Get a Life. Get a Job. Whatever You Do, Get Creative.

8 Oct

When I was applying to colleges, I heard this story about a wanna-be ivy league-er who wrote their admissions essay to Brown University on Post-It notes.  They were accepted.  Doubtfully due to their perfect grammar or well-structured paragraphs, but because they were innovative, and their vehicle for communication, however unconventional, sent the Brown admissions committee a clear message:  “YOU WANT ME! And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

This is kind of how I feel about cover letters.  I’m not a fan of the old standard.  Yea, they’re “professional”, but unless you’re saying something that really has value to your reader, usually the person looking to hire you… it’s not really worth it to regurgitate the same resume babble everyone else does.  Granted, in some cases, it’s still just required.

Applying to college was the first time we were faced with the challenge of how to be distinctively creative in our communication while still remaining credibly professional.  Nowadays, as job seekers and career changers it’s something we toil with on a daily basis.  How does one creatively make their brand stand out above hundreds others, while keeping the professional face of the subject matter expert?

I worked in recruiting and talent management for the creative industry for close to 7 years, with hundreds of fantastically talented graphic and web designers, developers, producers and writers.  I love the creative industry and people involved in advertising because they perfectly illustrate this idea – boring self-promotion doesn’t work.  I had more people come into my office in faded jeans than business casual, and this was perfectly acceptable within that population.  Because when you’re vying for a job at one of Boston’s top advertising agencies, you don’t strut into the interview in a Canali suit and briefcase.  No, you rock a messenger bag and t-shirt that you designed for your last brand-name client and show off how awesome you are, because in reality, you ARE getting hired for your awesomeness.  And your Flash design skills.

Granted, that’s far from appropriate for other industries.  But regardless of industry, there needs to be a high level of awareness around who your target employer is and how and what your personal brand is communicating, the second your credentials come across someone’s desk.  Very often in the creative industry, a standard format cover letter detailing who you were and why someone should hire you was not very effective.  Particularly in a profession like design or advertising where your creativity is the driver of your success, it’s imperative that your ability to walk the talk is clearly communicated when you present yourself to a prospective employer.

Walk the talk. I’m not saying don’t write cover letters, ignore standards of professional dress or to not follow appropriate formatting guidelines for your resume – not at all.  The type of company and the nature of your targeted industry will dictate what’s acceptable for those items.  What I AM saying is that no matter what industry you are in, there is competition, and you need to differentiate yourself in an effective, creative and credible way if you’re going to beat candidates 1 through 56 into the door.  Boring self-promotion doesn’t work.

Answer this question: Why should I hire you instead of the person who came in right before you?  You know nothing about their credentials or experience, only that you have something great to bring to the table and you’ll bring megawatts of success to the company.  The other person probably has something great to offer as well.  What makes you different, and how can you highlight that in a way that is memorable, appealing, appropriate and makes the person interviewing you or looking at your resume say, “We HAVE to have this person on our team!”  Hint: it has nothing to do with money or blackmail.

A former boss of mine was pitching her recruiting services to a new department in a well-known Boston advertising agency.  The agency had just won a lucrative contract with a well-known beverage brand, and while they hadn’t publicized it yet, surely they would be looking to build up a new creative team to support the account.  I love what she did next.  She did her research and thought outside of the box of how to approach this potential client who pretty much every other recruiter in Boston was calling on as well.  How could she stand out in a saturated, competitive market?  She bought a case of the agency’s new client’s beer, and emptied out the bottles (I’m not entirely sure by what means), and in each bottle, she rolled up a resume scroll-style of 12 different candidates whom she thought would be great for their new team.  She was still presenting resumes to a prospect, but she got their attention.  And unlike the competition, her delivery shouted, “Hire me!  And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a one-stop formula on how to be creative with your resume presentation and win the affections of your potential future boss.  It simply comes down to knowing your target prospect, what keeps them up at night, how you can solve that for them, and then how you can communicate that ability to them in a way that makes you look irresistible.  Make them have to have you.  At the very least, get their attention, and create the venue to tell them why you’re the best person for the job, instead of waiting for it to present itself to you.  Take control – create an opportunity for yourself to communicate your worth.  While your message may not change the world, it can certainly change your life.  But nothing changes if you don’t allow anyone the opportunity to listen to you in the first place.  So go out there, create opportunities for yourself, and then tell the world what they’ve been waiting to hear – “Your perfect candidate has arrived!”

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One Response to “Get a Life. Get a Job. Whatever You Do, Get Creative.”

  1. Acne Remedy : October 26, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    i always seek career advice from my parents and from industry professionals;.`

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