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Applying for Jobs? Here are 3 Ways to Make Sure You Stand Out.

Applying for Jobs? Here are 3 Ways to Make Sure You Stand Out.

So you give your resume one last thorough review. It looks good. You make a few minor tweaks to your standard cover letter, changing a phrase here and there to include the important keywords from the job description. Then you hit send. Just like 257 other candidates.

Maybe in booming economic times, when it’s a seller’s market, you can get away with this passive job-search process: find a great gig posted online, fire off a resume and wait for an interview or an outright offer. But not in a buyer’s market. Not today. If you’re looking for work today, in just about any industry, chances are you’re competing with many people who are at least as qualified as you are. Time to get creative.

1. Make your pitch stand out.

Everybody sends in a cover letter and resume. Do something more interesting, more relevant to the gig you’re applying for – something that gives you a chance to show off what’s unique about you.

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I’ll illustrate with a personal example. I once posted a job for a marketing person whose primary function would be building PowerPoint presentations. We received many dozens of resumes (this was during boom times), and many of the candidates claimed proficiency with PowerPoint. But one candidate actually rebuilt her resume – beautifully – in PowerPoint. This candidate had the simple but brilliant idea to show us her proficiency with PowerPoint, rather than just tell us. She also showed creative thinking and made hers stand out among all of the resume emails that flooded our inbox.

2) Don’t limit yourself to jobs posted.

These days just about every posted job worth having receives dozens if not hundreds of applicants. What’s more, posted jobs represent just a small fraction of the opportunities that pop up all the time. According to a hiring expert quoted in the Wall Street Journal, in fact, 80% of jobs are never even advertised.

So why not work the other way around? Find the companies you want to work for, and pitch them.

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This has two benefits. First, by focusing your search on organizations you’d be enthusiastic about working for, you can make your pitches much more genuine and positive. You can tailor each pitch, making a case for specifically what you like or admire about that company and why you want to join their team. That makes a difference. Second, the field is clear so your pitch will receive more attention. And you never know. You might send in an enthusiastic inquiry about working in the marketing department of a large videogame publisher – a place you’ve always wanted to work at – just when their VP decides it’s time to build out the team. Or yours might be such a perfect background for the company that that same VP might want to bring you in even though they hadn’t planned on adding new staff.

Don’t wait for the right fit for your talents. Find a fit yourself, and then go after it.

3. Offer to prove yourself for free.

Okay, this one is a bit controversial. Some people believe offering to provide some work for a potential employer for free to prove yourself makes you look desperate. Or that it devalues your work and puts you in a weakened position when it’s time to negotiate for the job. And they might be right.

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But I also know that almost nobody thinks to make this suggestion, even if they’re interviewing for their dream job. Doing so will make you stand out. I also know several professionals who have used this tactic to great success. In some cases, they’ve performed a small task, impressed the company and got the job. In other cases, merely offering a free project as proof of their skill – and positioning it that way – has given the company the confidence that they’re the right candidate. And those professionals also got the jobs.

Note: If you’re going to make this offer to a possible employer, how you position the offer is key. You’re offering to do a small task for free because you consider it a minor upfront investment in a long-term relationship. You know that after the company has seen your work, they’ll want more of it. That’s confidence. Not desperation.

By the way, this tactic can work for just about any type of job – not only for designers or web developers. If you’re a corporate trainer, for example, you might suggest crafting a very short training session for a specific department in the company. Sales rep? Perhaps you could offer to craft a very short introductory phone script based on the information you can glean from the company’s website and literature.

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The point here – as with all of these tips – is to be creative. Everyone has a resume, and a cover letter with job-description-matching keywords, and references. What do you have that sets you apart? Don’t be afraid to share it.

Featured photo credit: Captain Kimo via flickr.com

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robbie hyman

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

Congratulations, you’re starting a new job! You’re feeling relieved that the interviews and the wait for a decision from the hiring manager is over, and you’ve finally signed the offer.

Feelings of fear and anticipation may surface now as you think about starting work on Monday. Or you may feel really confident if you have plenty of work experience.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones. It’s very common for seasoned professionals to overestimate themselves due to the breadth of their experience.

Companies offer different depths of on-boarding experiences.[1] Ultimately, success in your career depends on you.

Below are 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career.

1. Your Work Starts Before Your First Day

When you prepared for your interview, you likely did some research about the company. Now it’s time to go more in depth.

  • How would your manager like you to prepare for your first day? What are his/her expectations?
  • What other information can your manager provide so that you can start learning more about the role or company?
  • What company policies or reports can you review that can get you acclimatized to your new job and work environment?

You’ll need to embrace a lot of new people and information when you start your new job. What you learn before your first day at work can help you feel more grounded and prepare your mind to process new information.

2. Know Your Role and the Organization

Review the job posting and know your responsibilities. Sometimes, job postings are simplified versions of the job description. Ask your manager or human resources if there is a detailed job description of your role.

Once you understand your key responsibilities and accountabilities, ask yourself:

  • What questions do you have about the role?
  • What information do you need to do your job effectively?
  • Who do you need to meet and start building relationships with?

Continue to increase your knowledge and do your research through the company Intranet site, organizational charts, the media, LinkedIn profiles, the industry and who your company competitors are.

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This is not a one time event. Continue to do this throughout your time with the company. Every team or project you engage with will evolve and change.

Keep current and be ready to adapt by using your observational skills to be aware of changes to your work environment and people’s behaviour.

3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work

Understanding your work culture is key to help you succeed in your career.

Many of these unwritten rules will not be listed on company policies. This means you’ll need to use all of your senses to observe the environment and the people within it.

What should you wear? See what your peers and leaders are wearing. Notice everything from their jewelry down to their shoes. Once you have a good idea of the dress code you can then infuse your own style.

What are your hours of work? What do you notice about start, break and end times? Are your observations different from what you learned at the interview? What questions do you have based on your observations? Asking for clarity will help you make informed decisions and thrive in a new work setting.

What are the main communication channels?[2] What communication mediums do people use (phone, email, in-person, video)? Does the medium change in different work situations? What is your manager’s communication style and preference? These observations will help you better navigate your work environment and thrive in the workplace.

4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions

You got the job, you’re feeling confident and are eager to show how you can contribute. Check the type of language you are using when you’re approaching your work and sharing your experiences.

I’ve heard many new employees say:

  • “I used to do this at ‘X’ company …”
  • “When I worked at “X” company we implemented this really effective process …”
  • “We did this at my other company … how come you guys are not …”
  • “Why are you doing that … we used to do this …”

People usually don’t want to hear about your past company. The experiences that you had in the past are different in this new environment.

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Remember to:

  • Notice your assumptions
  • Focus on your own work
  • Ask questions, and
  • Learn more about the situation before offering suggestions.

You can then better position yourself as a trusted resource that makes informed decisions tailored to business needs.

5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

Contrary to common belief, asking questions when you’re starting a new job is not a vulnerability.

Asking relevant questions related to your job and the company:

  • Helps you clarify expectations
  • Shows that you’ve done your research
  • Demonstrates your initiative to learn

Seeking to clarify and understand your environment and the people within it will help you become more effective at your job.

6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand

Starting a new job is the perfect time to set clear expectations with your manager and colleagues. Your actions and behaviors at work tells others about your work style and how you like to operate. So it’s essential to get clear on what feels natural to you at work and ensure that your own values are aligned with your work actions.

Here are a few questions to reflect on so that you can clearly articulate your intentions and follow through with consistent actions:

Where do you need to set expectations? Reflect on lessons learned from your previous work experiences. What types of expectations do you need to set so that you can succeed?

Why are you setting these expectations? You’ll likely need to provide context and justify why you’re setting these boundaries. Are your expectations reasonable? What are the impacts on the business?

What are your values? If you value work life balance, but you’re answering emails on weekends and during your vacation time, people will continue to expect this from you. What boundaries do you need to set for yourself at work?

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What do you want to be known for? This question requires some deep reflection. Do you want to be known as a leader who develops and empowers others? Maybe you want to be known for someone who creates an environment of respect where everyone can openly share ideas. Or maybe you want to be someone who challenges people to get outside their comfort zones?

7. Manage Up, Down, and Across

Understanding the work styles of those around you is key to a successful career. Particularly how you communicate and interact with your immediate manager.

Here are a few key questions to consider:

  • How can you make your manager’s job easier?
  • What can you do to anticipate her/his needs?
  • How can you keep them informed (and prepared) so they don’t get caught off-guard?
  • What are your strengths? How can you communicate these to him/her so that they fully understand your capabilities?

These questions can also apply if you manage a team or if you deal with multiple stakeholders.

8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company

It’s important to keep learning from diverse groups and individuals within the company. You’ll get different perspectives about the organization and others may be able to help you succeed in your role.

What types of relationships do you need to build? Why are you building this relationship?

Here are some examples of workplace relationships:

  • Immediate Manager. He/she controls your work assignments. The work can shape the success of your career.
  • Mentors. These are people who are knowledgeable about their field and the company. They are willing to share their experiences with you to help you navigate the workplace and even your career.
  • Direct Reports. Your staff can influence how successful you are at meeting your goals.
  • Mentees. They are another resource to help you keep informed about the organization and your opportunity to develop others.

Other workplace relationships include team members, stakeholders, or strategic partners/sponsors that will advocate for your work.

Learn more in this article: 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

You are part of an ecosystem that has gotten you to where you are today. Every single person and each moment that you have encountered with someone has shaped who you are – both positive and negative.

Here’s How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

Make sure you continue to nurture the relationships that you value and show gratitude to those who have helped you achieve your goals.

Summing It Up

There are many aspects of your career that you are in control of. Observe, listen, and make informed decisions. Career success depends on your actions.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones.

Here are the 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career:

  1. Your Work Starts Before Your 1st Day
  2. Know Your Role and the Organization
  3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work
  4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions
  5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification
  6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand
  7. Manage Up, Down, and Across
  8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company
  9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

Celebrate, enjoy your new role, and take good care of yourself!

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Featured photo credit: Frank Romero via unsplash.com

Reference

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