For mass communications majors at the university I attended, getting a television or radio reporting gig was a major career stepping stone. I was not one of those mass communications majors, but when I saw a job posting for a reporter position with a radio program, I decided to apply.
I knew the competition would be substantial, and that I would be at a disadvantage. I was a communications major, but not a mass communications major. Most of those students had experience writing copy and talking in front of cameras. Even if they had only practiced in simulations, they still had more experience than I had.
But I knew I had a few things going for me: gumption, a recorder, and a profound sense of curiosity. I also paid attention to detail. The application process required candidates to submit sample interviews, which I did. An associate dean at my university was kind enough to give me 20 minutes of his time to discuss his enthusiastic study of ghosts. I knew I had nailed a topic no one else would think of.
I got the job, beating out the dozens of mass communication majors who applied. Anne, the news director at the program, told me I was the only candidate to submit an interview. She said she kept telling applicants, “You have to go and talk to people!”
Being compensated for doing something I loved was a dream come true. That job had everything: flexibility, fun, and adventure. It also taught me a few valuable life lessons that I still carry with me:
1. Your Job Search Won’t Be Comfortable
The associate dean gave me an impressive interview, despite my fear and anxiety. The collaboration accomplished precisely what the employer wanted to see — but it was still a harrowing experience. Don’t expect to operate from your comfort zone during your job search.
2. Treat People Extraordinarily Well
I eventually got a chance to work with the dean of the college for a week, and it set up some other related job opportunities. I only had this chance because I treated people well and focused on my relationships at work.
Don’t view jobs as one-off events. See how they can have long-tail effects on your life and career. Build your relationships.
3. Be Ready to Prove Your Worth
Landing a job will require some evidence of your value — like the interview I did with the associate dean.
There are other ways to showcase your value, such as social proof on your website or LinkedIn profile. Online assessments and behavioral testing are becoming more common parts of the hiring process as well, so you must be ready to perform on demand in order to show employers you have what it takes to succeed.
4. Adopt a Consultant Mindset
Unless you’re aiming for a contract job, you need to show you can do more than just fix a single problem. You want to prove that you can collaborate with various partners in your organization in order to create new value.
For example, the news director was impressed that I interviewed the associate dean for my demo tape. I learned later the dean was at the top of his field, and I was fortunate to get any time at all with him. The dean was also impressed: He thought my genuine interest in his studies offered a value rarely available to him.
5. Do Great Work t0 Stay in Demand
It takes time to master your profession or craft. You won’t immediately be the best, but you can build a portfolio of white papers, articles, videos, interviews, and other relevant projects that show off your skills. Without my interview with the dean, I probably would not have gotten the job. Regularly producing great work is how you stay in demand.
Your road to job search success can be difficult at times, but it doesn’t have to be unproductive. Do great work and forge valuable relationships with likeminded people — even when you aren’t looking for a job. This is how you will stand out and get noticed before you even need to be.
Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, the host and producer of “The Voice of Job Seekers” podcast, and the founder of the blog by the same name.