In honor of April Fool's day, this month's Career Collective post is about ways we fool ourselves. Here are my thoughts; links to the thoughts of my brilliant colleagues on the same topic are below!
“You can only get that job if you know someone.”
Have you ever told yourself—or others this? Do you hold off on applying for jobs that feel like a perfect fit with your skills because of a nagging sense that you won’t be a serious contender? Do you think there are doors that are already closed to you before you attempt to walk through them?
This is one version of an “April fools”—the version in which showers are not replaced by May flowers but a feeling of an endless winter. Find yourself thinking your way into this trap? Think again.
Every week I hear stories of successful job seekers—some of whom I know, and some of whom I don’t. I watched a former roommate find a new job making more money than the one that laid her off a year before—simply by completing her profile on LinkedIn. I’ve seen a candidate receive a job offer after writing a thank you note to follow up on a rejection letter. (The employer reconsidered.) And I’ve heard a first-hand account from a former White House staff member who applied for a job after his wife learned of the vacancy in the New York Times. (He followed up with a phone call to confirm receipt of his application, he was laughed at and told over 4,000 people applied. And then they looked at his resume…)
I share these stories because I think we are all capable of self-defeating beliefs and ideas. And, as we all know, you’ll always find a closed door if you don’t try to turn the knob.
If you find yourself in this situation, I challenge you to summon up your mojo, introduce yourself, and apply anyway. Here are five ways you can do it:
1. Research your potential employer. A great way to do this is to research LinkedIn profiles of current and past employees working for the organization—and in the position—you are interested in.
Can you identify areas of organizational priorities? Can you tell what people care about?
2. Get personal. Use social media and your application process to show why you are interested in working in your field and area of expertise. Talk trends, exchange opinions, make new friends and spark conversations.
3. Take the bait. There’s a wealth of information and dialogue in forums on Twitter and LinkedIn. Don’t just sit on the sidelines—partici;pate! Use the research you’ve done to customize your application for jobs.
4. Spark conversations—and show you are listening. In applying for jobs, don’t simply present your skills: Demonstrate your understanding of employer needs—and show how you fit. Customize all of your application materials. It may take time, but it helps you stand out.
5. Follow-up and follow through. Do what you say you’re going to do. Lots of people know someone, but many of those contacts are only willing to vouch for someone if they have evidence of their abilities. As one U.S. president wrote in a reference letter for a young man he had never met, “I recommend him only if you think he is qualified.”
Whatever you do, don't limit your career options by not giving yourself your own vote of confidence. One of my favorite pieces of career advice comes from Cynthia McFadden's 2008 Commencement address to graduates of Columbia Law School as she shared an anecdote from her own career and advice she received from one of her friends--Katherine Hepburn.
I was offered a new job. My first as an on-air reporter. I wanted it desperately but was afraid I would fail. I went to Kate's for dinner. --- I told her--- "the good thing is he's offering me a three-year contract--- so even if I stink I am still employed!"She looked at me with horror. "HEAVENS NO! You must sign for as short a time as you can. If you're good you want them to have to pay you a lot more money and if you're bad you want to be able to get the hell out. "
"When you are young," she continued, " you must always bet on yourself." I signed for one year. I was good. And he did pay.
Always bet on yourself, friends!
April Fool's Day: Who's Fooling Who @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes
10 Ways to Tell if Your Job Search is a Joke, @careerealism
Avoiding Most Common Blunders, @jobhuntorg
Are you fooling yourself? Bored at work? Is it your own fault? @keppie_careers
Hey, Job Seeker -- Don't Be a Fool! @resumeservice
Job Search Is No Joking Matter, @careersherpa
Is Your #Career in Recovery or Retreat? (All Joking Aside), @KCCareerCoach
9 Ways You Might Be Fooling Yourself About Your Job Search, @heatherhuhman
Don’t get tricked by these 3 job search blunders, @LaurieBerenson
Trying to hard to be nobody's fool? @WorkWithIllness
It's not all about you, @DawnBugni
Job Seekers: Are You Fooling Yourself If..., @barbarasafani