Forget a résumé. Drop the elevator pitch. Instead, you need an infomercial.
No, don't book time on television for your job search. But set out what work you would be the right fit for, first in your mind and then in a pitch to employers.
That's the idea of Jim Beqaj, an executive coach and former president of CIBC Wood Gundy, who learned from being the wrong fit in two top executive posts that we need to be less automatic or desperate in taking on jobs and far more discriminating.
He had always tried to fit in, seeking the next post on the ladder and adapting to what was needed.
But after leading an expansion at Wood Gundy, he was bounced, presumably for moving too quickly.
With a wife, five kids (one in the hospital), and a sixth on the way – and desperate for a job – he signed on with BMO for a senior post that on the first day he realized was a big mistake.
"They had hired a 100-yard passing quarterback and asked him to oversee a running game. I wasn't what they needed," he says in an interview.
Now he knows better. And he hopes you'll listen and learn from his story, shared in his book True Fit.
The issue is not to find a job. The challenge is to find who you are – what it is you are best suited to do – and then seek the matching job.
That involves answering four questions, which will form the heart of your infomercial:
What should you pay me for? List the strengths you bring to the job.
Instead of the normal bumph on a résumé, this is a clear listing of skills.
"The person reading it can decide, 'that's what I need' and 'that's not what I need.' It should resonate in that fashion," Beqaj writes.
If you're afraid it will scare people away from you because there are skills they want that you don't have or skills you have that are superfluous to them, then you're missing the point.
You should be delighted that you miss out on poorly fitting jobs.
Who do you work best with? Look through your life and list the people you liked working with – and why. They may have been big-picture thinkers, energetic, boisterous, decisive, or collaborative.
Don't fool yourself by saying you work well with everyone. You should know who you work best with and be seeking similar folk – to the point of actually telling prospective employers what your tastes are.
How do I like to resolve conflict? Workplaces can have strikingly different methods for handling conflict and you don't want to find yourself in the wrong camp.
"Your conflict-resolution style could be, for example, competitive. If you're in an environment where avoidance and accommodation is the order of the day, you could be seen as a bully, not a team player.
"But if you're in a place where they're all competitive, you'll be getting high fives all around," he writes in the book.
What's my perfect day? Describe a day or a specific project you worked on in which you were so absorbed in what you were doing it didn't feel like work.
Finding such work is more important than finding a high-paying job. In the interview, he described a salesperson who hated cold-calling but found herself in a job requiring that task exclusively.
After mulling over those questions, write your answers in bullet-point form, five or six per question, and with each topic on a separate page.
That four-page statement is your infomercial.
Pass it around to potential employers and to friends and colleagues in your network who might help.
Don't shy away, worried you won't get a job because you're too fussy.
Yes, it may take a bit longer, but the job you find will be a healthier role in a company where you're more likely to last a long time.
If others know what you want, you are more likely to be pointed to the right targets.
As well, consider your personality bandwidth – the range of personalities you can deal with in a job – because for some people it's narrow, and for others wide.
When job possibilities appear, drill down to find out how many of your abilities – capacity utilization – will be used in the job.
"It's OK to be you," he stresses. "And you need to figure out who you are so you can represent yourself accurately and find the right fit for you."