Stand out. How conventional thinking kills your job search
A friend recently lost her job, and she asked for some suggestions on how she could differentiate herself from the other job seekers she was competing against. While she hadn’t been out of work for long, she recognized that, like most people, she relies far too heavily on her paper resume to represent her in her job search. On paper, it’s hard to differentiate oneself from other job seekers, and she’d need to be less conventional in her approach if she wanted to stand out.
Being different and grabbing peoples’ attention is relatively easy, but being different in a way that makes you appealing to a prospective employer isn’t quite so simple.
With differentiation in mind, here are 7½ unconventional approaches to job search that will help you stand out from the job seeking masses:
1. Don’t rely on job boards.
I’m not saying this to be different, but the truth of the matter is that job boards are the most used (and overused) job search resource there is. On job boards, you are one of thousands of applicants applying for each job. 10-years ago, you would have been one of a thousand resumes on a hiring manager’s desk, but today your resume is screened by an applicant tracking system and your identity as an applicant is reduced to binary digits on a hard-drive or server somewhere in cyberspace. If you want to stand out you really need to do it in person.
2. Your network will never be big enough.
If you’re tired of hearing people talk about networking, then you’re probably not doing enough of it. There are few things more important to your success than your network, and the bigger your network the more likely it is that someone in it will know of someone who’s hiring, may be hiring soon, or may be looking for someone just like you.
3. Recruiters won’t find you a job – that’s your job.
All too often I hear someone who’s starting to look for work say “do you know of any recruiters?” to which I respond, “I certainly do, are you looking to hire someone?” While contacting recruiters is a good idea, waiting by the phone for a call from one isn’t – and there are two reasons why: 1) The odds that the specific recruiter you call is working for an employer who is looking for someone with your specific skill set right now are rather low, and 2) it’s as simple as this – recruiters work for employers, they don’t work for you.
4. Have an elevator pitch that doesn’t focus entirely on you.
You’ve probably heard that you need to practice your elevator pitch so that if the opportunity arises you can quickly describe the value you’d bring to an employer. This is very important, no doubt, but if you’re aiming to differentiate yourself you really need to one-up the traditional elevator pitch. When you’ve got 30-seconds in an elevator and it’s your time to shine, rather than being general and saying “I have 15-years of experience as a consultant reengineering processes that result in reduced manufacturing costs and improved product quality”, you’ll be far more persuasive if you articulate why it’s YOU that’s needed: “I have worked for your competitors so I know how you can reduce your manufacturing costs and improve the quality of your product.”
5. Until you find your next job, you’re a salesperson.
While earlier I suggested that you shouldn’t use job boards, here’s permission to use one just this once: Go look at a job description for a salesperson and you’ll quickly see that many of the required skills are skills that you’ll need in order to find your next job. Salespeople work towards targets because it keeps them on track and motivated to achieve their objectives. Set realistic targets for your daily job search activities such as networking, cold calling, and for job applications as well (if you must) and you’ll be surprised by just how much you accomplish by the end of each week. For more on this, take a look at Job seekers; you’ve got a job description too.
6. Look for jobs that don’t exist yet.
Rarely will you be the first one to find out about a job opening right when it becomes available, and in most cases once it’s available the hiring manager already knows exactly who they’re looking for. By actively networking you’ll find out about upcoming availabilities, maternity-leaves, and projects that are in the planning phases, all of which may present you with employment opportunities that have not yet been advertised – and when jobs haven’t been advertised you have far less competition. For more on this, take a look at Job search like a salesperson to get a job that doesn’t exist yet.
7. Remember that your network isn’t a thing – it’s made of people exactly like you.
Networking isn’t a one-shot deal; it’s an ongoing activity that requires you to reengage the people in your network in a way that’s meaningful to you – and meaningful to them as well. It’s not about group emails, chain letters, social media invites or status updates, rather, it’s about developing real human relationships and taking a genuine interest in the people in your network, just as you’d like them to take an interest in you.
7.5 Never get too comfortable in your job search.
If you’re getting comfortable in your job search, it’s definitely time to do change your approach. A sense of urgency should motivate you at all times, and if it isn’t you’ve set the bar too low.
Have any other tips on how job seekers can differentiate themselves from the competition? Share your tips in the comments section below.
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