It starts with Karma.
In general, you get what you give. If you give nothing, and just ask other people for favors, you’ll get nothing. Actually, you’ll get less than nothing — you’ll get actively disliked.
This is why the first law of breaking into a profession is “give, give, give”.
Offer to work for free.
Or, just do work for free. Send it over in an email. Shoot it off in an overnight Fedex package.
Don’t expect anything in return. That’s not how this works.
Look at your free work as training. You’re practicing and honing your craft.
You can also look at this as being fully human. You’re working on something because you want to. You’re also working on something to be a good community member — a good member of team Earth.
This is the purpose of life: To pull up your fellow men (and women). The more people you help, the better off you’ll be. Not just with money. With meaning and joy, too.
Mark Zuckerberg built a product that helps 1 billion people a day. No wonder he’s worth 35 billion dollars.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page brought knowledge to billions globally. They’ve been rewarded with at least 30 billion a piece.
No one pays the self absorbed recluse playing video-games anything. Well, unless he brings inspiration and entertainment to millions around the world.
There’s a lesson in this: There is a way to turn every activity into something that helps or brings joy to others.
After you finish a really good book, write up your thoughts. Share them. Take the time to leave a thoughtful review on Amazon or Goodreads. Give back to the world community. Take all of your learnings and ponderings and turn them into gifts for others.
The second law of breaking into a profession is to realize that community is everything.
Every profession, no matter how old or new, has a community. Seek it out. Become a contributing member.
Find the most experienced members and learn from them. Make them your mentors by giving, giving, giving (1st Law). Offer free work. Find out what they can’t do and do it for them. Make yourself indispensable.
Some communities are easy to find. Others are harder. Not every community has a website. Not every community is official. And not every community will be instantly accessible to you. This is why you need to learn how to community-hop.
Find someone in a community you are already a part of that knows people in the community you want to be a part of — and give, give, give to them.
When I had just graduated from college, I was interested in becoming a product designer. The problem, I thought, was that I didn’t study “product design” or another art major in college. All my friends were mechanical engineers, biologists, and in non-techy fields.
So I used the community I had to get the community I wanted. I found the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab and offered to be an unpaid researcher. BJ Fogg, the lab leader, said yes.
I community hopped. From Stanford to Persuasive Technology.
Months later, I found out that a fellow Persuasive Technology Lab member was building a new company. A startup accelerator. He needed help. I helped — and hopped into a new community. I was finally in an epicenter of product design.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can take advantage of what you have to get what you want. You can expand your world from one community to another. In the process, you’ll make amazing friends, amazing connections, and build an amazing life.
Just remember the first law and give, give, give. Take control of your karma.
Some last tips:
If you’ve just graduated college, be sure to use your alumni network. Don’t be afraid to email alums you admire and offer a helping hand.
If you didn’t go to college, don’t be afraid to find the contact information of the people you most admire and email or call them with an offer of free work. Think through it, though. Don’t just offer them a blank check — offer them a specific idea, or two, about what you can do for them. Try and figure out what they can’t do themselves.
Remember karma. The more you give, and the more people you help, the more you’ll get. Those ancients were smart people.