I get frustrated when I bake.
I can read the recipe. I can see how much flour and how many eggs I need to use. I can measure the salt. I have the right utensils and pans.
But I can’t always get the result I was hoping for.
Cookies burn. Cakes sink. Bread doesn’t rise.
Darnit! I follow the instructions! Ingredients, proportions, time…
But I’ve realized that something is missing for me; something great bakers just know intuitively and bring to their craft:
Great baking is an art.
Sure, it’s got scientific elements. Chemical reactions are key.
But finesse…that’s something else entirely.
Great bakers learn over time the differences between ingredient quality. They experience and integrate the subtle differences between flavors and textures into their recipes. They realize that ovens are calibrated differently; that altitude matters. Over time, they learn that every baking project requires concentration and consideration, and two loaves of bread or two cakes can turn out very differently.
This realization shifted my thinking.
Like you, I sometimes take on a project thinking that if I just follow the instructions, I will get a brilliant result.
But it doesn’t happen.
Do you think this way about your job search?
If so, you are like millions of other people who are operating within a paradigm that, well, just isn’t true.
Put another way, most of us have been told that if we follow a series of steps, we will end up in a good job with a great salary.
Well, it can be true.
We can pull together a resume, which summarizes our experience. We can follow the directions and apply online and wait to be contacted.
It might work out.
But then again…
I keep seeing posts on various social media by people who submit hundreds of applications using this mindset. They still don’t have jobs.
It’s time to revise our thinking.
It’s time to realize that job searching is not a science. It’s an art.
Let me explain:
First of all, you’re partially right when you protest that there are rules for a job search.
Rule 1: Most of the time, you need some way to show off your qualifications. (Hence, the resume.)
Rule 2: When you submit a resume online, you need to pay attention to the terminology you use. (Hence, the keywords everyone talks about. You want to signal to the employer that you match what they are looking for.) You also want to make sure your resume is scannable by the applicant tracking software.
But here is where we move into the more creative aspects.
Here is where the “art” comes in.
The New “Non-Rules” for Your Job Search
1. Tell your unique story.
You come to the search with your unique characteristics and qualifications. You can parse and bundle them in many different ways to create a case for your worth.
You may have a college degree, or you may not.
Perhaps you took a year off to travel internationally or took five years off to raise a family.
Perhaps you speak a foreign language.
Maybe you grew up working in your family business.
I’ve had clients who are also musicians or active in nonprofit organizations.
In short: You are a human with unique qualities and experiences; not a cookie-cutter job ad. You have solved problems in unique ways according to your abilities and perceptions.
Your story won’t look like someone else’s.
2. There are few real rules for resumes.
Okay, there are some guidelines. As explained above, your document has to be readable by an application system. You also need to make sure you have your job history in reverse chronological order. This is the most acceptable way to present your experience.
You also should strive to show how you solved problems, and use metrics if you can.
But that leaves a lot of latitude.
For instance, you can:
✺Decide what kinds of accomplishments best fit the target job. Are you at a managerial level? Top leadership? You probably want achievements that reflect your level of responsibility.
✺Decide how far back you need to go. Fifteen years is usually enough. But you may have relevant experience further back. It all depends on what the employer needs to know.
✺You may have some collateral you created. Perhaps you are a designer, a writer, or a social media marketing strategist. You may have patents or publication credits. You can decide how to showcase those and where.
✺You also might have some great testimonials and kudos from bosses, clients, or colleagues. Should you include those? It’s totally up to you.
✺Oh – and that 1-page rule? Forget it! How can you possibly convey a 25-year working history on a single page? (2, even 3 or more, are acceptable if the messaging fits.)
✺You also can decide on a design format. Will it be black-and-white? Will some of the words be in color? Will you use a page border? Will you create graphs or tables to illustrate your progress in the industry in addition to describing it?
3. It’s not stalking.
People hire people. Interacting with those in your industry is important in your search. Getting a referral is one of the best ways to get in for an interview.
But so many people are afraid to network.
They are afraid to reach out to hiring managers and insiders to find out more about companies of interest or advertised roles. Others try it once, don’t get an answer, and quit.
If this is you, I say you are missing a golden opportunity to get noticed and be remembered.
Get creative! There are no rules; only the limits of your resourcefulness.
✺Talk to your friends. They might have contacts in your industry.
✺Reconnect with former colleagues to find out what they’re up to. You might unearth some opportunities.
✺Mention to your dentist that you’re in a search, and in what field. Ask about their connections.
✺Join a bowling league or a gym; volunteer at a charity event; or talk to people in line at the grocery store.
✺Attend a conference in your industry and start chatting with folks at the sessions. (You will meet a bunch of hiring managers.)
You never know what will happen.
4. A little reminder never hurts.
Remember that adage about the squeaky wheel?
It’s often true about a job search.
After you have made contact with a hiring manager, or have had an interview, you don’t want to be forgotten!
So many job seekers just fall off the company’s radar after doing all that work to get noticed.
I get it. We all worry about being a pest. But you have lots of creative leeway here.
Here are just a few ideas:
✺Follow target companies on LinkedIn and be visible and interact with their content.
✺Keep in touch with your interviewer or inside contacts periodically by sharing interesting links that pertain to their industry.
✺Show you’re paying attention by congratulating the hiring manager on publicized innovations and awards.
✺Here’s a bold move: Create a slide deck about yourself and have it ready to share before, during, or after interviews.
Are you getting the idea?
Getting hired is about communicating your value in the most effective way you can imagine, in a format that is appealing to the reader, and with material that is most relevant.
The best job seekers put their personal touches on their job searches. They can show their personalities and their unique selling points in multiple ways.
They don’t worry about breaking the rules.
They shape their messages for impact.
They focus on being noticed.
They understand it’s an art; not a science.
So, forget about ruining the recipe. Concentrate on your unique ingredients. Follow your instincts. Experiment. If one thing doesn’t work; try another!
Your confidence will soar. And you just might be the one who gets the offer.
While you’re doing that, I’m going to give that cake another try.