How to Be Relevant in a Competitive Job Market

January 17, 2012

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



Giving Thanks for Clichés

November 22, 2010

I‘m thankful for clichés. They save me time because I can “copy and paste” them into any daily situation. They keep me from having to think deeply. They conserve creativity for some future time when I might need to be more creative.

Clichés are like an old pair of shoes. They’re comfortable, despite the obvious holes. They get me where I’m going, assuming I have a destination. They appear stylish, or at least they did years ago when they were new.

I like the way clichés cleverly coagulate the flow of communication. My favorite clichés fall into these three categories:

  1. Verbal clichés. People who speak in clichés think they are thinking outside the box. In business, clichés are like the leaves of autumn—everywhere. Even in church I’ll hear someone with the voice of angel offering up a trite prayer that sounds pious and impressive. I pray that God will find sincerity in the hearts of those who find comfort in worn-out phrases.
  2. Photo clichés. If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a thousand times. A nonprofit newsletter publishes a photo of a check presentation. A website shows photos of formally-dressed people who paused long enough at a charity event to “say cheese” in front of a camera. Facebook photo albums show groups of friends scrunched around restaurant tables, flashing plastic smiles and clutching their beverages of choice.
  3. Resume clichés. I’m beginning to think that 100% of resumes and LinkedIn profiles say exactly the same thing. If you’re planning to update yours, let me save you some time. Copy and paste this: I am a highly motivated, dynamic self-starter, results-oriented, hard-working, dedicated, team-player with excellent multi-tasking and communications skills. I have ___+ years experience in fast-paced environments. (You’re welcome.)

At the end of the day, when you boil it all down, I have never met a cliché I didn’t like. Never being content to let sleeping dogs lie, I won’t beat around the bush. Clichés sell like hotcakes. You may try to avoid them like the plague, but I think using them makes a person sound as cool as a cucumber. I get up each morning on the right side of the bed with a commitment to seize the day. Because today is the first day of the rest of my life, I will give 110%.

Have a nice day!

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