I am a highly intelligent, creative and hard-working person and I want a good job at a good company where I can work my way up. I am willing to take an entry-level position, but am still having a hard time finding employment. I go on lots of interviews and I really sell myself, but have no job offers. Any advice?
–Elva, Queens, NY
So sorry you’re having a tough time on your job search. But the number of “I’s” in your letter give me a clue as to some changes you may want to make to your perspective and tactics.
Working at a big well-known TV network, it’s not surprising that A LOT of people come to me looking for a job. They either contact me about something else with a hidden agenda of wanting me to give them a job (fat chance), want me to tell them about some incredible job I know about for which they’d be perfect (fairly chubby chance), or help them craft their resume, LinkedIn profile or cover letter (spot on: I’d be happy to).
What I’ve noticed over the years—aside from the fact that a lot people have a LOT of nerve—is that most of these poor job seekers are going about it all wrong. They are under the impression that what they need to do is contact lots of people and tell them all about how great they are and how they wrote for the school paper, and they use words like resourceful, utilized and organized, and eventually someone will contact them and gush, “When can you start?”
Well, I’ve got news for these folks. There are, roughly speaking, 4 billion katrillion people out there who say they’re “resourceful” and who organize and utilize and do exactly what you say you can do. Nobody cares.The best solution to the problem of getting a job is 50% stop thinking about yourself, and 50% really thinking about yourself. Here’s how to do it:
Think of Yourself as a Bar of Soap.
Essentially, you need someone to buy Product You. Look for what a potential employer might need in a bar of soap—aka Product You (we’ll get to that in a minute) and what distinguishes you from all the other bars of soap out there.
You need to figure out your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) by identifying these things: What do you bring to the table that separates you from the pack? Maybe you’re bilingual, maybe you combine an inventive mind with a passion for measurable results, maybe you are an expert at X or are passionate about Y—but whatever it is, you need to make that clear in all your marketing stuff.
Cut the BS.
Please don’t toss around words like “coordinated” and “facilitated” and “utilized.” (Oh,how I HATE the word “utilize!”) Saying you’re creative or well-organized is just noise to employers. Everyone says that shizz. You say you’re a people-person, well-organized, creative or detail-oriented. Now, give some examples. And they better be good. If you say you’re a team player or great on follow-through, then provide some backup. If you say that unlike other sales people, you followed up with clients after the sale, make sure have everything they need, and check in once an awhile to ensure everything is alright, then that speaks to your potential employer a lot more than simply saying, “I’m hard-working.”
Have Marketing Stuff.
Go to all the places where employers and others might become aware of you and show what makes you uniquely awesome. This includes your resume, your LinkedIn profile, your business card, and any other platforms you use to communicate who you are and what you bring to the table. All these “touchpoints” are opportunities to market yourself and should be treated as such. For example, your LinkedIn profile is not a resume. It’s a place to succinctly and clearly convey what’s special and unique and useful about Product You. It’s moreelevator pitch than book report. When people hire me to augment their LinkedIn pages, we explore how to put their best foot forward and what language and what aspects of their skill set and experience will resonate best with employers.
Think “How Can I Help?”
Most of the people who come to me for help in getting a job talk endlessly about themselves and what they need when their focus should be on what a potential employer might need. Research what a company is about, what it’s doing now and what it will be doing in the future. Instead of talking about me-me-me, ask questions to better learn about an employer’s needs and think about how you can make contributions concerning an employer’s opportunities and challenges. How, specifically, can you be an asset? How can you help solve problems, save money, improve service, expand the customer base, convey messaging, help with employees, the environment, their pro-social initiatives?
Getting back to the soap analogy: If you don’t know what the customer wants in a soap, then how are you to know whether to talk about your antibacterial superpowers, moisturizing properties, organic ingredients, or fresh lemon-y smell? Find out what your prospective employer needs so you can make your marketing messages relevant and powerful.
Think Like a Consultant.
Don’t just think like an employee looking to get the best benefits package and flexible hours. Think about how to improve the impact, performance, effectiveness and value of the position. Let’s say you’re applying to be a cashier. If you were a consultant, what could the cashier do to make waiting in line better for both the store and the customer? How might the cashier improve customer service, increase sales, or save the store money?
Don’t Be Generic.
Now that you’ve given some thought to why you are the bar of soap a company could need, communicate your USP and how it can be of value. If you’re applying for that cashier job, your cover letter might explain (briefly) how your experience, focus on customer satisfaction and attention to detail are well-suited to the position and would benefit the store. (The letter’s job is to snag the interview, and once you’re there you can share some concrete ways you’d rock the job if hired.)
Like most things in life, you get when you give. When you concentrate on how you can uniquely be of service, you’re much more likely to demonstrate your value than if you just keep regurgitating the same old tired clichés about how you’re a “people person” or an “effective manager.” (As opposed to all those applicants who’ve explained how they don’t get along with people and manage ineffectively.)
In a nutshell:
- Find out exactly what your prospective employer is looking for and identify how you meet—and rock—the position. Don’t just focus on the responsibilities, but the qualities that an ideal candidate should have
- Identify how you can solve your employer’s problems—and/or their consumers’.
- Understand your brand, and how it can make a difference.
- Don’t bull—talk plainly, authentically, and have a narrative that supports and best conveys your awesomeness.
Do all this, Elva, and and you’ll be in that new job daydreaming about retirement in no time! Let us know how you make out — and good luck!
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