Career Q&A: How do I get noticed in a highly competitive field?

Q: I’m looking for high-salaried work and I don’t know how to stand out from the competition.

A: When people think about standing out in the job search, they often think of gimmicks like skywriting or a resume made out of chocolate (or is that just me?). However, to get hired for your dream job, you need more than just to be a better version of everyone else. It requires upfront work and strategizing. Here are the steps that I guide my clients through to stand out over all the other peacocks:

  1. Know your value. This goes beyond just your skills, education, and experience. You have something unique that you can use to make something in your future workplace better. It may be your systems thinking or how you boost morale or your ability to translate tech-speak to the rest of the population, but know what makes you special. If you don’t know yourself, how will you be able to share your potential with your future boss?
  2. Be strategic when applying for jobs. That means do your research in advance. Instead of reacting to job postings, target companies that are a good fit for you, both in the work and the culture. Talk to people who work in those companies. Create advocates for yourself. If there are two candidates with the same experience and one has 5 people singing their praises, who’s going to get hired? This can even overcome some deficiencies in experience or education. But you can’t use advocates effectively unless you’re strategic, focused, and targeted.
  3. Include outcomes and impact in your resume. Most people will talk about what they did. Some people with quantify their work, which is great because numbers pop! But very few people explain the tangible impact their work made on previous companies. This is an offshoot to point #1. If you know your value, then write up how you’ve made things better in the past. This indicates what you’ll do for them in the future.
  4. In the interview, listen as much as you talk. Listen for the underlying questions. They may be asking about your experience but what they’re really asking is “Will you quit after 3 months like the last person? Will you blow through the allocated budget just to buy yourself a new desk?” (for example). Listen for the problems and pain points that they have so you can talk about how you would address them.
  5. Prepare for the salary negotiation before you interview. Use Glassdoor to look at not only that that company is paying, but others in the same market. Practice dodging salary questions that often come up during interviews so you don’t lose your leverage: “My range is in line with market averages” or “Based on everything I’m hearing, I’m sure we can come to an agreement where everyone’s happy.” When you’re applying for competitive jobs, you may try to over or under sell yourself to stand out. Instead, talking salary only after you’ve gotten a job offer sets you up to get paid what you’re worth.  

If you’re thinking about entering into a highly competitive field, my number one piece of advice is to love whatever it is you’re doing. It often takes patience and persistence to actually get hired so you’ll need extra motivation to keep going if the rejections start to pile up. If you’re doing it just for the money, that will come across in the interview. So find the occupation where you love both the work AND the salary. Then, you’re setting yourself up for the good life!

If you’re looking for step-by-step guidance on getting the job you truly want, My Career Design Studio may be just what you need. Try it free for seven days!

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