By: Christine Hill
Job hunting is rough. Actually, “rough” doesn’t quite cover it. Neither does “stressful.” “Soul-crushing” is more like it. Unless, of course, you’re a masochist who’s actually into constant confusion, judgement, and rejection.
Everyone will have to go through it at least once in their lifetime; or much more than once! That’s the problem, of course. Everyone out there is looking for a job too! There are too many buzzards circling the same carcass. Your hopes shoot sky high when you finally get a call back for an interview. And yet, if the company is interviewing 5 people for the job, you still only have a 20% chance of getting the gig.
There are only two ways to deal with it. (1) Play the numbers until, by the law of averages, you’re bound to find a gig. (2) Make yourself utterly irresistible to employers. I myself prefer #2. Here are four steps to get there:
1: Build Your Personal Brand
Employment in America has changed a lot in the last 50 years, and it will continue to do so. There are no “company men,” staying in the same office for 50 years, and then retiring on a pension. The job you have in 10 years might not even exist now. The company you work for now might become something entirely different in 4 years. Because of this, it’s important to have a personal brand.
What distinguishes a personal brand from a professional one is that it’s about more than your dayjob. Your personal brand includes your volunteer work, your side projects, your social media presence, your hobbies and contacts.
Is your personal brand is made up of diverse aspects, (i.e. you’re a camp counselor in the summer, you write a blog about personal finance, and you have a background in dance and medical office management) it can show employers that you’re well-rounded. This might make you appealing to startups who need employees to wear several hats and adapt to changes.
On the other hand, if you want to put all your focus into a specific field, the fact that you’re passionate enough about the subject to pursue it in many different ways will show that you’re a go-getter. It also increases your clout and contacts in your chosen field.
So get your fingers in a lot of pies! Be more than your day job. Volunteer, learn, and work on projects that interest you. Added bonus: this makes you more interesting in job interviews. Who’s going to forget the guy that helped his uncle build his own tiny house on wheels?
2: Use Your Contacts
As you build your personal brand, you’ll come across a lot of acquaintances. Most people drift in and out of our lives without much of a mark on our career potential. You have the power to change that.
Firstly, ask people about their professional lives. Learn more about what they do, what they like, and which aspects appeal to you. Many people will be surprised and flattered that you’re interested in something beyond the “so what do you do?” question flippantly asked at cocktail parties.
Secondly, ask for help. Most jobs ask for references, but you can do more than put down a couple phone numbers of friends who will vow that you’re not a psychopath. Gather letters of recommendation from old employers and coworkers that you had a good relationship with. Ask clients that you contract with about their experience with you. Seek feedback in all aspects of your professional life and ask people if they’d be willing to recommend you to an employer. You’ll be delighted to find how many people out there support you.
3: Let Employers Know Exactly What You’ll Contribute
Here’s a secret: when employers are looking at your resume and application, they’re not really thinking about YOU. They’re thinking about how you’ll fit in with THEM. Will you work well with your coworkers and supervisor? Will you elevate the group or bring them down? Will you contribute to positive change? When you apply, seize every opportunity to talk about their Untitled eventcompany. Let them know what you like about the job and company, and why you think you’d suit them.
Of course, this requires doing your research first. Never go into an interview blind. Learn all you can about the company online and in person. If you’ve utilized your contacts, you should have a leg up. You probably know someone out there who has worked with, or heard about, the company. This will give you valuable, unique insights.
Here’s your challenge: in your cover letter, say “you/your company” as often as you say “I/me.” Find the places where your interests and goals intersect with the company in question, and emphasize those points. Communicate the ways in which you’ll fit in with the goals and operations that are already happening. Then communicate the ways in which you’ll contribute something new that they don’t have yet. If you’ve followed piece of advice #1 (building your personal brand), you’ll have many unique talents to bring to the table.
4: Build a Natural Affinity with Your Interviewer(s)
I know… it’s easier said than done. Some people are just naturally charming and charismatic. And the rest of us? Well, we learn how to game the system.
Here’s the bottom line: when skills and qualifications are equal, employers will choose the person that they simple like the most. In fact, often the “like” factor outweighs qualifications. We pride ourselves on being rational creatures, but most decisions are based on gut instinct.
So cover the basics: give good eye contact. Smile. Practice open and confident body language. Mirror the body language of the interviewer. Learn about your interviewer’s background and interests beforehand. Find an opportunity to share a funny and memorable story about yourself. Ask them as many questions as they ask you, and be genuinely interested in their answers.