The best way to win at anything is to make people come to you.
This is especially true when it comes to finding the perfect job. If all you’re doing is reacting to the cattle calls of online job postings and campus career fairs, you’re giving yourself minimal opportunity to distinguish yourself.
On the other hand, if you can pique an employer’s interest and make him or her come to you, you’ve got a great chance of winning the job.
First, build your personal brand
Think of your job search in two phases. Phase One is about building your brand. This consists of all the general things you need to do to build your image and exposure.
- Online, you should be spending time every day building your online presence, commenting on blogs in your areas of interest, networking, writing your own blog posts. This way, you’re creating your own opportunities and not simply reacting to the cattle calls of online job postings or school-sponsored career fairs.
- Offline, you should be networking with people involved in your area of interest, attending speaking events, finding and attending on-campus and off-campus meetings of people with similar interests, looking for ways to help professionals in your chosen field.
I know you’re busy but you need to be engaging in these activities as your investment in yourself. Spend at least five hours per week building your brand.
So, Phase One is about distinguishing YOU: How smart, interesting, thoughtful, engaging, passionate, articulate, and helpful you are.
Next, focus on the employer
Once I was doing a search not for a client but for myself. My wedding was coming up and I needed a wedding photographer. I asked around for referrals, went online to do research, and came up with a list of candidates. So far so good. I called the first candidate and scheduled a meeting.
During our interview, she said in passing, “I’ve noticed that brides and I often disagree on which photos to use in the album.”
Surprised, I stopped my line of questioning and asked, “Huh? What do you mean?”
“Well, I like photos that are beautiful. But brides tend to like photos where they look beautiful.”
When you’re a recruiter, there’s often a “good-bye!” moment in an interview when you realize no way is this person going to be your successful candidate, and so it’s time to gently wind down the interview as quickly as possible to avoid wasting any more of the candidate’s time or your own. This was the good-bye moment in this interview.
It’s the job of the wedding photographer to make the bride look beautiful! This candidate was so focused on herself that she didn’t understand that in any recruiting process, what the candidate needs to do is show how she’s going to fill the employer’s needs.
So, please do not ever write an email like this: “Dear Sir or Madame: I am writing to apply for XX job. I am a senior in college. This is how I am great…. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Joe”
Put yourself in the employer’s shoes
Before beginning any communication with a potential employer, research the company and the individual you’ll be speaking or writing to. If the individual has a blog or has appeared in the media, great. Read everything. Put yourself in his or her shoes. What are the company’s goals? What are this person’s own goals? How do they think and talk about their goals or vision? What’s exciting about all this to you? How can you help them reach their goals?
Then, in every communication, talk about how exciting to you is their vision, what you find special about them, and how you can help them reach their goals.
Of course, all this will be even easier and more natural if you’ve already piqued their interest through the brand you’ve been creating for yourself.
So, remember: Build your brand around YOU. Win the job by focusing on THEM. Or you’ll end up in the good-bye heap along with a certain would-be wedding photographer.
I welcome your comments, in Chinese or English, on the Chinese version of this blog post, which is here.