Our favorite Career Insight this year (so far!)
Over the past six months, the Career Insight newsletter has delivered an array of advice to help you work smarter, get hired, and discover all the opportunities that the purpose-driven sector offers – including the voices of your peers relating what it took to land their dream jobs, and the dedication it takes to carry them out. You’ll find a few of our favorite tips and testimony in this excerpt roundup, with links to the full pieces, just in case you missed them.
I am nearly always exhilarated at work. I wasn’t always that way – it was something I had to learn and develop. I have been researching and experimenting with it for over 20 years.
Here is what I have learned about how to help people be inspired:
1. Define a shared purpose
While we gain meaning from the journey, what inspires us is usually the dopamine-producing pleasure of seeing ourselves make progress towards a goal. While the destination may be far away, if we believe in it and want it, we can be exhilarated by making measurable progress toward it.
2. See the superhero in people
My friend Tara Russell is an inspiring manager. When I see her working with her team, you can feel the energy and exhilaration. She takes the time to see the potential in people and to help them see it. When you are around someone who sees you for who you are and who you can become – it is inspiring. It gives you a sense of significance which produces serotonin, but also gives you a sense hope and anticipation for the future (our friend dopamine again).
3. Let people grow and fail
It is a cliche at this point, but it’s an important one: Give people permission to fail. This isn’t just to drive innovation, but also the experience of taking risks, which is thrilling and inspiring. When you ask people about the manager who most consistently inspired them, they almost always point to the one who believed in them enough to push them out of their comfort zone.
Believe it or not, the interview is not all about you: The purpose is to address the employer’s concerns. Interviewers often come into the process with a “mindset of fear” (What if I hire the wrong person?), so it’s up to you to alleviate that fear. Position yourself as their problem-solver by preparing concrete examples from your own business experience that answer the following questions. Mind you, an interviewer may not ask these questions directly, but they constitute the subtext behind almost every query:
Why are you here? To answer, ask yourself: What does this job involve?
What can you do for us? To answer, ask yourself: Do my skills truly match this job?
What kind of person are you? To answer, ask yourself: Are these the kind of people I would like to work with, or not?
What distinguishes you from the 19 other people who have the same skills as you have? To answer, ask yourself: How do I persuade them that I am unique among those who can perform the tasks at hand?
In all answers, have stories of your own accomplishments and personal experience ready, demonstrating your skills and how you can use them to solve the employer’s problems.
Element no. 1: A strong lead
Your lead is the heart of your cover letter. This is your best opportunity to evoke an emotional response and introduce yourself as a dead-on match.
This is where you say, “Here’s who I am, why I love what you’re doing, and my specific reasons for applying."
Whenever you can, use a personal anecdote. This will not only affirm your interest in and understanding of the organization, it’ll position you as a likable person with a genuine connection to the work.
Element no. 2: Direct evidence that you’re a fit
Next, provide evidence that you’ve got the specific skills this company is looking for. This section is your opportunity to connect the dots between what the reader needs and what you can deliver.
I typically begin this section in a very obvious way, using this exact line: What, specifically, would I bring to XYZ Company in this role? Underneath that header, develop a few key points showing you understand what the organization is looking for, and exactly how your background lines up.
How do you reach that understanding? First and foremost, you study the job description. In addition, you might talk to people who work at the company to get more specific input on what the hiring manager or department needs.
What you may not know is that, like an actor, your interview responses will be better when you have opening lines and closing lines. In addition to helping you speak with strength, this approach will sharpen your stories and capture the attention of interviewers. You always want to be thinking about what they will remember: Strong opening and closing lines reinforce your message!
Try these tips when creating your openers and closers:
Start your story with the outcome, benefit, or result, and then back-fill by telling how you accomplished that outcome.
Make sure you have clear messages. Make a list of what you want the interviewer to remember about you, and then think about stories that illustrate each point.
Make your point exceedingly obvious. Start with, “I’m going to tell you a story about how I…,” and close by saying, “That’s how I …”
Preview what you’re going to tell them. Start your story as if you both agree about what’s important: “In this field, you know how important it is to do … here’s how I did that.” This approach tells them that you know what’s important and also presumes you are both on the same page.
Make sure bullet points are achievement-oriented.
For every bullet point, you should ask yourself, "So what?" (I guarantee every recruiter is asking the same question!) To write your resume from an achievement-oriented perspective, you must focus on what you accomplished rather than what you did:
Clearly demonstrate the impact your work has had on the organization, or on its clients, by being sure to include an achievement at the end of each bullet point.
Using resume “power words” (like accelerated, fulfilled, or negotiated) helps you avoid the same old clichés and demonstrate your true value.
Verifiable achievements are a huge advantage over common claims like "good team player," which beg the question, “Says who?” Include as many numbers as possible.
For example, take the statement, “Assisted IT team in upgrading company computer software.” Adding power words, numbers, and an achievement, you get something much more effective: “Directed 23 teams in testing 800 software upgrades, then collaborated with the IT Department to repair 400+ defects.”
Long before she became the Music & Events Coordinator for To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a forward-thinking mental health advocacy organization for young people, Elizabeth Wilder was a fan: “I’ve been a supporter since middle school.”
My role, the short version: I coordinate our events, and our presence at events put on by others, nationwide.
How I got here: I interned here two years ago, which included working a few events. They invited me back in the fall, and then asked me to be a part of their team. I was a preschool teacher before this job, which has been my first foray into the nonprofit world. Chance had a lot to do with it: I was in the right place at the right time.
What the job requires: TWLOHA is looking for passion for the organization, and determination to go outside the box and try new things, keeping a eye on trends. In terms of travel and outreach, you need to be outgoing, personable, and comfortable in the role of first-line communicator.
My job-hunting advice: Don’t be intimidated by people who might have more experience in the field. If you bring your all to the table, people recognize that – and we’re entering a day and age where that’s only becoming more true. Going into this role, a lot of people were surprised to learn I don’t have a college degree, but they gave me a shot because I was willing to put in the work and time to make our events as unique as I could.