How To Stand Out When Looking For A Job

How To Stand Out When Looking For A Job

Looking for a new job is not an easy task. Not only must we actively approach a maximum of companies, but we must be at our best, while we have no control over the hiring process, which is different for each company. And these processes are optimized for hiring managers but not for candidates, and contain more pitfalls than shortcuts for job seekers.

Having been on both sides of the hiring process, as a jobseeker and as a hiring manager, my discussions with candidates from all walks of life leave little room for interpretation: hiring processes are really painful. So much that some people think of it as a conveyor belt filled with candidates, who are sorted out by robotic arms that reject those who are not “perfect by the standards”.

Unless you check all the items from the list of requirements (let’s be serious, it never happens), and with the growing number of atypical candidates (I am myself black belt in atypicalness), it’s not easy to stand out with the tools and reflexes we normally have.

Basically, what I propose is to invest your time and efforts so that recruiters and managers come to you, rather than having to go to them.

In short, to work on your professional brand.

It’s all about not following the herd

How To Stand Out When Looking For A Job

Let’s not be afraid to name the problems. Maintaining and sending a resume, or keeping a LinkedIn profile up to date is within anybody’s reach. The same goes for the thousands of debilitating application forms that can be filled in to be in companies’ databases. (“I just sent my resume, why do I have to copy and paste all its content into a form?”)

Even if it takes time and effort, everyone can do that. And the best way to blend into a herd is to disguise yourself as sheep and bleat.

So the first step is to understand and accept that we can not just do the same as others, or do the bare minimum. First of all, nobody was ever able to change anything, including their own predicaments, by doing like everybody else. Also, why would a company be satisfied with those who are content with doing the bare minimum? Yes, you will need to invest time and effort. Yes, it’s not always pleasant. But you will get much better results. And you will have an influence on your future: you will be an actor or an actress in your job search, not a passive victim waiting for the favor of being chosen.

Over time, with my experiene and my interactions with people from all walks of life, I’ve come up with a list of tips to increase one’s professional brand, and be able to stand out, especially when looking for a job.

1. Adopt a growth mindset

This step is unavoidable and necessary for everything that follows in this article. None of the tips I will give you here will work if you indulge in a fixed mindset. You must remove your blinkers, and ignore those little thoughts suggesting that you can not do this or that.

How To Stand Out When Looking For A Job

In short, we need to stop putting spokes in our own wheels, learn to live with our impostor syndrome and even give it a good lesson. We will talk about it later. All the results you will get will be because you will have tried something new.

2. Surround yourself with people who do what you do and who believe what you believe

It’s not just about networking. By surrounding yourself with people who do the same thing as you, it’s almost inevitable that it will generate very interesting discussions, you will develop your curiosity, you will see with whom you have the most affinities, and it would not be surprising if you embark on some projects with some of those people.

In the end, you will end up being known to your peers, who will think of you when they hear that someone is looking for an expert in your field. And this group of people will certainly become your main audience, if you apply point # 4 of this article.

How To Stand Out When Looking For A Job

LinkedIn is a great way to develop this kind of network. When I became a Scrum Master in 2015, the first thing I did was add to my network all the Scrum Masters I could find in Montreal. Not only has it brought me a lot since then, but I have been able to bring them a lot as well.

Showing up at conferences, meetups, or events related to your expertise (many are free) is also a great way to make sure that people make a mental association between you and your expertise. This is not to be neglected.

3. Network strategically

Here we fall a little more in tangible action, especially following the previous step, and it could prove beneficial faster than my other advices. When you have found a lot of people doing what you do, and you have started to develop interesting relationships with some of them, you can certainly leverage this to your advantage.

For example, imagine that you have identified 5 people who seem to work in a healthy and interesting environment, you can ask them to put you in touch with their boss, their manager. Once this is done, offer this person to have a 15 minute call, or have a coffee with you.

First, the fact that you have been referred by an employee works in your favor. You do not have to say that you are looking for a job: you meet them to discuss the challenges that the market offers in your field of expertise, or values that you have in common. You can also say that you need an opinion about their perception of the current market, and see what they hope for the future.

Whether it’s a phone call or a coffee, you’ll have the opportunity to have a human touch first, and also ask them at the very end “Could you refer me to one or two people in your network with whom you share values and whom I could contact?”

This is when your network starts working for you. It is very rare that a person with whom you have created a tangible relationship will refuse to help you.

What will it bring you that your resume won’t

Let’s be honest, no one remembers a resume, unless it is more than extraordinary. However, people will remember how they felt in your presence, or when talking with you.

By meeting managers who vibrate on the same frequency as you, they will certainly remember you. Try to create a long-term relationship with them. When the time comes, they can put you in direct contact with people from their company when a position opens, and even recommend you. It is important to do this at all times, not just when looking for a new job.

4. Create relevant content about your expertise

How To Stand Out When Looking For A Job

There are many ways to do this, and I will give you several, ranked by increasing level of required efforts.

a) Share articles related to your values and beliefs

It’s certainly the easiest way to go. Find articles that make you tick, that talk about ways to solve problems that you regularly encounter, and share them with as many people as possible (or just in a LinkedIn post), and explain why you agree.

This generates excellent discussions, you will see who in your network shares your values, and you can engage in more serious relationships with these people.

And about the people who write these articles that you share, what prevents you from contacting them too? Who knows who they could put you in contact with? I swear, people who write articles bite very rarely, and like to help their readers 🙂

What will it bring you that your resume won’t

It’s a great way to share your values with recruiters, managers, and other decision-makers in your network. Not very easy to put our beliefs and values in a resume. By sharing stories that resonate with you, it’s easier to understand on what frequency you vibrate!

Personally, I have been contacted a few times by managers (and even a VP), from companies that were quite in demand, simply because I had shared some publications they liked. I had a coffee with them, and we discussed our plans for the future. One of these meetings, which turned into philosophical discussion, was eventually considered as an interview, and I was offered a job a few days later. None of these people asked to see my resume.

b) Post Q & A about your expertise on social media

This is something I have only been doing recently. Since 2018, I have been responding quite regularly to questions on Quora. Although this allowed me to grow my network internationally, I realized that these answers could bring a lot of value to my local network, so I started doing Q & A style publications on LinkedIn.

Until now, it has been very beneficial to me. First, the number of shares of my publications is higher than anything I’ve managed to do so far. I see very well who vibrates at the same frequency as me in my network, and each time I publish, I have several connection requests in the days that follow.

What will it bring you that your resume won’t

This opens a window directly to your expertise, your knowledge, your beliefs. This provides much more tangible proof of the expertise you are putting forward. Between someone who only has a resume, and someone who has a resume and who displays his expertise in this way, you have the advantage. The only flaw is that LinkedIn posts, even if they can be found on your profile, are quite ephemeral. People need to be active in order to see them. That does not mean it’s not worth it!

c) Write articles related to your expertise

More demanding in terms of time and efforts, writing articles on the realities of your field of expertise can really help you out of anonymity.

The first thing that many people will face is their impostor syndrome. “I do not have the authority to write on this topic.” Nobody will give you permission! Besides, nobody will come to save you either. Yes, it can be scary to write, to face criticism, and to risk being contradicted by people who may have more expertise than you.

If you are determined to adopt a growth mindset, this should not stop you. Make short experiments. Start with topics you master very well. Create articles from experiences you have lived. No one can contradict you about the way you gained your experience.

An easy way to start writing is to draw inspiration from one of your professional pains. Did you solve a problem that bothered you? Write what you did! It will inspire others who are in the same situation, and if people with more experience read your article, they can even give you great advice. It’s a win-win situation.

LinkedIn articles, or blogs like mine, can be great business cards. Very often, in concluding a discussion with someone I have just met, I offer to send them 2 or 3 articles I wrote, because I referred to them in our discussion. And I do it with recruiters as well.

Besides the articles, you do not have to limit yourself to writing. If things work out for you, nothing prevents you from making videos, or even a podcast! All of this is easily accessible nowadays.

What will it bring you that your resume won’t

In the long run, a notoriety. And certainly a very competitive advantage. Imagine someone who is recruiting, and who has two candidates with the same number of years of experience, but that one of them wrote 32 relevant articles on his expertise… This makes the choice a lot easier to do, not to mention everything you could bring to the company to showcase their corporate brand with your writings.

I lost track of times people wanted to meet me after that experiment where I put my network at the service of job seekers, or after the publication of my Practical Guide To Becoming A Terrible Manager.

In this case, it is your experience and your storytelling that work for you.

d) Publish a book?

I say this in the most naively way in the world, and under all reserves, it is an area in which I’m slowly making my first steps. If you can write articles and it works, what stops you from going further? For me, it was a challenge that I gave myself last year, to start writing a book in 2019. I am currently studying how to approach this adventure. I intend to publish “The practical guide to becoming a terrible manager, and how not to be that guy” or something along those lines…

Nowadays, self-publishing is more accessible than ever. We do not necessarily need to convince a publisher (even if it helps a lot) to publish our writings. And we do not even need to print copies in advance, e-books are popular, and many platforms offer print-on-demand options. In addition, a book does not have to be very long, even between 100 and 200 pages, it remains a book.

I will refine this part of the article when I have completed the experiment myself. But the idea is not to stop at what you know. Innovate. Do what others don’t dare to do! How many people can boast of having written a book?

What will it bring you that your resume won’t

You should probably include this in your resume. But I do not need to draw you a picture. A recruiter can choose between two candidates with equal experience, but one of them has written a book about his area of expertise. It’s… significant, to say the least.

5. Impersonate your expertise

Definitely an approach that requires a good mastery of your impostor syndrome, and that will tap into your growth mindset. If writing articles and spreading your expertise is no longer too much of a challenge for you, maybe it’s time to put yourself a little more at risk, and begin to personify your expertise.

How To Stand Out When Looking For A Job

By this I mean to start giving workshops or giving lectures. To become the face and voice of your expertise. Its figurehead.

And it does not have to be a very painful or abrupt learning. You could simply begin by organizing a meetup style event, with the help of one or two people from your network.

Many events in the recruiting field often look for volunteer speakers to tell their story. You can contact teachers to discuss the possibility of talking in front of their class. There are plenty of ways to make yourself known in this way, and the only person who can stop you from doing it is yourself.

In conclusion

Whether you are an atypical candidate, or simply a job seeker expert at being interviewed, you should not lose hope. Just because recruitment in its current form does not benefit you does not mean it will always be as such.

By daring doing something new to stand out, you will never be a mere victim of “not having been chosen” just because you have agreed to comply with a recruitment system that requires you to be passive and simply smile, except when it’s time to perform in an interview.

No one is forced to be a victim in this job market, and by taking charge of your professional brand, you position yourself much more as an actor in your professional life.

Have you tried it? Do you feel that a new world is opening before you? It may be the result of your career turning antifragile!

I end with a quote that inspired me a lot as I started working on my professional branding myself…

Work until you don’t have to introduce yourself anymore

How To Stand Out When Looking For A Job
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How To Stand Out When Looking For A Job
Looking for a new job is not easy. In addition to having a CV and an up-to-date LinkedIn profile, how can one stand out in a market where competition is fierce?
Primos Populi
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