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WorkHappy | Joe Szynkowski: Embracing the underdog role in your job search

WorkHappy | Joe Szynkowski: Embracing the underdog role in your job search

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So, you don’t have a degree or the necessary amount of work experience. Your resume is outdated and you haven’t interviewed for a job in years. I guess that means you shouldn’t even submit your resume for the position, right?


Have you been watching the National Football League playoffs? The underdog is king in sports. The same goes for the job market.

Competition is fiercer than a force-fed stiff-arm, with the average job announcement fetching more than 110 applications, according to Forbes.

What does this mean? Go big or go home.

Just like the NFL players strapping on their helmets for Sunday’s Super Bowl, today’s professionals can’t afford to rest on their laurels and ride into the sunset with one company, team or even position. That’s because other workers are taking night classes or seeking out mentorship opportunities to make themselves better — and to eventually replace those ahead of them.

In order to thrive and survive in your industry, you must constantly re-invent yourself.

This starts with how you look at career progression.

Just like the NFL has dramatically changed from the ground-and-pound days of Jim Brown freight-training his way through defenders, this isn’t your granddaddy’s job market. Companies of the past could be relied upon to provide 30 years of consistent work, health insurance for the family and a substantial retirement account.

Fast-forward to 2020, and employees are staying at jobs for shorter periods of time, engaging in freelance work from the comfort of their own homes and searching for companies that offer flexibility versus long-term stability.

This means more professionals are on the market — and you’ve got to pick up the intensity when searching for your next great role.

Tackling your job search

If you’re deep into a job search, you know that the process can feel like trying to decipher the NFL’s new pass interference rules. Confusing, right? Which keywords should you include on your resume, how do your become a better networker or why can’t you get a call back from a hiring manager?

But the more work you put into your effort, the clearer your vision for career growth becomes. That’s because with preparation, your opportunities expand. With positive momentum, your confidence grows.

It’s time we all start thinking like we’re down a touchdown with two minutes to go. Because everyone loves the underdog.

Read on for ways you can capitalize on this new approach.

NETWORK RELENTLESSLY: Even the best football teams (check your Super Bowl program) don’t get to the big game without role players. The equivalent of a strong defense or special teams unit is your social network.

Waiting in your group of connections are people ready to move the needle in your job search. Start by asking them if they have any knowledge of upcoming openings at their companies or their friends’ companies. When you’re the underdog, you need any help you can get.

Depending on others to help advance your search is a strong first step to making some noise in the job market.

EMBRACE THE ROLE: Confidence is the critical ingredient to a team trying to prove the world wrong. The same goes for a job-seeker trying to overcome competitors who may have a leg up. Even if you don’t have the ideal degree or experience, you may have some intangibles that set you apart from the competition.

The key is identifying and leveraging these intangibles in a way that makes hiring managers notice what you have to offer. These can include soft skills like communications, relationship building or team collaboration.

Try to describe these invaluable professional traits in your resume, LinkedIn profile or cover letter. Better yet, have others share their stories of working with you through LinkedIn recommendations or a page of testimonials. This third-party validation can make the difference between you sitting on the sidelines or being called for an interview.

GET CREATIVE: Don’t be afraid to modify the keywords and overall focus of your resume to make sure it is in alignment with your various job targets. If a pro football team is known for running the ball effectively but is going against a top-ranked rushing defense, that team may be forced to rely more on their quarterback.

Swap descriptions of various projects depending on what kind of experience a company is seeking. Change your resume’s headline to match a job announcement. Your resume and LinkedIn profile are malleable and meant to be adjusted as you go.

Don’t beat your head against the wall by submitting a standard resume for every single job, especially if they are for different roles. Be flexible and stay on your toes. Your competition is betting you won’t. Prove them wrong.

As you enjoy the Super Bowl next weekend, just remember that when you watch your favorite athletes competing on the field in Miami, these players are consistently re-imagining and revamping their skillset to match today’s NFL.

Are you doing the same in your career?

Joe Szynkowski is a senior director for NuVinAir Global, a Dallas-based company disrupting the automotive industry. Thanks to technology, he does is happily from his home east of Marion. Email for more guidance on work happiness.


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