How to Be Relevant in a Competitive Job Market

In a job search, if you are not relevant you are obsolete.

Technology, ideas and even workers lose their relevance when they fail to provide value to the end user.

As a job seeker, you become relevant to prospective employers when you remember it’s all about them, not you. You may be proud of your degree, your experience or your community activities. Potential employers, however, will not share your enthusiasm unless they can somehow see how your credentials will make them more successful in their jobs.

Assume that a potential employer is selfish. He or she is not looking to do you a favor by rescuing you from the vast sea of unemployed swimmers. No, your next employer will only be interested in hiring you if you can contribute to his success.

Being relevant means that your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, interview answers and all communications focus on what you can do for THEM, not what they can do for you. Like it or not, it’s all about them, not you.

Three ways to be more relevant are:

  1. Know your brand. You must thoroughly understand yourself—the “product” you are trying to sell.
  2. Convert features into benefits. Remember, it’s all about them, so phrase everything in the context of why they should care about the information you share.
  3. Focus on your cover letter. This is your “sales brochure” where you talk to potential employers about their world, their success and how you you can help them win.
Remember, you are relevant to a potential employer only when you focus on what they need, not on what you want.


These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH



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