Whether you’re looking for your first job out of college or changing careers after several years, the job search process can be intimidating! Differentiating yourself from the stiff competition is crucial and can make the difference between getting invited for an interview and having your resume get lost at the bottom of the pile. Where to start? These 5 tips will help you stand out and position yourself well for your job search.
Stand For Something
How can you expect potential hiring managers to understand what makes you different if you can’t define it? Before you sit down to freshen up your resume, outline the 3-5 things that you bring to the table based on your skills, experience, and personality traits. Everything else that you present should be built around that. Not sure where to start? Look at the job description for the position you’re applying for. Ask your friends, colleagues, and current manager what your strengths are. You can even find strengths tests online to help you articulate your unique value. Chances are, you possess many of the attributes of their ideal candidate. You just need to highlight that in your resume, cover letter, and interview responses.
Create a Personal Brand
Once you’ve established what makes you unique, create a plan for how to convey that to prospective companies. Consider creating a blog or website that demonstrates your expertise and thought leadership. Use your social media accounts to share relevant and timely content. Reach out to industry influencers and conduct interviews to post in podcast form. Not only will this enable you to make valuable contacts within your industry, but it will give you great content to share with prospective employers. When developing your personal brand, think about how you want potential hiring managers to describe you to their teams after reading your resume or conducting your interview. Then, make sure that is in line with all of the material you share.
Do Your Research
I’ve found that the best way to combat nervousness is with information. The more that you know about an opportunity, company, or interviewer, the more confident you’ll be submitting that application or walking into an interview. There is a wealth of information online, but go beyond that if you have the opportunity. Know someone already working at the company? Take them out to coffee to pick their brain. Have a common contact with the hiring manager? Reach out to them for some background information that LinkedIn might not tell you. (Plus, they might be willing to put in a good word for you). One of my favorite interview tactics is to create a link between something in the news that you might bring up over small talk and how it might affect the business of the company that you’re meeting with. It’s a risk, but with some research and planning, it will cement you as the top candidate and make you look 10x smarter than any other applicant.
Share Your Stories
People hire people, not resumes. Think about your life and job experience as a collection of stories that demonstrate both your expertise and your personality. Your resume should serve as a teaser that hooks readers in and encourages them to bring you in for an interview to get the whole story. That makes you the storyteller! When given the opportunity, walk prospective managers through your experience sharing where you’ve been, what you learned, why you applied for the job, and your goals for the future. This allows them to picture your impact within their organization immediately and connect with you on a personal level.
Hone Your Networking Skills
Only 20% of open jobs are posted online. So, if you’re not networking, you’re missing out on 80% of the opportunities. When you’re on the job hunt, look for unique ways to meet with people and make connections outside of traditional networking events. Those types of events are beneficial, but often they are too sporadic to be effective on their own. Coffee meet-ups are a great alternative for connecting with new people and building relationships with those in your industry.
Start with your existing network by inviting 5-10 of your previous supervisors, colleagues, or classmates out to coffee. As you discuss your respective goals, explore how you can help them achieve their goals before asking for help in your job search. Then, ask if they’d be willing to review your resume and make suggestions. If so, follow up by asking if they’d be comfortable recommending you to a colleague or contact that may be a good fit. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the opportunities you may uncover.
(PS. Need a place to start? Check out my Painless Networking for Job Seekers online course!)
Creating a strategy to stand out from your peers will not only aid in landing job interviews and offers, but will serve you well as you advance in your career. Position yourself as a top candidate now to set yourself up for additional responsibility and promotions down the road.