The Divergent Job Seeker

The Divergent Job Seeker

If you have a young adult in the house, you probably have heard of the book series entitled Divergent.  Now a hit movie, it’s the story of a young girl who doesn’t fit the mold in a dystopian future society.  Unlike most of her peers, she isn’t defined by the accepted attributes of her group, but instead forges an identity that is unique to her.  In very general terms, that’s exactly what those in transition must do to succeed in today’s tough hiring environment.

While there are exceptions, most of the openings advertised online –whether they appear on a job board or a social media site – attract dozens, sometime hundreds of applications.  The challenge for all of the people represented by those applications is to distinguish themselves from the herd.  Or to put it another way, to have a credible shot at getting an interview and thus landing a job, they have to find a way to appear divergent.

In the old days circa the 20th century, the key was to make your resume distinctive.  Job seekers printed it on colored paper, used a non-traditional font or even tied a shoe to it (to get their foot in the door).  They used a surrogate – that artificial, two-page document – as a stand in for their work capabilities so they would stand out in the job market.

Today, a stand out resume isn’t enough.  Employers want a more comprehensive portrait of prospective employees and they’re turning to two kinds of sources to get it: social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook and “people aggregators” like Entelo and HiringSolved that scour the Web to collect all of the information about an individual available anywhere online.  So, the best way to set yourself apart isn’t by developing a distinctive resume; it’s by developing a distinctive reputation.  Resumes are still very important, but reputations are even more so.

A Distinctive Reputation

A distinctive reputation would typically be built over the course of your career.  This “employment reputation” would encompass (among other things):
•    What you did at your previous jobs and how well you did it;
•    Your contributions to your field at your professional society or trade association;
•    Your relationships with previous coworkers, bosses and classmates; and
•    Your career track record, including your promotions and special assignments.
In addition, of course, a distinctive reputation is also built by what you didn’t do, especially online.  Sadly, a lot of people have damaged their reputation by posting inappropriate pictures or obscene or defamatory messages on social media sites.

So, how do you take all of that and turn it into a distinctive reputation during a job search?  How do you make the reputation you’ve already established look divergent to employers?  The answer itself is divergent: you have to avoid muddying your employment reputation by wrapping it in a job seeker veneer.

You may be looking for a job, but you don’t want that to be an employer’s first impression of you.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a job seeker, but positioning yourself as one in the job market can overshadow your employment reputation and make you look like every other person in the job market.

To be distinctive in that environment, therefore, take steps that will reinforce your reputation as a seasoned and capable employee in you r field.  For example:
•    Don’t spend a minute on job search-related blogs, LinkedIn groups or Facebook pages.  Instead, invest your time at sites dedicated to your career field and industry.
•    Don’t be a lurker on those sites and simply read what others are saying.  Instead, contribute your expertise to the discussion, wherever possible, citing your employment experience to bolster your comments.
•    Don’t be invisible at the local and national meetings of your professional society and trade association.  Instead, attend their meetings, join their special task forces and get involved in their other activities.
•    Don’t attend the meetings of those groups as a job seeker.  Instead, interact with others as a confident and capable peer in your field.

Once you’ve done that – once you’ve reinforced your employment reputation – then connect to those you’ve met on those career field and industry blogs and at those society and association meetings to let them know you’re looking for the next step in your career.  You’ll stand out in their minds because you’ll have behaved differently than everyone else in transition.  You’ll look divergent.

Thanks for reading,
Peter