Job Search Gimmicks. Good or Bad Idea?

In today’s ultra-competitive job market, it can sometimes help to make yourself stand out from other job seekers through a bold gesture or nontraditional résumé. After all, if you or your résumé don’t stand out in some way, you run the risk of being overlooked for what could be your dream job. So why not be bold and take a risk? I’ll tell you why — because there can be a very fine line between being innovate and being overbearing and even a little scary.

The key to success is to carefully consider the atmosphere of the company you are applying to (a staid accounting firm may not appreciate your dressing up in a gorilla suit to deliver your résumé), and learn what you can about the hiring manager before making first contact. When trying to separate yourself from your competition, consider these moves made by fearless — or frightening — job seekers. Sometimes they pay off, and sometimes they fall flat.

 Good Idea:
Be innovative: A laid-off sales manager targeted his dream company by creating a website that was devoted to his job search at that company. The site included photographs of himself, his résumé and even a blog detailing his job quest. It got the attention he wanted, and it paid off with a phone interview and meeting with company recruiters. In this case, putting himself out there was a good way to get noticed.

Go where the decision-makers go: You don’t want to come off as a stalker, but you do want to find out where influencers meet and join the club, like one job seeker did in New York. This entertainment industry executive joined an exclusive gym frequented by celebrities and media moguls in order to increase his visibility, and it paid off. In essence, this is like taking networking to the extreme, and we all know that networking is one of the best ways to land a job.

And NOT such a good idea:
Don’t be childish: One job seeker got a bit too cutesy with his cover letter in his application to a company in Florida. He used the letters of his first name to highlight his strengths, sort of like an elementary school writing project. (For example: D is for Determined; A is for Attentive; N is for Nice). N must also be for “No way!” He didn’t get the interview.

Always be professional, and don’t resort to gimmicks or toys. Another job seeker brought a Rubik’s Cube to her interview to illustrate her problem-solving skills. It was distracting and socially awkward. Remember that you’re an adult and a professional.

Don’t bring food:  Although most office workers appreciate those home-baked goodies their co-workers bring in, it’s not a good practice for a job seeker to employ. You may be a great baker, but delivering cookies (or candy or even office plants) to a potential employer smacks of desperation and perhaps a bit of bribery. Your merits should stand on their own; plus, many people are wary of eating items brought by strangers.

The Really BAD ideas:
Don’t be a stalker: Sure, you want to get your name out there; you may even want to hand-deliver your résumé. Just don’t do what this desperate Boston job seeker did. She visited the company every day for several weeks, each time asking to speak to a different company representative. She then sat in the reception area for hours, waiting for that person. It came across as creepy, and no one ended up meeting with her.

Don’t go bananas:  That gorilla-suit example mentioned previously really did happen. A man delivered his résumé in costume to a construction company and then sang about the qualifications he had that made him the perfect candidate. He even brought balloons. The company CEO was not amused, and the man was escorted from the building.

When trying to stand out during a job hunt, it’s still best to stick with traditional means: Express your qualifications in your cover letter and résumé and shine in that coveted job interview. If you want to do more, make sure your gesture is appropriate for your industry and for the particular company to which you are applying.  Sometimes, taking a risk can really pay off, like the MIT graduate who stood on a busy New York street corner handing out résumés. He ended up landing a job at an accounting firm.

Sometimes a little risk can bring great rewards.


Don’t Worry. Your Career Will Get Better

By Vanessa Wong – BloombergBusinessweek

Ever worry that the peak of your career is already behind you? Don’t fret: You’ll keep having happy experiences in your professional life—moments you’ll appreciate a few years after they’ve passed.

In a survey of 1,070 men and women by Citigroup and LinkedIn, about two-thirds of the respondents, including those 55 and older, felt they had just recently experienced their happiest years at work.

“It’d be depressing to me if all age groups reported being happiest in their late 20s,” says Bryan Dik, a vocational psychologist and co-founder of the career-matching startup “What it tells me is that either things get better as they go along or people are only able to remember recent events well when they make this appraisal.”

2014 Today’s Professional Woman Report Question: Look back at your career—at what age were you happiest?

The results of this Today’s Professional Woman Report are not unlike those in Gallup’s “State of the American Workforce” report last year, which show the levels of worker engagement increasing with age.  Millennials were the least engaged with their work.

Expect growing pains, though. ”Developmentally, middle-career often seems to be a challenge,” says Dik. Midcareer professionals, usually in their early-to-mid 40s, “are typically taking stock and realizing they may not have achieved everything they aspired to. At the same time, they are looking ahead and wondering what they should focus on for the remainder of their career, and what kind of legacy they ultimately hope to leave.”

Flush with fond memories of recent successes, the professionals in the Citi-LinkedIn survey are persistently optimistic. Most (roughly 60 percent) believe their careers will get even better still.  The average point at which workers ages 55 and older feel they will reach their peak is 62.  And while even seasoned workers are sunny about their futures, that survey suggests that the best years for ambitious millennial workers are likely decades away.