Small Needle, Big Haystack – from Seth Godin

February 27, 2010

I’ve become a big fan of Seth Godin’s blog – mainly because he’s so refreshing and…right.
Here’s a terrific post from his book Small is the New Big that fit’s any job seeker looking to be remarkable.

Needles, haystacks & magnetism

Last month, I posted a bunch of notices looking to hire summer interns (yes, we’re set, thanks). The ads asked people to send in a three page PDF, describing their background, their goals and giving applicants a chance to really stand out and make their case.

This, of course, should be the dream opportunity for most job seekers. Instead of being treated as a piece of paper, a list of stats in a dry resume, here was a chance to actually tell a little about yourself.

HALF the people sent in a resume. Just a resume.

“Here’s my resume” was the total content of at least 20% of the cover notes I got.

Part of this is the result of being beaten down. Most of the system is about following the rules, fitting in and not standing out. But a lot of it, it seems to me, is that people are laboring under a very mistaken impression about what works–in life, in seeking a job and in marketing in general.

Most people, apparently, believe that if they just get their needle sharp enough, it’ll magnetically leap out of the haystack and land wherever it belongs. If they don’t get a great job or make a great sale or land a terrific date, it might just be because they don’t deserve it.

Having met some successful people, I can assure you that they didn’t get that way by deserving it.

What chance is there that your totally average resume, describing a totally average academic and work career is going to get you most jobs? “Hey Bill! Check out this average guy with an average academic background and really exceptionally average work experience! Maybe he’s cheap!!”

Do you hire people that way? Do you choose products that way? If you’re driving a Chevy Cavalier and working for the Social Security Administration, perhaps, but those days are long gone.

People are buying only one thing from you: the way the engagement (hiring you, working with you, dating you, using your product or service, learning from you) makes them feel.

So how do you make people feel?

Could you make them feel better? More? Could you create the emotions that they’re seeking?

As long as we focus on the commodity, on the sharper needle, we’re lost. Why? Because most customers don’t carry a magnet. Because the sharpest needle is rarely the one that gets out of the haystack. Intead, buyers are looking for the Free Prize, for that exceptional attribute that’s worth talking about. I just polled the four interns sitting here with me. Between them, they speak 12 languages. No, that’s not why I hired them. No, we don’t need Tagalog in our daily work…. but it’s a free prize. It’s one of the many things that made them interesting, that made me feel good about hiring them.

What’s your Free Prize?

By the way, you can see my columns on career coaching and transitions at SF Examiner.com.

JP McDermott is a financial services and insurance advisor in Walnut Creek, CA. specializing in career transitions. He is also a career and financial coach, a freelance writer on career coaching with SF Examiner.com, and has been volunteering his time and experience to various non-profit, service and civic organizations.
JP lives in Danville with his wife Candy.

Check out his LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/jpmcdermott
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