I have a Post-It note up on my desk, right at eye level, which I will frequently refer to during the course of my day coaching executive job seekers: “Assume positive intent.” If someone asks a question that seems rude, assume they didn’t mean it rudely but simply phrased it in the best way they could. If someone is resistant or is constantly challenging the most basic aspects of our work together, assume that it’s NOT because they don’t trust you, but because change is difficult, and there’s a natural level of fear and uncertainty attached with one as large as shifting jobs. In other words, instead of allowing myself to become upset and acting on that feeling (which has never, ever improved things) I REFRAME the situation and act on that instead.
Reframing is a life-changing idea if you’ll allow it to work its magic, and I want to show you some situations where you can use it to break through job search logjams:
Also read: How to Maximize Your Job Search Productivity
Job Search Situation #1: You’re struggling with a long and winding work history within your resume- much of which does not seem immediately relevant to the position(s) you’re targeting now.
You Could: Decide to just “put it all up there” and see what happens (answer: you’ll frequently get passed over because you don’t come across as a strong fit for the position). Or you could decide to chop away all of the experience that’s not directly relevant and echo a job posting. But that often leads to difficulties after the initial interview, when the focus shifts to your value adds (read: everything you’ve just cut away). Neither approach is optimal.
The Reframe: Ask yourself the following:
“What are the 3-4 areas of PAIN I solve that can be used to actively move things forward at target companies, and which are largely a result of the unique career path I’ve walked?” If you’re an IT executive who started out in hardline sales roles, really challenge yourself to figure out how that experience gives you an edge today. This type of unique value is the greatest asset you have- be unabashed about expressing it!
“Where is the OVERLAP between the PAIN POINTS and SKILLS which my competition for these roles are consistently highlighting, and what I’m highlighting?” Pull up LinkedIn Profiles of direct competitors, people who have the exact job titles you’re interested in and work in target industries. Who shows up in the first few pages of search results? Go through their LinkedIn Headlines, LinkedIn Summary section, and Skills & Endorsements section to gather this competitive intelligence.
With these new insights in hand, structure your resume to BEGIN with those major pain points, and then creatively expand upon it within the Professional Experience/work history portion of the document. In other words, every major role you’ve held should start with the PAIN you solved or the POSITIVE END RESULT of the individual changes you brought about, and should then be backed up with success after success after success.
IMPACT is what truly moves the needle in a resume, not experience. Reframe accordingly and you’ll see better results.
Job Search Situation #2: You’re put on the spot during an interview about your lack of experience in a particular area.
You could: Mount a vigorous defense about why that won’t be an issue. The problem is, even the best defense LEGIMITIZES the assertion, if only because of how seriously you’ve responded to it!
The Reframe: Address the issue, yes, but then move the conversation to the DEEPER problem that needs to be solved. I teach clients the APA strategy for handling this, or “Acknowledge-Pivot-Anecdote.” Acknowledge the issue that’s been raised (“That’s true, I haven’t led global teams of more than 5-10 people, and that is markedly different than the large groups which need to be guided here”). PIVOT to the true matter at hand (…but if we’re discussing what’s required to find that common ground, and actively move a large initiative forward in the face of conflict…) Finally, share a relevant ANECDOTE to support the deeper assertion (At Company XYZ, we faced a situation like this. Here’s what it looked like, here are the actions I took, and here’s the end result….)
In many cases, executing a REFRAME in the face of this kind of questioning will either remove it as an issue entirely, or at the very least significantly lessen its impact on your candidacy.
I encourage you to become a “situational detective” when it comes to the job search. Don’t just accept a situation, or a standard way of responding to ANYTHING before you’ve first asked yourself, “Can I reframe this in a way that’s more advantageous?” In many cases, you can!