5 Wily Ways to Lead the Pack
Notice that the title above does not distinguish the global pack of job seekers from the global pack of recruiters and HR managers.
That’s because the five tips that follow are for both groups.
If you follow these suggestions, you will indeed stand out among your competitors who, because of the pressures to upgrade and push harder in a tight job market or merely because of their sheer numbers; the leveling of the playing field through expanded access to education, training and other opportunities; and universal availability of instant employment communications, information and updates of both, are making you look like just another mass-produced, ground-out, ground-up wiener in a seemingly infinitely long, dangling and rattling chain.
So what can you do to lope back into the lead or to hold on to it?
—Blend high ethical standards with high intellectual performance. Almost anyone can parrot an ethical position, e.g., “discrimination has no place in the workplace”; and almost as many can say something intelligent, e.g., “avoiding discrimination does not require ceasing to be discriminating.”
But far fewer can blend the intellectual with the ethical, e.g., “One reason that legislation has been necessary to enforce the ethics of non-discrimination is that those who discriminate often rationalize discrimination as merely being discriminating, i.e., insightfully and rightly noting and acting on objective, statistical or categorical differences between groups or individuals.”
This latter descriptive statement can be elevated into an articulated, examined and buttressed moral stance just by prefacing the previous sentence with “I fully support anti-discrimination policies, because…”
In doing this, you will demonstrate not only that you hold high or politically correct moral positions, but also that you can argue for and defend them.
That’s important because intellectually unreflective ethics are just as incomplete as ethically unreflective intelligence. Demonstrating a capacity for both will set you apart from and above the pack.
—Brag obliquely by packaging boasts as merely objective or modest, even self-effacing, descriptions. “Yes, I did graduate summa cum laude. But that merely reflects a lot of hard work, a lucky roll of the genetic dice, and enthusiasm.”
Another example: “Our company is indeed the de facto industry leader, but that’s a rung on a ladder we must continue to climb if we aren’t going to get climbed over.” The beauty of this is that you get to brag while seeming modest.
—Casually mention a great sacrifice or effort as though it was instinctive or a matter of dedication or conscience. I am pretty sure that I was one of six or so trainees hired from a pool of 400 applicants systems analyst trainee position with a global company, in part because, when asked how I managed to arrive on time given a huge logistical snag in the distant city I was coming from, I said—truthfully—that I chartered a plane and hired a limo to whisk me to the corporate headquarters, and made it sound like it was the natural, indeed, obligatory thing to do.
—Present a summary of your main documentation, if there’s a lot. On one occasion, I got a university teaching job because or despite the thickness of my CV, which was double-digit pages, what with course outlines, publication list and details, summaries of courses I’d taught, blah-blah.
Alert enough to realize that it was quite a wad, I inserted a one-page summary of the most important content. I used that technique in other job applications and generally got the jobs I wanted.
If you are instead selling a job, and the employer has loaded you up with various promotional blurbs, a hyper-detailed job description, a multi-page contract, an employee handbook, quarterly financial reports, etc., etc., consider creating a summary or at least a master index that can guide applicants through whatever materials you’ll peel off from your pile and load onto them.
Bear in mind, however, that beefing up your application this way is likelier to succeed if you are submitting a CV—most often for academic or research positions, grants, etc.—rather than the generally much shorter resume appropriate for other jobs.
—Demonstrate your volitional intelligence as well as your IQ and EQ. Being smart has, in the past couple of decades come to mean being emotionally as well as cognitively intelligent, i.e., displaying “emotional intelligence”.
Well, there’s another kind of intelligence that many motivational gurus try to tap into and cultivate in their presentations: volitional intelligence—making smart decisions and acting in ways based on wise exercise of one’s will. How can you demonstrate volitional intelligence?
Example: by saying, “Although FDR’S ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ is useful, it’s volitionally flawed, because it tacitly and contradictorily recommends that which it warns us of, namely, fear.
That’s a mistaken approach. Instead I prefer to challenge fear, not fear it, since fear tends to inhibit action as often as it spurs it, whereas challenging anything always triggers positive action.”
Because the preceding affirmation demonstrates intellectual, emotional and volitional adroitness, it’s a good illustration of the kind of intelligence trifecta you should try to pull off in your own presentations.
Of course, there are many more ways to get a leg up on the rest of the wolf pack; but then, my general intelligence tells me that if I told you all the ones I know, I would have to come up with new ones…
…just to keep up with you, if I ever have to find another job or if you come after mine.