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And I’ve gotta have it. Just gotta have it.
Something about the designer’s work attracts me. It draws me to it, and every time I walk by that store, I feel drawn inside. My wallet however, usually drags me back out as quickly.
I know why I’m drawn towards this designer. But for a lot of other things that attract my attention, I usually don’t know why. Sometimes it’s the colors, sometimes it’s the display. Sometimes it’s the product itself. It’s the branding that attracted me like a lonely moth towards a street lamp.
I just gotta have it.
Not too long ago, I woke up with a crazy thought that just popped into my head. I finally figured out the best asset I had to work with. It was staring right back at me from the mirror. Myself.
I don’t know why I’ve never thought about it before. I know myself inside and out. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. It’s other people that don’t. If I am my best asset, why don’t I brand myself that way?
I am a brand.
I am a brand.
With unemployment at uncomfortable levels, people occupying Wall Street, Oakland, San Francisco and everywhere else, people are unfortunately all starting to look the same. People are starting to blend together like running ink from a wet newspaper. We’re all old news, fading away and moving quickly towards the drain.
There is nothing to attract employers to you, unless you do it yourself. You have to make yourself a brand that the company just has to have. What sets you apart from your peers? Your competitors? What makes you an individual? What makes you the brand that you are? Why do they need you rather than someone else? No one else can build that value of yourself or that sense of urgency that you are a once in a lifetime opportunity. You don’t want to miss out on this exclusive limited time offer that is ME!
As I pondered this thought, I tried to think of a way to describe myself. What would make me seem different?
I started with: “They are standard, and I am deluxe.” Yeah, like that would work. I’d come with pickles and onions with a side of fries.
“They are vanilla, but I am rocky road.” I’ve never even had rocky road, so I’m not sure where that one came from.
I finally hit on it.
“These people are one dimensional, while I am prismatic.”
I am colorful, unusual, sparkly, and multi-faceted. Why didn’t I think of this before?
I am prismatic.
“It’s a bad economy.”
“We’re in a recession.”
“You gotta take what you can get.”
“Nobody is hiring anymore.”
“Those old jobs are not coming back.”
We are hearing a lot of negativity about the job market these days. The fact that the unemployment rate is hovering around 9% nationwide is not helping our general lack of optimism. While a 2010 map of unemployment shows a more reasonable unemployment rate of 2.8% for Billings Country, North Dakota, it shows a much more chilling realization for Imperial County, California where the unemployment rate was 27.6%. As anyone will tell you, this is an animal we’ve never seen before, and most of us are not quite sure how to deal with it.
In May, an article was published about the new rules for the job interview. I found these rules such as “research, research, research” and “ask questions” to be somewhat refreshing. Many of the online articles that give advice such as “always write a thank you note”, is somewhat dated and doesn’t work in every case. I’ve also discovered that these articles have gotten so many hits, that it seems everyone is taking this advice. If everyone is using the same advice, you can no longer fully distinguish yourself. If the employer can’t remember you, then why hire you?
I am not pretending to be an expert on the job interview process, but I do have some insights that I picked up during my own search. Hopefully, these “rules” will be useful to some of you.
There Are No “Rules” For Every Job Search
This one is pretty hard to swallow. Most people just want to know what to do and how to do it. There are no hard and fast rules. Every industry is different and every company is different. Sometimes the hiring managers have the final say, and sometimes it is human resources. The person reviewing your work may not necessarily know the exact qualifications needed for the job and how to screen them. Some hiring managers appreciate thank you notes and some have no time to read them. Some allow follow-up phone calls and some prefer email. Your best bet is do to as much research as you can, and use networking sites such as LinkedIn to learn more about the company as well as the kinds of people that they normally hire. Are you similar to the typically hired employee? Does the company value diversity in interests and education? It is your job to find out these small details and make them work for you. It could give you an advantage over someone else who does not know these little bits of information.
Grammar and Tone Speak Volumes
Everyone knows that a well written cover letter and resume will help you not get disqualified as easily as poorly-written ones. Hiring managers get hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications for a single position. Having documents that are not perfect will work against you. However, many people forget about the tone that they use when write cover letters. Your voice and personality can really shine through when you use the correct words. Syntax and semantics can also reveal a lot about you. Do you write as if you are confident or entitled? Are you apologetic for circumstances in your work history or ready to prove yourself? These are subtle differences that can make all the difference in how you are perceived by a hiring manager. Be careful with your written language.
Don’t Fool Yourself Into Thinking Interviews Are A Simple Process
So you landed an interview. Fantastic! Your work is not done. Depending on the industry and the amount of applications you may be subject to multiple interviews. This could be a good thing or a bad thing. It could indicate that they really want you or it could mean that they have several close candidates and they are unsure of who to pick. I was recently subjected to four interviews with nine different people over the course of several weeks. No one can tell you whether you should keep granting a company interviews or give up and move onto another company. It really is up to you. Use your discretion or your gut before turning down multiple interviews. It may not necessarily be a bad sign.
Know What You Can Offer The Company
Unfortunately, it is an employer’s market. It’s a potential employee buffet, and the employer can interview as many people as they want, and decide not to fill a position if they don’t find the right person. It’s up to you to let the company know what you can offer them. Are you good at driving up sales? Let them know that. Are you especially frugal and can save the company lots of money? They need to know that. Do you have some innovative ideas that can help them open up to a new market? They want to hear that from you. Don’t offer up too many of your valuable ideas, so that they get free brainpower from you and you receive nothing in return. It is a give and take atmosphere, but at the end of the day, it’s still business. They have something to offer you, and you have something to offer them.
Know What is Important to You About Compensation
Do you need to make a lot of money to pay off bills? Do you need health insurance to take care of yourself or your family? Do you need time off? Will flexible hours allow you to take care of a special needs child or an ailing family member? You need to know what your priorities are, and if a company can meet them for you. You should aim to be flexible, but it still is a business transaction. If work/life balance is important to you, do not be so quick to settle on a job if it will take away from that. While we cannot always have everything we want from an employer, it is important to maintain your health and sanity, not to sacrifice everything.
Just Be Yourself
This can’t be stressed enough. These days, an employer can easily find out if you are lying about your qualifications. These things are so easily checked that you should not waste their time nor yours. You should always be on your best behavior when on an interview, but don’t fake it. Employers want the most for their money, and if you have the qualifications it will help. But if your personality does not match up with theirs or their company culture, then they will be hesitant to hire you. Giving the most accurate yet best presentation of yourself will do you more favors than not. Always remember, just because an employer can’t hire you for a position, doesn’t mean that their other hiring manager friends at other firms can’t.
Ebonye Gussine is a graduate student in the Master of Science in Business Management & Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. She loves writing, reading, and is an avid fan of John Steinbeck’s works. In her spare time she sings off-key and travels to new places.
Workers want out! Such is the collective sentiment felt in unison by the American workforce. They show up to work, fulfill their job requirements, and act like good soldiers, all the while surreptitiously knowing they already have one shoe out the door with the other closely behind.
In December 2010, CNNMoney ran a story depicting the current state of employee discontent: New Year’s Resolution: I Quit! In summation, “[a]ccording to a recent survey by job-placement firm Manpower, 84% of employees plan to look for a new position in 2011. That’s up from just 60% last year.” It is a truly staggering figure. If you’re an employee at a company, then take a moment and scan the office. For every ten workers you see almost nine of them want to quit. That’s remarkable. It is no secret that hiring abated dramatically during this recession which is why many unhappy workers toiled away quietly while anxiously waiting for the bell to ring. The economic upswing is now accelerating and hiring is ramping up again. There’s the bell.
Albeit problematic for management, losing employees is more accurately a symptom of a more systemic undercurrent of discontentment enhancers. Underlying issues often prompt workers to run for the exits. The top three motivations behind why employees quit are as follows: (1) better opportunity, (2) more money, and (3) clashes with management. People move on, that is just the natural order of things in the corporate world whatever the geneses of discontentment may be. But although quitting may be a net positive for the employee, it often is a transaction that has a negative effect on the company, particularly on management. Quitting disrupts organizational continuity, and costs countless dollars to train new hires. Retention is vital but remains an enormous challenge for companies. Elements that deserve consideration are: increasing compensation and vacation time, allowing employees to participate in a four-day workweek, retraining or eliminating bad managers, allow for employee feedback, and making a genuine attempt to determine what employees want!
So who is to blame? Are employees asking for too much in return for their services? After all, isn’t a job merely one compartment of a person’s life? Sure, most workers would privately exclaim they are more deserving of greater compensation and perhaps some of them are justified in that claim. But one has to wonder, is the grass necessarily greener or is this simply a delusional, unending search for the Holy Grail that inevitably succumbs to exhaustion with the epiphany that no perfect job scenario really ever existed in the first place? Perhaps there is room for blame on both sides of the equation. But companies must realize that the job market is just that, a market. They are competing to purchase worker productivity through compensation and benefits. It is a zero sum game; one company’s loss is another company’s gain. And although there may be numerous skilled, educated, and dedicated workers in the current applicant pool, this almost certainly will not always remain the case. One thing is for certain, if companies do not reexamine and revamp their current approaches to employee retention, then they just might as well install revolving doors at their entrances.
John Brigantino is a graduate student in the Master of Science in Business Management & Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. He enjoys writing, non-fiction books, traveling and the many cultural and leisure experiences Manhattan has to offer.