With all the technology that facilitated job application and recruitment processes, all the employment websites, the emerging services of career coaches, and social media networks, all which didn’t really exist 20 years ago, it would be a natural assumption to make that finding a job would be easier. A natural assumption that is far from the reality! The number of those seeking jobs, even among graduates of the most prestigious schools in the country, remains high, as does the number of those already employed but not enjoying or finding themselves in their current jobs. Employers are struggling to find the talent they want and desperately need. They are overstretched by business strategy, aggressive financial targets, and business optimization. They need great talent that can help them now, leaving little opportunity to develop junior talent.
If we have a group looking for jobs (job seekers) and a group looking for talent (employers), so where is the struggle? Employers are pressured to hire and retain talent with the right skill set, mind set and attitude to help them to deliver on results. Job seekers are looking for an opportunity that excites them and helps them develop.
Throughout my many years in HR and leadership positions across multinationals in different sectors and countries, I can very much say that tuning into the right mindset for job search and career growth is really a lot about reminding ourselves of these five tips below. Looking at them through the lens of some great movies will make them easier to remember.
1. Stand out
Will Smith in the movie ‘Concussion’ really stood out as different. He played the role of a brilliant forensic neuropathologist who discovers a football-related brain trauma. He was not concerned that he stood out but wanted to be seen different for good reasons.
If there was only one piece of advice I could offer, it is just that: Stand out! So many candidates come off as ‘normal’, ‘ordinary’ and ‘mainstream’, and you do not want that. Make your resume interesting by expressing what you have accomplished, not what you did. Which would be more impactful to read in a resume: ‘Responsible for all treasury activities’ or ‘Raised $50,000 as part of leading treasury activities’?
Besides making your resume stand out, be memorable at the interview. Practice telling some great stories about things that you have done and experienced. Even if you don’t get the job, you would have made an impression that improves your potential for the next vacancy at that company.
2. Leverage and learn
Having skills and knowledge in a certain area is great. You certainly need to leverage that, but you also need to be open to gaining new skills in that area and stepping outside your comfort zone, instead of being content with what you currently know. In the movie ‘Moneyball’, Brad Pitt was a professional baseball coach, with a lot of experience. Despite the challenges, he was definitely better than counterparts, until he opened up to a new idea of using performance statistics and analytics to make better decisions for the team and win more games. He became a legend within a few months because he decided that he would leverage something new, even when everyone dismissed it at first. He forever changed the game of baseball because he was open to learning how to do what he already did, but in a better way.
3. Embrace the passion that is coupled with uncertainty
Knowing what you want and being passionate about it is your best possible situation, but not everyone always has that luxury. Tom Cruise, a successful sports agent in ‘Jerry Maguire’ decides to change his life purpose and wrote a mission statement that he was very passionate about. He knew and believed in the approach and standards by which he wants to work, yet he wasn’t quite sure what to do or how to begin.
If you know what you want, that’s great, but if you are not sure, that is also fine. You just need to make sure to try different things to better understand what you want (and don’t want) to do moving forward. If you like finance, fantastic! If you don’t know what exactly you want to do in finance, experience the different roles and specializations.
4. Get things done
In ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’, Yoda tells Luke Skywalker, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” So many people I have met for jobs or interviewed say they are interested to do something but haven’t had time yet or just never got around to it. That doesn’t give them an edge; it actually makes them look lazy, uncommitted or just trying to look good. “I wanted to learn coding but didn’t have time” doesn’t win you any brownie points. If you want to do something, do it and then tell the interviewer the story.
5. Take advantage of those around you (in the good sense)
We are all surrounded by people carrying experiences from different walks of life, but so few of us really talk, listen and ask the right questions to those who can help us think of things differently, or expose us to something we didn’t know. If you have an interview for a marketing role at a FMCG, ask people with relevant experience about it and ask them good questions.
Anne Hathaway quickly dismissed Robert De Niro in ‘The Intern’ because he was old, didn’t understand technology or much about fashion. With time, she came to uncover his experience and realize that what he brought to the table actually helps but she just needed to be open to it, listen and ask the right questions.