Needle in a haystack, or brightest bulb in the pack?
Have you ever applied for a job and knew you were one of many? I don't just mean one of a few candidates either, I mean you knew it was a job everyone wanted and you were just one more in a large stack of applicants. It can feel overwhelming and intimidating. Whether or not you've found yourself in that position before, these employment tips on how to stand out in the sea of sameness will help give you that edge, that extra piece you will need when applying for the job of your dreams.
When I completed cosmetology school I got my first job within a single day of being licensed. I was in an area where hair stylists were in demand and in short supply (spoiler alert, I didn't know this at the time) so to me, it wasn't abnormal for it to be easy. After about a year of working at that job, I decided to move from my home town in Central California down to Southern California and try the L.A. life. I had a place to crash and figured it would be just as easy to get a job down there. #HindsightIsAlways2020. If you are unfamiliar with the Los Angeles area of Southern California, lets just say there is a lot of competition in the Creative Service Industry down there. I had no idea it would be as difficult as it was to find a job, but I needed to make it happen.
It took me a while but I finally found a place to work. The only reason they hired me instead of someone else was because I happened to be exactly what they were looking for. My edge over the competition was really my luck of being at the right place at the right time, and a few simple things that made me stand out. I lived very close to the salon which was a plus for the hiring manager because she had been dealing with punctuality problems with her current employees. I was also young, eager to learn, and hungry for walk-ins to build my personal clientele. The shop was full of seasoned stylists and had no more room for walk-in traffic so, I was the man for the job! If I had the knowledge I have now, I wouldn't have had to rely on luck, struggle for three months looking for work, or settle for the job I could get instead of achieving the job I desired. After all that I learned my lesson and decided to dedicate myself to finding out who I wanted to be, and how I could stand out no matter where I was. Now, lets take a dive into what YOU can do to stand out in the sea of sameness.
Who are you, and what do you bring to the table?
In order to stand out, first you must find out who you are. You have to decide the type of Creative you want to be and who you want to appeal to. Both of these are of equal importance. First lets tackle finding out who you are. Are you funny or serious? Do you like stability or change? Are you a bright colorful person or are you clean cut and monotone? Are you fancy or basic? These are some areas to start with but are not the only things to consider when deciding who you are and who you want to be professionally.
Once you have narrowed down who you are as a professional, next you need to determine what type of clientele you want to appeal to. You should pick a group of people that either matches who you are, or would find you appealing. Here are some examples of the types of people I am talking about:
Families and children
No matter who you are, or who you want to market yourself to, you will need to know these things before seeking the right salon, spa, or shop. If you want to see the most success, be sure to pair yourself with the correct environment.
Now that you know who you are as a professional and who you want to appeal to, next it's time to determine what you have to offer. Start by making a list of your best attributes and industry skills. I recommend making two separate lists to keep things organized. Once you have a full list of your best attributes and industry skills, highlight the ones that stand out to you as either unique, specialty, or rare. When you find yourself with an interview these will come in handy so be sure to keep them up to date.
Once you've figured out who you are and what you have to offer, ROCK IT! Having that confidence may end up being the deciding factor at your next employment opportunity.
Time to shine!
The process of finding the right job, getting an interview, receiving the job, and maintaining the job is not all about looks but it is a very important factor. Employers and people in general will judge you visually so it's very important to make a great first impression. First impressions are formed in the first few seconds of meeting someone so we must be extra mindful of this when seeking employment. Your potential future employer will determine if you are the right fit for the job almost immediately so, you may be working against yourself if you show up unprepared. Here are some visual best practices:
Smile-Smiling tells someone that you are friendly and trustworthy. Both are important for an employer to know.
Project confidence-This is easier said than done. Your clothing, posture, and your overall presence should tell your interviewer that you are here to work and you know what you are doing.
Dress for your environment-One of the worst things you can do besides the obvious is dressing for the wrong environment. Showing up to an interview at an edgy, downtown tattoo shop in a tuxedo is just as bad as arriving to an upscale spa with pajamas and slippers. This is why matching yourself to the place you want to work is so important. It will be much more natural for you to dress for an interview if the place matches who you are.
After the initial visual first impression, you will only have a short time during your interaction to prove to them you are the right fit for the job. Believe it or not if you have not wowed them with your visual representation, there is still some saving grace if you can pull off the non-visual side. Here are some vital areas to consider:
Great handshake-COVID aside, handshakes are the cornerstone of any interaction. I am a firm believer in a solid handshake for men and for women. It is a great way to convey confidence, assertiveness, and trustworthiness all without saying a word.
Communicate clearly and confidently-The best way to make this easier is to prepare yourself. Review your lists of strengths and identify what may be needed for this particular job. You should ask questions during the interview that will lead you to answers you have prepared.
Sell yourself-Don't forget, every employment opportunity is like a sale, you are the product as well as the salesperson so get your pitch down solid. You can be mediocre in all the other areas we have discussed so far and still kill it with this step. You have to be able to prove to them that you are just as valuable to them as they are to you. If you can do this, consider the job yours.
Compliment the business-You should find this easy to do if you have done your homework prior to seeking out employment with a particular establishment. Finding a way to work in compliments about the business without coming off as fake is easy if you are truly being genuine. In the beginning of an interview I like to compliment the visual things I liked about the business, or share a compliment about the person who I interacted with at the front desk or waiting area.
"Create your own visual style... let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others." Orson Welles
Whether you are seeking a new job, or looking to build your client base, it is important to remember that standing out is the only way you will make progress in this business. I challenge you to find your method that works for you. We Creatives are already pretty different and so it may seem difficult to find a way to stand out amongst so many other unique individuals. I promise you once you find your thing, your eye catching thing that sets you apart, you will get noticed and you will see the benefits. Find your uniqueness and shout it to the world!
If you are having a hard time finding the right way to stand out, or need help finding the right employer, Working Knowledge offers job placement services that include lifetime:
Job placement assistance
Don't miss out on this opportunity to come build with us!