It is accurate to say that my job is to help other people get jobs. I do that by helping you craft a stand-out resume that shows off your skills, by helping you write a cover letter that doesn't sound just like everyone else's, by modifying your LinkedIn profile, and by answering interview questions with perfection.
The thing is, the mechanics of all that don't really matter. Not really. The thing that matters more than any resume edit or cover letter sentence or interview answer is the level of interest and purpose and energy you bring to the job opportunity you want.
You can have a beautifully crafted set of application materials and rehearse your answers again and again to prepare for an interview, as many of the people I work with do. But you will still find yourself struggling through the process to get an offer that you feel good about. And that's because what makes an application successful is being so clearly interested and passionate and willing to be in a position because it is just the perfect opportunity to be and do what you bring to the world, that someone would be a complete idiot to not hire you. Managers can see that, when it's there.
Turn Your Light On
So instead of focusing so much on what's on your LinkedIn profile, and practicing your interview answers one more time, take some time first to think about what really makes you curious, what interests you, and what makes you light up a bit. Because people want to hire other people who get that light turned on when they talk about work.
I'll give you an example. I was talking to a recent MBA graduate about the job he wanted as a Corporate Strategy Director. We went over his resume, made some changes, and then we did a mock interview, and he was polished and really well presented. Except something was missing. His words sounded like everything I might expect to hear from someone who wanted to do that kind of work, but without the energy. So we began to talk about his volunteer work, as an aside, and that's when I saw the light come on in his face. Turns out he loves talking in front of groups. "I've always thought about motivational speaking," he confessed. "Well good Lord above why not start telling people that THAT's what you really want to do?!' I begged him.
If they're going to put in the resources to hire you, they need and want to see your energy. A manager wants to know that you will bring all of what you have to do the best job you can, not just the minimum required. That's especially true when most of the applicants are qualified, but not inspiring. They want to see you light up.
Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit (read it if you haven't), dedicates almost half her book to the importance of purpose to success. If you don't have that strong sense of purpose yet, she recommends the following. First, "reflect on how the work you're already doing can make a positive contribution to society." The act of reflection on what skills you are already using and practicing and how you could use those to make a difference can help you build a sense of purpose that may be enough to get you excited to talk about it and do more of it.
Second, "think about how, in small but meaningful ways, you can change your current work to enhance its connection to your core values." This is especially helpful if you are already working in an area that doesn't feel very motivating. Small changes can make a real improvement in your energy and sense of purpose for what you do, that can leak out and over into applying for and finding new work.
Third, "find inspiration in a purposeful role model". We often struggle to see how we can possibly find energy and meaning and connect that to work until we see someone else who is successfully doing it in ways we can relate to. Begin your search for those who are doing meaningful work that you find wonderfully interesting, or become aware of the people who already inspire you, and why.
Bring Your Energy To Conversation
When you job search with the positive energy of being inspired by what you want to do, your application materials and your interviews will matter far less than the enthusiasm and sense of meaning that you will bring to conversations about your work. And that's where the best opportunities are generated - in conversation with others when you get excited to share what you really want to do. Because other people will become inspired by that. That's when real work partnerships can form and create exponential opportunity.
So put the resume aside for right now, and take a few moments to reflect on what lights you up.