Career Survival Skills: Small Things Make a Difference
by Michael Mayher

In the modern jobs market, trying to be noticed in the crowd is a difficult thing to do. Especially with the standardized and restrictive manner by which you are required to even get an opportunity for an interview is demoralizing for many people. I think these processes that are in place primarily for convenience for administrative staff is counterproductive for companies, but that’s a completely different topic.

But let’s say you make it through the sieve and filters and you have been selected for an interview. Granted, though there may be fewer than originally applying for the same job you still must compete with others. Assuming you are well prepared, that can carry you so far but you will have to demonstrate not only that you are well qualified but you also must convince them you are the best person for the job. Likewise, assuming that others are also qualified and they think they too are the best choice for the job means you need to set yourself apart – in a good way that will attract and not repel decision-makers.

I always suggest separating oneself from the crowd. I’m not talking about anything bizarre, although there are many small things you can do and they are effective for the simple fact that so few people make the extra small efforts and gestures.

Take the simple gesture of a Thank You note following an interview. I am aware of 6 times in as many months in which this small gesture made a difference and was a factor in their progressing forward in the hiring process that resulted in a job offer. It was helpful in three ways:

• It demonstrated initiative and interest in contrast to others seeking the same job, who didn’t do so
• It provided the job candidate with what amounted to having the last word, to convey any helpful additional afterthoughts
• It was emblematic of professionalism

Now, consider for a moment how such a small thing can make such a difference. I have known some middle and senior-level professionals go so far as to hand write and mail in a stationery card. Now, are they nuts, or crazy like a fox? Although I find it interesting the things that once were a matter of etiquette and protocol (two words rarely used anymore) can have an impact. Again, you are setting yourself apart and by doing so elevating yourself.

Here’s something else you can do to set yourself apart: having your references prepared and offered to a hiring manager before they ask for them. You can do it on your way out as an afterthought, think of TV character Detective Columbo, “Oh, one more thing…” Do it at the end of a second interview. Of course you need references other than your current employer for obvious reasons.

You have more influence on the outcome of the process of which you are a part. These suggestions aren’t stunts, they are helpful to your purpose and mission which is why it needs to become your habit.

Consider a scenario in which you are one of two people, both suitably qualified and they have to decide between the two in order to select one – you or the other person. Trust me; it happens more often than you think. Cross your fingers and hope for the best or make just a little extra effort. Know, too, that most people don’t need advice. Like I said, crazy like a fox.

About the Author: Michael Mayher has been an international direct search recruiter on two continents for over 22 years. A consultant, published author, lecturer and blogger, he re-introduces professionals to critical Soft Skills lost in our digital age and necessary to effectively navigate their careers. You can find more information by visiting his blog and website.

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