By Mark Anthony Dyson
Job seekers sometimes forget job-hunting is competitive – until we get shot down a few times. That's why you've got to train ahead of time so you can compete.
In fact, the training can be much longer and arduous than the match itself. Just like – you guessed it – boxing.
Here's how to throw punches that will help you land a job:
Don't overlook endurance training
When we think of training for professional boxers, we envision them running long distances, up the steps and through the woods. It doesn't matter where they run, boxers prepare to endure 12-15 rounds of swinging, and, of course, they prepare to get hit.
Job seekers need to train in this same way, preparing for discouragement, changing strategies, learning new information and remembering names and places correctly. Don't plan only for the current job hunt, but also for the future.
Learn to take the punches
Remember: the competition is out to beat you. Sometimes the other competitor is stronger, faster and bigger, but not necessarily better. Better might mean a larger repertoire of skills, other times it can mean having the right temperament. Learning how to take rejection can be difficult to master, but today's job seeker has "to take a licking and keep on ticking."
When fighting George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, who is considered the greatest boxer of all-time, knew Foreman's big weakness: he loved to punch hard and relentlessly. He'd do this for seven rounds straight, and Ali let him. Yet in the eighth round, Foreman lacked something crucial: he was unable to life his arms after throwing so many punches. Ali won by a technical knock-out.
Do you fight like Ali? Do you know when to be aggressive (follow-up, call back, send thank-you notes)? Do you know how to take punches (criticism or silence)? Do you protect your interests (not taking feedback personally, asking the right questions)? Can you tell when the best opportunity comes along (when to say no when the position doesn't fit you)?
Or do you fight like Foreman? Are you missing crucial and timely punches (arriving late to interviews, not customizing resumes)? Swinging at the air (randomly sending out hundreds of resumes)? Not hitting the mark (neglecting to follow through)?
Although lifting heavy weights is part of training, it's pushing that has more functional use in boxing. Job-seeking, too, is about pushing past boundaries and obstacles that appear bigger far away; they often shrink as you approach. Some distractions aren't even related to your job search, but pushing past them is crucial.
You'll also need mental strength to endure. The strong-minded will welcome a few rejections because it means getting closer to that "Yes!" Our human propensity is to forego rejection, but it makes us stronger and wiser.
Compete to Win
No employers will hand you a job. You have to earn it, win it and claim it. Like any sport, you have to study your opponent and exploit weaknesses. To win, you must know your weaknesses and demonstrate your strengths.
Draw a table to compare and contrast the job opportunity, and know what you have to offer compared with what the employers wants. Use that visual to remind you which skills and experience to emphasize in your interview and on your resume.
What's your knockout strategy?
Winning should drive your job-search strategy. If you don't plan to knock 'em dead, how will you seize opportunities?
To hire you, employers have to like you, have to be impressed. Without a plan, you're like Foreman, swinging away, but not landing the knock-out punch. Set yourself up for success by approaching that competition head-on.
Mark Anthony Dyson is the Chief Evangelist and Founder of Competitive Resumes, and Founder/Chief Editor at TheVoiceofJobseekers.com. When he is not traveling to various Army bases to conduct career workshops for federal personnel, he is at home in Chicago shaping job candidates as contenders for the hostile job market.