There's an old joke that has two guys sitting at a campfire in the middle of the woods. Suddenly a grizzly bear shows up, and one of the men starts putting on running shoes.
His friend looks at him and says, "Why are you doing that, you'll never outrun a bear." And the other replies, "Who said anything about outrunning the bear?"
This is actually an important principle in the job world today. If you're like most people, you probably don't have your dream job (or many of your dream things--this advice applies elsewhere too). And if you want to make a change, you can find lots of information.
Google "things you can do to get a better job," and you'll get a million responses. Most of them, of course, are geared toward the formal parts of the job application process.
You can find ways to make a stronger resume, how to write a good cover letter, how to answer the tough questions, and even how to dress for success.
Outrunning the bear.
Here's the problem: None of that's going to make that much of a difference. Not because it's bad advice, but because it's available to everyone. As a result, every resume that comes to companies like mine is professional, and every interviewee shows up prepared.
That's why you have to outrun the bear. For example, my company once wanted to hire a search engine marketing specialist. We received plenty of qualified resumes, including one from a person we'll call Andrea.
Andrea knew she had to do something more than simply interview, so she micro-targeted our building with her own ad. In other words, every time our people went to Facebook, they saw a picture of her and a short blurb about why we should hire her.
She used the tools of her trade to make herself visible and relevant to us. It was the single best resume she could have sent.
Stepping off the beaten path.
The good news is you don't have to be as clever as Andrea. You just have to do a little more than the next person. And believe me, it's hard to step outside of the usual process.
For example, whenever I speak to young people, I tell them the following hack for getting a job at my company:
I get roughly 200 business and 100 personal emails every day. I get only three LinkedIn InMails per week. I tell them if someone ever sent me or my talent manager a resume via InMail, we'd certainly read it. But even though I've told hundreds of young people this, I've never gotten a single resume that way.
This has nothing to do with their smarts. It's just we're wired to talk ourselves out of things like that. Psychologists call this "rationalization," and it's a defense mechanism that happens almost unconsciously. None of us likes rejection or embarrassment.
Sending out resumes via email in a conventional way doesn't threaten us as much as really putting ourselves out there. So most people stick to the beaten path.
That's why you should try to outrun the bear.
If everyone is as qualified as you, do something more. After all, about once a year, we hear of people who put their resumes on sandwich boards and walk around New York City. They always seem to get jobs.
Likewise in today's well-informed world, you have to go beyond the traditional. Take a risk, don't let a bad result get you down, and you might just end up exactly where you want to be.