This month’s Fast Company magazine has an article by Alex Daly called How I Created My Dream Job That Didn’t Exist. In her article she talks about how she did research on jobs that she was interested in pursuing, “When I was working in magazines,” she continues, “I would reach out to writers that I admired. I would find their emails, tell them that I was a big fan, and ask if I could meet with them to learn how they got to where they were in their careers. Sometimes people didn’t respond. But when they did, I would buy them a coffee or a drink, ask questions (but not take too much of their time), and then follow up with a handwritten thank you note.”

Three Easy Steps for Young Adults

Her research advice really breaks down to three easy steps that many young adults could easily do:

1.Identify people who are in the career that you aspire to, and find a way to meet with them. You would be surprised how often they say yes because you are basically saying, ‘I want to be like you’, and who doesn’t want to hear those words.

2. Once you get face to face with them – find out how they got there. You might be surprised that they went through lots of intermediate steps to reach their goal, and you may have to also. Find out not only about what they know that allows them to be successful, but also who they know, because without the connections it may not happen.

3. Send them a hand-written thank you note after you meet with them. This is something my friend Jim Whiddon from The Old School teaches really well. You will be amazed at how much this will separate you from other ‘seekers’ that they talk with. If they remember you, they will likely continue to be available to help you.

When working with students and career-changers, I often see people who want to focus too much on the online portion of the search, and sit and try to learn all they can from their computer screen. A much richer approach is to focus on the in-person portion of the search by interviewing people who have already attained whatever it is that you are seeking.