A Shortcut to Your Dream Job

No degree? No experience? No problem.

After considerable exploration, one of my clients, “Adam Michaels,” discovered his dream job: marketing executive for a prestigious video-game company. That would be a pretty lofty goal for anyone in any market , but it’s especially challenging amid America’s “jobless recovery.” And, oh, Adam also has two teeny impediments: He's never had a job in marketing, and he hasn’t taken even one course in the field.

Yet I’m optimistic that Adam can land a launch-pad job toward a career as a video-game marketing executive. Why? Is he a self-employed genius who has demonstrated how to turn a product such as a Pet Rock into a zillion seller? No, he's never marketed anything, including himself. Is he a BA/MBA from Harvard? No, he’s an undergraduate at a second-tier public university.

Adam is going to succeed by writing a white paper, the business-world equivalent of a short term paper . And that is how you, too, can pursue the job of your dreams. Writing a white paper can be invaluable in launching a career in a wide range of fields, from management to manufacturing, fund-raising to grant-making, solar sales to building jails.

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Here’s what I told Adam to do: Research and write a paper and call it Ten Video Games Whose Sales Exceeded Expectations...And How Yours Can, Too. The idea is to try to get the paper published. But even if it’s not accepted for publication, Adam can mail this sample of his expertise to every marketing director he’d like to work for.

How can a white paper beat a marketing degree? Well, a person quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns on time spent learning about a field. So rather than taking courses taught by professors who are heavy on arcane theories and light on real-world applications, I recommend finding a good marketing textbook (pick one by reading reviews on Amazon.com) and skimming the intro .

In pursuit of his dream, Adam will take the following five steps:

Step #1. Identify ten recent video games that sold well despite lackluster reviews and the lack of an industry powerhouse, such as Electronic Arts, behind them. Adam told me that video-game sales figures are free at www.vgchartz.com, and consensus reviews are on Metacritic.com. Indeed, for most fields, an enormous amount of information is just a Google search away.

Step #2. Use Google to learn what the games’ publishers did to market them. All Adam needs to do is enter the game’s name, using Google’s Web tab, news tab and perhaps the blog and group tabs. Repeat the process using the game’s name and the word marketing—for example, “Aliens in the Attic” marketing .

Adam will supplement this information by interviewing each game’s director of marketing. And because he’s writing about their success, it’s likely they'll talk to him.

Step #3. Distill what he’s learned about each game's marketing effort into a half-page story. Add a brief introduction plus a conclusion that lists the techniques most often used in marketing the ten games and -- voila -- he’s created an article that video-game marketing executives will crave to read.

Step #4. Submit the article to the leading publications read by video-game executives with this tagline: “Adam Michaels is a college senior who aspires to a career as a video-game marketing executive. He can be reached at [insert e-mail address and phone number].”

-Step #5. Send the article -- either via a link to the published version on an industry magazine’s site or, if it’s still unpublished, as a Word document labeled “white paper” -- to each of the profiled executives along with a cover letter explaining that he’s looking for a career-launching job in video-game marketing.

If that doesn’t yield a job, he’ll submit the cover letter and white paper as a sample of his work to the director of marketing of every video-game company at which he’d like to work.

There are no guarantees. But I’m betting that if Adam executes this plan even moderately well, he will at least land an internship at a good video-game company -- despite his lack of experience, an Ivy League diploma or courses in marketing. That’s more than a lot of marketing-degree holders from prestigious colleges get.

Note to all job seekers: White papers aren’t just for newbies to a field. They can also help people with relevant job experience to stand out from other applicants for a job.

Marty Nemko
Contributing Columnist, Kiplinger.com