How to create your own job from nothing

Last week, I wrote about how one of the biggest lessons I have learned in business is how to create a job from nothing.

I cover a lot of how to do this this in my book, The Liberal Arts Techie, but I wanted to share a bit of that with you here as well.

First off, we need to start with the question, “where do jobs come from?”

Nobody really thinks through where jobs come from when they’re sending off resumes to companies, hoping to get interviews and get hired. They know they’re sending a resume off to get a job, but how did that job come into existence? Who defined it? It didn’t always exist, nor do jobs spring ex nihilo from the ether.

No, somebody sat down and said, “we have some work that we need to do, and we need to hire someone to do it. Let’s make a list of all work that needs doing, and then put it out there to see who wants to do it.”

Then they did some thinking about what sorts of experience the person who ends up filling that job needs to have.

The point here is that someone no smarter than me and you sat down and said “hey, this place where there wasn’t a job before…yeah, let’s create a job there.”

They defined the role and the work that needs doing and the value that employee will bring to the organization.

Compare that with an entrepreneur who creates a company from nothing by going off and finding a problem that needs solving, defining how they will solve the problem, and then building a business around that.

The entrepreneur may start out with limited knowledge of the industry, but goes in and does the work to understand how they can solve a problem.

Nobody created a “company description” and put it on a job board for potential entrepreneurs to find. Nobody hands out a bulleted list with things that the company needs to accomplish in order to get paid.

But just cause there wasn’t a description for a company doesn’t mean there wasn’t a need that the company could solve. And by not waiting for permission, entrepreneurs create their own opportunity from scratch. That’s a skill we can all learn.

What’s the process to create a job from nothing?

First of all, it starts with a growth mindset

  • Stop thinking about what you can’t do
  • Instead, start asking how can I take small, imperfect action to learn about work I like doing and that people will pay me for
  • Start experimenting with various jobs

In my case, I knew that I was a writer and I was good at running events. I could approach companies with those two things and see how they responded.

In your case, you want to think about what skills you’d like to offer to a company. What are you trained in?

Ask yourself how you can bring those to a company. Do you have any experience at all? If not, then ask how you could get a month-long internship to get your foot in the door.

There’s always work that needs doing, and there’s always an opportunity for you to identify how you can do that work.

This takes guts. It’s much harder to go around talking to companies trying to pitch yourself to them than sitting behind your laptop sending resumes out. You’re safe behind your laptop. Going out and hitting the pavement can be a bit scary.

And chances are, very few people in your life have had the courage to do similar, so people will think you’re a bit nuts.

And you may be thinking that you don’t have enough experience or the right experience. And that feels like you have nothing to add.

But the best part about having nothing is that you have everything. If you have nothing, then you have nothing to lose. You have complete freedom to play around with a bunch of different ideas until something sticks.

You can make crazy offers to companies to do projects that sound exciting and if they tell you no, then you haven’t lost anything. Actually, you might have gained something. You’ve taken action, which builds momentum. And once you’ve pitched something and heard a “no” then you can take that no, learn from it, and craft your next pitch to get closer to a yes.

Hope this helps.

Austin W. Gunter


I’m Austin. I live in San Francisco, practice Tai Chi, have rheumatoid arthritis, listen to a lot of loud music, and host a lot of dinner parties. Want more? Start here.

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