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.