When you’re looking for a job, you’re competing against the clones — other candidates who all look the same on paper. Don’t be a clone. Stand out.

You want a new job? Maybe you find yourself forced to fight “The Clone Wars” to get one. You must become a job-hunting machine in a market where you’re competing against thousands of competent candidates like you.

Some companies want a workforce made of clones who they can pay the lowest possible wage to do mind-numbingly simple tasks. This makes their clone army as replaceable as possible.

But you don’t want to join the clone workforce. You’re not a clone. You need a game-time strategy to avoid fighting this Clone War.

The good news is, it is possible!

The bad news is, old job-hunting strategies won’t work.

In recent years, the feeling of being an anonymous drone in a big and heavy machine has pervaded the professional lives of many brilliant professionals. Many see only one way out: Plummeting into massive debt to get fancy master’s degrees.

This strategy does not necessarily solve the problem. Many clones have fancy degrees, too. Some of these professionals end up working even longer hours in jobs they hate just to pay back their debt.

What should you do to become a real master of your career? Apply an entrepreneurial mindset to fine-tune what you offer employers. Here’s how to stand out from the clones:

1. Observe which problems your market needs solved

An impressive resume is nice. But employers really want people who provide solutions to their problems. Identify those problems in your industry that the clones cannot solve. This will not only guarantee your job security, but also give you a competitive edge since your company will be so afraid to lose such a highly qualified niche problem-solver.

My friend Victor has worked in construction for four years. The corrosion of structures has become an issue. While many ambitious professionals decide every year to go $100K+ into debt to get a master’s without a specific strategy, Victor spent $3K to take a specialized training course in corrosion and meet his industry’s needs. Today, he manages a team of five people and declines job offers every month. People with his profile earn $120K per year in the U.S.

2. Work towards fine-tuning your skills in one niche

Part of your experience and skills are unique in your market. Identify the companies where your skills can make a real impact and interact with them. If you’re patient, you’ll emerge as the leader of your niche when the opportunity shows up.

Santiago’s first language is Spanish. He developed experience as an IT project manager in a big multinational company, but he was starting to feel like a clone. He identified a few Spanish multinational companies in his area and started to network with people who worked there.

A year later, one of these companies needed an IT director. He was the only bilingual candidate and because of this, Santiago wiped out the competitors with top fancy degrees. Today, he manages a team of 10 people and earns six figures.

3. Showcase your humanity

Job boards are not your key to finding your dream job. Remember that 80 percent of job offers never get published — hiring managers turn to their networks instead.

Even if the job is published, managers ask their professional and personal circles for recommendations. They don’t ask, “Do you know someone with a bachelor’s in computer science (an MBA is desirable), three to six years’ proven experience in code development and software and systems architecture, thorough knowledge of server hardware and operating systems?” Wow, you can end up burnt out just by reading the job description!

Managers trust humans they have already connected with more than an unknown clone who meets all the requirements. While hard skills can be learned, trust is priceless and irreplaceable.

So don’t forget that every person you interact with is a potential connection for future opportunities. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Just keep in mind that people will remember the way they felt working with you, not exactly how you calculated the ROI of a new product launch.

Purely rational hiring decisions do not exist. Human beings decide by mingling their emotions with seemingly rational criteria. When deciding who to hire for a job, managers will rely first on their subjectivity before the hyper-objectivity of clones’ job qualifications.

Doing what everybody else is doing requires an enormous effort that keeps you from applying your energy and resources towards doing what makes you unique — and what you love. Maybe it’s time to stop thinking as a clone. To find a job you love and not a job anyone could do, think like a savvy job hunter instead.

Mariana Zanetti earned her MBA degree from one of the top 15 business schools worldwide and has more than 12 years of international marketing experience in three countries. She is the author of The MBA Bubble.


  1. Matt Schmidt

    Target your prospects and zero in on their pain. Define what you have to offer. Great strategy.

  2. Anne Bechard

    Showcasing your humanity and providing the certainty that an employer can trust you — wow! So true that there really are no purely rational hiring decisions. I actually have some ideas for rewriting my resume. Thanks!

    • Mariana

      I’am glad to know that the article gave you new ideas 🙂

  3. Betsy

    Would you suggest seeking out places you’d like to work and going to them? Everything these days is on-line, very non-interactive, resumes uploaded. I love writing, teaching, speaking, inspiring people. Have had wonderful work experiences, the last one gone due to grant-funding. I do believe in “do what you love” but damn it’s feeling very hard to get a foot in anywhere. I’ve never been a clone…this is such great advice but how? nuts and bolts steps, please. thanks. applying your energy and resources towards doing what makes you unique — and what you love.

    • Mariana

      Hi Betsy. No magic formula here, but I would recommend you to talk to people in the market place. Some people will answer if you contact them through social networks and will be open to get you in the phone or to see you in person. Don’t ask for a job, ask what are the problems they need to be solved. Keep in touch. Try to understand what you can do to help them, think a little bit as an entrepreneur. Sooner or later, when the opportunity shows up, they will think of you because you were open to understand their needs.

  4. Inspiration and innovation in your job search - MonsterWorking

    […] Want to Get Hired? Stop Fighting the Clone Wars and Show How You’re Different Brazen Careerist: ”An impressive resume is nice. But employers really want people who provide solutions to their problems. Identify those problems in your industry that the clones cannot solve. This will not only guarantee your job security, but also give you a competitive edge since your company will be so afraid to lose such a highly qualified niche problem-solver.” […]

  5. Andrew Tarvin

    Another way to showcase your humanity is to show your personality. We don’t work with robots, we work with humans. And yet many people are a shell of themselves at work.

    Having personal conversations with people (not just work ones) can build those relationships. I’ve worked with people who race cars for fun, build furniture, compete in social dance, and much more… Connecting with people’s interest is a great way to share humanity at work.

    • Mariana

      Thanks for your comment Andrew, that’s SO true! Many people put their personality in the closet before going to work and that is a huge mistake…

  6. myfeethurt

    C’mon. Spend 3K on a certificate and make 120K a year. Boy, you left a huge gap in there. Since it was only 3K, I guarantee it was around a month long if that. So this school uncovers the magic formula to its students like the holy grail in Raiders of the Lost Ark? If you turned a month long training course into 120K, don’t you think the school would charge a little bit more? Maybe they left out some small details like Victor’s dual structural engineering and metallurgical properties degree. And why would these companies not just send an employee to this training in the first place. The company that hired him doesn’t sound like they should be making buildings.

    • Mariana

      I understand your skepticism. The training Victor pursued is not a magic wand that automatically transforms your earning potential. He was already working in that industry, he knew its needs, and pursued a training that was oriented to solve specific problems for his potential employers. I asked him for more details so you can check it out on your own. Getting the NACE American certification (www.nace.org) or the FROSIO Norwegian certification (www.frosio.no) in anticorrosion paint, you can get jobs in companies such as TOTAL or Shell that are paid at around $10 000/month + accommodation.
      The key to get these salaries is scarcity of qualified professionals, and the
      key for low training costs is that all the sceptics are waiting for more proof,
      so there is still relative little demand on these courses. Those who are taking profit of these opportunities are the ones with an entrepreneurial mindset that are looking what problems they can solve to employers. Those who are expecting the miracle formula for career success may tend to believe that the only sure investment is a $ 100k prestigious degree, and I try to show in this article that there are other choices. When everybody thinks that there are good opportunities in this kind of training, the training costs will skyrocket. That’s why it is very important to change your mindset and look for opportunities instead of do what everyone else is doing at a steep price.

  7. Joseph Alexander

    Have had wonderful work experiences, the last one gone due to grant-funding. I do believe in “do what you love” but damn it’s feeling very hard to get a foot in anywhere.Casquette NY

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