that you already know, either offline or online. In these two months, have conversations with them. Find out what their challenges are….   then do your very best to start being of service to them. If done right, you will have six good fans. (If not, start over?–you seriously need to find people, and help them, for the plan to work.)

Time: 10-20 hours a week. Total: 30 hours/week for months 1-2 (productive hours, as the assumption remains throughout the post).

Months 3, 4, 5

WORK FOR FREE. Start practicing your work.

Key: Be super helpful. Offer small ways you can offer your services for free. Small business rarely turn down free services! (According to Ellsberg, as is everything else here.) It’s like a continuation of before, but more focused on your craft.

Say, “I’m training to become [X], and I’ve been meticulously studying the craft to learn how to do it well [link to your blog]. I’d like to offer you [some free services around X] as I build my practice. I don’t expect any payment at all. But down the road, if you like my work, perhaps you can refer me to other people you know who might benefit from it.”

Time: 20 hours a week (including networking to get the gigs).

DEVELOP CASE STUDIES. Blog about your experiences.

Blog about your experiences providing these services as case studies. Lessons learned, triumphs, mistakes, etc. Ask your client if you can use their name in the blog post, and show them what you’ve written before it goes up (so you don’t infringe on their privacy).

 Time: 5-10 hours a week.

FIND MENTORS. Reach out to the authors you’ve learned from.

Reach out to authors of the books you read and blogged about in Step 1, asking to interview them for your blog. The more time has passed since their last book came out, the more likely they’ll be willing to do the interview.

Time: 5-10 hours a week. Total: 50 hours/week, including 10 for reading/blogging and 5 for networking (months 1-2).

Months 6, 7

SELL. Learn sales by selling other people’s stuff.

Read SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. [..] The focus is on deep inquiry into the customer’s actual problems, needs, dreams and desires — through asking the right questions and listening well.

Once you feel you have a basic grasp of the concepts in the book, find someone in your social economy (see Step 2) who has some kind of business, whether it’s products or services. [..] Ask if you can sell for them, with zero base salary. Perhaps you can get a commission, or perhaps not.

The point is to get practice selling (face-to-face) in an already-existing business–with pre-qualified prospects (as opposed to finding people to sell to in the first place). Interestingly, Ellsberg thinks that the pricier the thing you’re selling, the higher the “integrity, empathy, listening skills, and caring” necessary to sell it (so it’s better to start by selling expensive things).

Time: 20 hours/week a combination of studying the book and putting it in practice in a friends’ or acquaintances’ business. Total: 55 hours/week, including 35 hours from months 3-5.

Months 8, 9

SELL. Sell your own stuff: now you’re in business!

Everything is in place: know-how, social economy, sales.

Have individual meetups with 10 business owners — the ones within your social economy — over breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks. Tell them about the portfolio of results you’ve achieved in the last seven months, both online and offline. Have honest-to-goodness conversations about their needs. If they have a need you can address, use your SPIN Selling skills to get them excited about the idea of working with you. {If they don’t, do your very best to connect them with someone who could help.} Tell them about the specific type of problem and/or business owner you can help, and ask for their best three ideas for meeting that kind of business owner. You’ll usually come away with several great ideas, and possibly even some referrals.

Time: ALL the time, when you include continuing some of months 1-7. Total: As much as you can and want to.

Does It Work? I Don’t Know! …   But do you have a better plan?

I’ve tried to distill what I’ve learned from this decade into something clear and simple that could be followed by a focused, determined person, in one year. If I were to do it over again, this is how I’d do it.

Follow-Up #1: What Do Employers Want?

Before reading Ellsberg’s article – but after deciding I would – I decided to brainstorm the skills that every good employer, regardless of field, would seek. That way I know what to develop in myself.

  • After figuring out what done looks like, the ability to figure out exactly what actions need to happen next to get there.
  • High output: doing a hell of a lot. The more actions and projects completed done, the better.
  • After figuring out exactly what the target client wants, the ability address their desires (rather than our own)…  and close sales.
  • Ability to figure out what (high-leverage) activities can be done, whether or not they’re in the job description, and doing them.
  • Ability to write, to the point and fluently.
  • The ability to communicate with co-workers and superiors in a way that gets things done and keeps people happy. No friction.

Next time: my plan and/or first progress.

I also need work right now: ideally, part-time. I had some full-time work until extremely recently (today), but I quit. I was miserable, and I don’t need it to survive. Even working at McDonald’s would be better than that work–far better, and in fact I would happily work at McDonald’s or a similar establishment; I would even love it, if it were near the station for a TRAX bus I use frequently (because that way I could make it to either the university or my favorite coffee place, SL Roasting Company, within minutes). Blog will have an update on my work seeking very soon.

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