Looking for employment? It’s a tough market out there. As of July 2013, there were 3.7 million job openings in the U.S. This may sound like an impressive number, but it’s actually a 17 percent drop from pre-recession levels. Not only do fewer openings exist, but the competition is also fiercer than ever. Today more than 30 percent of American adults have a bachelor’s degree.
While technology may be revolutionizing the hiring process, it’s giving job seekers the short end of the stick. Companies rely on software to sort through résumés, making it that much harder to get yours seen by an actual human.
As someone searching for employment, the odds are stacked against you. Your one hope is to set yourself apart from the crowd. But how do you do that?
A Mindset Shift
The first step in getting the job you want is realizing that the traditional hiring system is dying. Before the Great Recession, you may have found employment by writing a résumé and cover letter and then sending off your application package to an HR department. That is not the case anymore. There are too many qualified people competing for too few opportunities.
We call it the “job market” for a reason. You, the job seeker, are a seller; you’re selling your unique combination of skills and personality. Companies are the buyers. They’re looking to buy high-quality employees.
It’s a buyer’s market, so you’re at a disadvantage. You can, however, level the playing field by creating a personal brand.
In any other market, the seller uses creative branding to make his product stand out. Why shouldn’t you do the same for yourself?
Whatever your qualifications are as a prospective employee, you are a unique individual. You’re a product of your own experiences and worldview, and there’s only one you. By creating a personal brand package, you’re setting yourself apart from the crowd.
What does a personal brand look like? Well, it’s an expression of your individuality, so it all depends on you. You have complete creative freedom to build something you feel represents you as an individual — not just another job seeker. It’s an exciting prospect, and it gives you a huge leg up in the job hunt.
When it comes to creating a successful brand package, I can’t think of two better examples than my friends Mohammad and Matthew. Here’s how they made the concept work for themselves:
I met Mohammad in Denver, where he was studying international relations. Mohammad grew up in a small village in Indonesia. When he went to study in the States, he was the first person to ever leave his hometown.
Mohammad wanted a job in international trade, which would mean constant travel. Mohammad was concerned, though. For him, flying entailed being detained and questioned for hours by airport security. Would potential employers see this as a liability?
Mohammad came up with a brilliant solution. He published a book of original photography and writing, painting the story of his life as an adventure through pictures and words. When he went to a job interview, Mohammad would give the book as a gift to the prospective employer. It was a beautiful way for him to introduce himself, and it worked. Mohammad now has his dream job and a green card.
For Matthew, his challenge was a bit different. Like many young musicians, he worked at restaurants to pay the bills. Matthew, however, had an entrepreneurial approach to serving that involved self-management and emotional ownership of the restaurant.
Matthew teamed up with a journalism student and produced a series of podcasts on his philosophy of serving. Whenever he’d go for a job interview, Matthew would put his podcasts on a flash drive and play one for the prospective employer. After the interview, he’d leave the flash drive behind.
It didn’t take Matthew long to find his ideal position as a server in a great restaurant. When the owner offered him a management position, he turned it down so he could continue playing music.
The Future of Branding Yourself
Today, branding yourself is a great way to augment traditional methods of getting hired. But in the future, it won’t just be a creative few who are doing this. Personal branding will become the standard.
Give yourself an edge, and get a head start on the future. Start building your personal brand, and at your next interview, the lasting impression will be based on more than just a résumé.