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What Makes You Special?

By Jeff Lipschultz

Everyone is special in their own way. We all apply unique abilities and knowledge to our jobs every day.

Don't Be Generic!

When job seekers create their resumes and cover letters, they sometimes describe themselves in very broad terms to try and appeal to a larger audience. 

However, this often can lead to downplaying their best qualities instead of highlighting them. Job seekers must keep in mind their key strengths are what will be used to compare them to other fine candidates.

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I’ve had many job seekers tell me they are qualified for many different positions or want to do something different than they have in the past. After having a conversation with them I understand where they are coming from.

Unfortunately, candidates do not often get a chance to talk to someone face-to-face to elaborate on their career’s past and future. Their resume speaks for them. And if the resume sends a confusing message as to what they can do, it is not an effective tool.

The same problem can arise during an interview when answering the question, “What are you looking for in your next job?”

Send a Clear Message

These days, most resume experts say to remove the Objective from resume and replace with a Professional Summary. This summary should highlight your expertise and experience and will convey to hiring managers what your strengths are.

Certainly, secondary talents can be included, but when recruiters and hiring managers scan resumes, they are doing it quickly and categorizing you. Are you an engineer, sales person, accountant?  Do you have a lot of experience or new to the workforce?  Do you have certifications they are looking for?

Although your tendency might be to try and appeal to a large population by showing you can fit in many different jobs, the reality is you may not convince the hiring manager you can fill the specific job they are looking to fill.

In other words, you need to project that your specialty matches what they need the most.

How to Manage Multiple Specialties

If you truly have more than one career direction, you might consider having two different resumes to provide to different recruiters for job opportunities. By providing a recruiter with a resume that is focused on experience that is similar to the job they typically fill, you are more likely to get granted an interview (or at least get their attention). Remember, you are competing with many others who may have focused on this specialty for longer and dived deeper in the knowledge required. Saying you have other skills may not be an advantage.

When emailing recruiters asking about future opportunities, make sure your email includes accomplishments related to the specific job description. As with most job opportunities, closely matching the job requirements is the first step. Once contacted, you can always share more about yourself. You may find out during interviewing or preparation that one of your less-promoted talents could be useful for the company. That’s a bonus and a potential differentiator. But if you start the process focused on these secondary qualities, you will get dropped in the “Maybe Pile.”

But What If I Really Want to Change Careers?

Ask yourself, does this change in career direction have to happen this year?  Can it wait?  Yes, there are jobs out there that do not require much related experience. But these may also require a steep pay cut or demotion in stature for you. If you are able to accept this, you’ll likely have several options. If you are not, you have an alternative.

You might consider filling a void in a company’s capabilities with your special talents, and then later transfer within the company to a new role. Once the company has seen what you can do, they may be more likely to take a chance on putting you in a role where you have less than ideal experience.

Before approaching a new company, learn about all the roles it offers and see if these roles appeal to you. You may even find jobs you can apply for within your specialty that work hand-in-hand with roles on your desired career path. Building relationships with those teams on-the-job really helps build the respect and trust you’ll need when wanting to make the switch.

Bottom Line

It’s the old story of the square peg and round hole. With so many people looking for jobs, hiring managers feel that they can find a round peg for their proverbial round hole. If you appear to be some strange shape that doesn’t exactly fit, they will likely keep looking through the other pegs.


About the author...

Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. He is a unique recruiter with Lean Engineering experience and a Six Sigma Blackbelt. Learn more about him through his company site alistsolutions.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter (@JLipschultz) and on GooglePlus.


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