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Whether you’re an entry-level employee, a middle manager, or a seasoned professional, you should be losing sleep over wondering, “How am I going to stand out?”

In fact, this is the No. 1 question job seekers, managers, and even students entering college ask me.

My advice is the same for everyone: Find out what your peers are doing, and don’t do it.

Remember the famous Apple commercial based on 1984? Instead of being a lemming following the crowd, be like the woman who breaks out and smashes the screen.

Start by answering the following questions regarding what your peers are up to:

  1. What resume formats are they using?
  2. What questions do they prepare to ask and answer in interviews?
  3. What kind of work ethics do they demonstrate?
  4. What kind of contact do your colleagues have with the boss?

To make swimming upstream in your career work for, you must take calculated risks while maintaining your professionalism. Whether you’re angling for a new job, a promotion, or some other career movement, take time to study the mission statement, vision, values, and goals of the company or boss. Those are your guides to success.

Next, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Consider a functional resume instead of a chronological version. Use a larger, bolder, more creative font, but don’t do anything that would make it harder for the applicant tracking software to parse your resume. The goal is to have a different — and better — resume than everyone else.
  2. Interviewers tend to ask the same questions of all candidates. It’s not that they’re lazy. They really do want to hire the best person. Using the same questions just keeps them from veering off script. It also allows them to make more objective comparisons between interviewees. Don’t wait for the perfect question to impress the interviewer, because it may never come. Prepare to wow them on all the standard questions
  3. Research the company and go into interviews armed with in-depth knowledge to inform your answers and questions. You may want to pay close attention to newspapers during your research. Your peers likely ignore this source, which means you may be able to uncover some facts that no other job seekers do.
  4. Most staff members at any company arrive and leave at about the same time. Fred Flintstone couldn’t wait to bolt with a “Yabba dabba doo!” when the bird whistle blew at the end of the day. Don’t be like Fred. Arrive a little before your boss, and leave a little after your boss.
  5. Sucking up to the boss is bad, but impressing your boss is good. You’ll gain respect by following directions; delivering on time; working well with others; showing creativity; and demonstrating leadership. Keep tabs on the industry and the company’s development so you can have meaningful conversations with your boss when you run into each other in the hallway.

These tips may seem like common sense, but as someone once said, “Common sense isn’t so common.” Exploit that!

Everyone swims downstream. Going against the current is how you stand out.

Ferris Kaplan is founder of Best Of You Resumes.



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