Work harder than anyone else, and you’ll succeed. This was the mantra I grew up with, raised in a conservative Indian family. But I’ve found that’s not the entire story to building a successful career. Hard work is only half the equation of a fruitful job search. The other half requires learning how to generate opportunities for yourself. Be your own engine. Because when the career opportunities never stop, no bad situation is permanent and there’s always room to advance.
On the surface, what a passive job seeker and an active opportunity generator do look pretty much the same. But look closer and you’ll spot the underlying code recruiters use to screen candidates.
How to Make Your Resume Stand Out
Address industry pain points and communicate a unique point of view.
Let’s say you’re a Chief Marketing Officer and you’re targeting C-suite executives. Don’t waste a single sentence echoing points from a CMO job posting. Study the industry landscape. Identify the major ways you can move the company forward, choosing which items will resonate with a CEO. Now build out your resume so that your work history speaks to it. This specific approach will produce better results than tailoring the resume to the job listing or focusing on topics that are too generic or broad.
Understand the competition.
Naivete is not attractive in any candidate, but it’s absolutely unacceptable if you’re expected to build a role for yourself. Pull up LinkedIn profiles of competitors. Join industry groups. Look for running themes. Then integrate some of the most persuasive strategies from your competitors within your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Write for people, not just applicant tracking systems.
Should you include keywords in your resume? Absolutely. But do so sparingly to highlight the most high-level skills and focus on what overlaps between your experience and the competition. Hint: Read the “Skills and Endorsements” section of competitor profiles to help you identify keywords.
Learn what should go in your resume—and what to leave out.
How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for Your Job Search
Speak to a target audience.
Think about the people in your network who are positioned to help you achieve your career goals. Did you go to school with a Senior Vice President at an early or mid-stage biotech company? Do you have a second-degree connection with a Lockheed Martin engineer on LinkedIn? Be bold and shape your profile introduction to them and their company’s needs.
Make your profile credible and informative.
If you update your information on LinkedIn and then forget about it, you’re making a mistake. Your activity on the site is the single biggest predictor of whether you can create a dialogue on the platform. Add content to your profile, including posts and videos, and fill out all the relevant sections, like listing your publications and accolades. The time spent will be worth it—this helps generate credibility and trust. Continue to use LinkedIn, even when you’re finished your job search; this positions you for better online engagement in the future.
Read more about the “Recommendations” feature on LinkedIn.
How to Respond Strategically to Interview Questions
Explain what you do—but don’t overshare your methodology.
You can talk forever about what you do and the impact it has on your current or former employer. But don’t overshare concrete details about the implementation. During an interview, you aren’t being paid for a consultation, so protect your hard-earned professional insights. Reputable decision-makers understand and respect their candidates’ boundaries.
Give and receive in turn.
Every answer you give during an interview grants you the right to ask a question in return. Every interview you schedule buys you the right to better understand the company—which includes when they expect to make a hiring decision and what other steps need to be addressed before an offer can be made. Companies don’t have all the power to place demands on a candidate. This is about two equal parties who are negotiating an arrangement. And you take just as much responsibility as the interviewer on that journey.
Job seeking takes time, but your efforts will be worth the investment if you know how to generate career opportunities. Identify what employers need and how you can capitalize on those developments. With the right presentation, you can leverage your expertise to the audience that needs them.
Looking for your next career opportunity? Take a look at our curated job board.