In my personal life I drive a van. I’m a van dad; a chauffeur for my kids and their friends. Every night I eat cereal, Great Grains with cranberries, to be exact. Not good for my waistline. Another fact about me is The Big Bang Theory and The Middle are two of my favorite television shows.
On the surface I’m not a very exciting guy. When my friends ask me if I’m staying out of trouble, I tell them I wish I could get into trouble.
On a professional level, though, people I’ve never met approach me and tell me that they’ve heard about me. Oh no. Is there a warrant out for me? No there isn’t, they assure me. They’ve heard about my expertise in the job-search or LinkedIn. Or they’ve seen me on LinkedIn numerous times (but they haven’t hidden me). Some of my customer say my name pops up at the networking groups they attend. It’s all good they tell me.
Although my personal life wouldn’t excite a three year-old child, my professional life is worthy of recognition. While you’re in the job search, it’s important to set yourself apart. After work, you can drive a van. Here are seven tips on how to do it.
1. Create a great first impression: This is a topic of which I’ve written and preach to my customers until I’m blue in the face. How you appear in your job search makes a huge difference. Your appearance includes your facial expression, tone of voice, body language, even how you dress. Especially how you dress!
Despite how you feel internally, portray a person who’s enthusiastic about finding your next job. Set yourself apart by expressing the value you offer employers, not talking about your current situation like a customer of mine who mentions during his introduction that he’s been out of work for a year. Those who can help you want to see and hear confidence, not listen to you bemoan how long you’ve been out of work.
2. Listen to people: Do you set yourself apart from other networkers by being willing to listen without cutting them off? Are you that unique person who asks what you can do for others before asking for advice or leads? This will set you apart in the job search; make people want to listen to you by listening to them.
Also remember that networking is ongoing. You don’t need to attend networking events (although that’s great) to be successful. You must connect with people everyday, everywhere. While it’s important to attend networking events, it’s more important that you take advantage of connecting with people who may provide you with your next opportunity.
3. Carry personal business cards: Those who have business cards are seen as serious about their job search. You’ll carry your business cards, most obviously, to networking events, but also to social functions, conferences, family gatherings, basically everywhere.
Your personal business cards should sufficiently tell people about what you do and how well you do it. Read this article on why business cards are important and what information to include on them. They’re not candy, so don’t hand them out to everyone. One of my close connections has a great tip on how NOT to be a card pusher.
4. Hone up on your telephone skills: Whether it’s a telephone interview or a conversation with a potential contact, are you prepared for the call? You may require talking points, or even a script—though this is not encouraged—to make the conversation go smoothly.
Set yourself apart by being articulate and expressing your views clearly. Always think of how you can show value to a potential employer or contact, and include your relevant accomplishments in your conversation. Be sure to mention a “call-to-action,” e.g., “When can I meet with the hiring manager at the company?” Or, “It would be great to meet for coffee.”
5. Request informational interviews: Are you prepared for the informational interview (I prefer calling them “networking meetings“), so you don’t waste the person’s time? Set yourself apart by bringing to the meeting intelligent questions that create a thought-provoking conversation. Don’t waste the person’s time. After all, she’s granting you time she probably can’t spare. Your goal is to impress her.
Keep in mind that most companies are trying to fill positions through referrals. If your conversation goes well and you come across as someone who can solve the company’s problems, you might be referred to the hiring manager. At the very least, you’ll be given other people with whom you can speak.
6. Write compelling résumés/cover letters: Recruiters and hiring managers are complaining about résumés and cover letters they’ve received that are…well, terrible. They are littered with spelling errors, typos, and grammatical mistakes. Take the time to proofread your marketing literature. Better yet, have other people proofread what you submit to employers.
Don’t simply set yourself apart by submitting a error-free résumé and cover letter. Write one that is tailored for that job, includes quantified accomplishments, and consistent with your branding, etc. Employers want to know that you understand the requirements of the position and that you can meet those requirements.
7. Make your presence on LinkedIn: Because 96% of recruiters/hiring managers use LinkedIn to cull talent, it’s imperative that you’re on LinkedIn. Your job is to get found (read this article on SEO), but once you’re found you want to impress your potential employer.
My default photo of someone who sets himself apart is on the right and one I share with my workshop attendees. They all agree that he is branding himself as a photographer, doing a great job of setting himself apart.
Bringing it all together: By night I’m a van driving dad, a cereal eater, and watcher of The Big Bang Theory and The Middle; but at work I’m setting myself apart with my expertise in the job search and LinkedIn. I’m happy with my personal and professional lives. Think about how you can set yourself apart from the competition. You may not use the aforementioned methods, but try to include the majority of them.
What are some other ways people can set themselves apart in the job search?