How a Job Hunt is Like an Egg Hunt
How, you are thinking, could an egg hunt possibly be correlated with a job hunt? Actually, it’s not that far of a stretch. Allow me to elaborate: Job seekers are the eggs. Companies are the hunters.
Eggs start off looking pretty similar to one another. They are the same basic shape, with slight variations in size and color – kind of like people. We all have the same basic features – eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, legs. We come in white, varying shades of brown, large and small.
When you apply for a job, you are trying to stand out among hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other applicants who have the same basic features. Many will have a similar degree and work history, so if you only include your basic work history and job description on your resume, you’ll be just another egg. So how do you go from looking like everyone else, to getting “found” and put in the egg basket?
STEP 1) Recognize that you ARE unique. Even plain eggs have slight variations like a bump or crack. You are more than just your degree and / or work history. You have personal strengths. Know what they are. Are you great with people? Are you a skilled number cruncher? Are you uber-organized? Define your top three strengths. If you have trouble identifying them, look at your LinkedIn recommendations for themes – what are people saying about you? If you have more than one person mentioning your high integrity, it should probably be on your list. This will be the foundation of your personal brand.
STEP 2) Recognize HOW your uniqueness matters. Educator Angela Maiers gave an inspiring Tedx talk last June, where she discussed the human need to MATTER (link is at the bottom – I don’t want you getting distracted and leaving just yet). Her message is one that is essential to job seekers, who are often frustrated, discouraged, and feeling insignificant – like they don’t matter. But each and every person does matter. Knowing how you matter is key to believing that you matter.
When I interview clients, my goal is to get the details about their accomplishments that will show how they have mattered to their employers – and how they could make a difference for the next one. Often the initial response is ”I don’t really have any accomplishments” or ”they aren’t significant enough.” This is when I know I have a client who doesn’t recognize how he or she matters, so I have to get creative with my questioning. You can do this for yourself, too.
First, take the list of soft-skill strengths you identified in Step 1. Then ask yourself pointed questions that relate to each strength, and follow up with how it impacted the company. For example:
STRENGTH: Organized. QUESTION: Tell me about a time when you re-organized a system or process at work.
SAMPLE ANSWER: ” Well, when I started, there was just one inbox for all types of incoming payroll forms, and no designated place to put things that didn’t need to be processed until a future pay period. I created separate inboxes, and a filing system for each pay period so things didn’t get lost as much.”
FOLLOW-UP IMPACT QUESTION: How did that change affect employees or the company?
SAMPLE IMPACT ANSWER: “Since things didn’t get lost, there were fewer mistakes. We went from 15+ manual or voided checks each pay date to only 1 or 2. Employees weren’t unhappy anymore and I didn’t have to work overtime to fix the mistakes every pay day.”
Now we have a great accomplishment example to include on the resume. But more importantly, this person now recognizes for herself something she did that mattered.
STEP 3) SELL your unique offering. This is the equivalent of coloring your eggshell. Inside, you are the same person, but outside you will be so much more attractive to employers hunting for an egg just that color. Now that you have a list of examples that show how you have mattered to your previous employers, it’s time to write them down in the form of an impact statement that helps them understand your value.
Here is how I would use the “organized” payroll example above in a resume:
“Restored confidence in payroll department by reducing error rate more than 85%. Organized paper-flow to streamline process, which facilitated a higher level of service to employees and reduced overtime spend by $2,000 per year.”
Note that the statement includes both qualitative (restored confidence…higher level of service…) and quantitative (85%, $2,000) details. If you have trouble attaching numbers to your impact statement, consider the qualitative improvements and mention those at least.
STEP 4) “HIDE” in plain sight. You don’t want to be the golden egg that is so well hidden no one finds it until it has gone rotten. In job search terms, that means two things: key words, and social media.
Key words are how your resume will get found by applicant tracking system. Use a service like Resunate to compare your resume with a job description to see how well you have matched it, and get suggestions of key words or phrases to add. While this can be helpful, be careful to ensure that your resume still flows in a natural way and that you aren’t artificially adding words that aren’t applicable to your skills.
Social media is like being able to clone yourself and be multiple places at once. Go beyond the Big 3 (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter). The more “clones” are out there – the higher the likelihood that an employer will find you. If you are wondering what other networks to use, you may want to visit my XeeMe profile for a list of my social networks. You’ll notice that while they are all about me, each profile is slightly different. Job seekers should also make each profile just unique enough to add value to your overall story.
So there you have it – four steps to being the egg that gets found. Let me know what you think of this comparison below.
I also highly recommend that you read the You Matter Manifesto by Angela Maiers, which can be found here (including the Tedx video) It’s a powerful message that is relevant to everyone, especially job seekers who have forgotten that they matter.