In this troubling economy, even those of us with higher education are having a hard time finding jobs that would have been readily available a few short years ago. With graduates from masters programs taking work as receptionists or personal assistants just to get a foot in the door, it is a frightening time to be in the market for employment.
It may take months to get an interview, and even then, there is so much competition that you’re just a blip on the radar of some poor, overworked HR assistant. So what can you do to get the edge when you practically have to be an expert in your field just to score an interview?
Short of being an actual expert at the exact job type you are applying for (which most of us are not) you must be able to market yourself as one. The truth is, most positions in any particular field do not require actual expertise. Often, a basic functional and theoretical knowledge will suffice (unless you’re trying to cure cancer…in that case, please disregard the last statement).
Even if you don’t have the know-how of a twenty-year veteran, it is likely that you can still perform credibly. Most of us, when given the opportunity, can learn what we need to know on the job. The trick is, to brand yourself as an expert, you may actually need to be an expert at something. Don’t panic. This is easier than you think.
Every person has interests. And it’s just common sense that you’re going to know a lot more about the things you’re interested in. All you have to do is find a way to make your interests work for you. Suppose you’re looking for a job in marketing, but you’re fresh out of college, have no experience, and are competing with a hundred other fresh-out-of-college candidates for every position you apply for (not to mention all the eligible applicants who actually have industry experience).
How can you get the edge? A good place to start is with a little intel. Find out what attributes are most prized in the positions you are applying for. Then consider some of your interests and how you can apply them to get a leg up on the competition.
Maybe you performed in theatre throughout high school. Guess what? You are comfortable speaking in front of an audience. That is a skill that not many people can put on their resumé (and one that is often required in marketing positions). Perhaps you like to spend your weekends hitting all the hip downtown clubs.
So you have a finger on the pulse of the valuable 18-25 demographic (what they’re wearing, drinking, listening to, etc.), which can help you form advertising to target them. Do you spend a lot of time at online social networking sites or writing a blog? Congratulations! You are internet savvy. Just think of how many marketing campaigns are now launched through viral videos on YouTube or through mass posting on Facebook.
You understand the in and outs of a system that the older generation might not even know about, which can make you a valuable asset if you just market yourself that way. And these are just a few examples for one field.
The thing to remember is that anything you know a lot about can help you stand out in a crowd, but your prospective employer will never know your strengths unless you enumerate them in your resumé and talk them up in your interview.
Branding yourself as an expert may require you to do a little legwork and think outside the box, but in the long run, it will be worth the extra time and effort if it leads to gainful employment.