Job searches are all about getting attention, and a lot of the advice out there is what I think of as cosmetic: what to wear, what to say, how to manage your body language in an interview, that sort of thing.
A lot of clients I work with start to get a look on their face when I talk about it… like I’m asking them to take out someone else’s garbage. A lot of job searching seems false to them, they say. They hate to “network” just for personal gain, and they hate that it all sounds like gaming the system.
I agree with them. Job hunting needs to be about more than looking good, or sounding good for an hour and a half interview. It’s about capturing someone else’s attention and keeping it, intriguing them, and I’ve come to believe that the only way to be that interesting is to find out what you’re interested in, and then obsess about it, dig in, find the biggest problems and start to think about solutions.
A Harvard Business Review blog spells out some steps on capturing attention. Apply them to job hunting and you’ll avoid the falseness that many feel when they’re writing cover letters or sending out resumes.
Take the first step, for instance: “Embrace Mystery.” We’re so tempted, during a job search, to look like we know all the answers, but what if we start asking questions? What problem are you attracted to in your industry? How do you see that problem, and what do you think is being overlooked? How could you intelligently talk about that problem in an interview or cover letter? Could you find companies that are trying to address that problem, too?
Read industry journals, general interest magazines, anything you can get your hands on, if you don’t have a problem in mind. Turn your job hunt into a quest.