You wouldn’t describe yourself as a commodity, would you?
You especially wouldn’t describe yourself as a commodity when looking for a job – Who would say in a job interview, “You should hire me because I’m exactly the same as everyone else?”
So you’re probably thinking, “I’d never write a resume that makes me look like everyone else.”
Would it surprise you to learn that’s exactly how your resume brands you – as a commodity?
Here are a few simple tests to tell if you’re selling yourself as a commodity:
- Unclear: At first glance, if your resume isn’t crystal clear to your audience about what job you’re looking for, then your brand reflects that you really don’t know what job you want.
- Skills and responsibilities: When your resume lists skills and responsibilities, you brand yourself as being the same as anyone else that has similar skills and responsibilities.
- Lack of candidate superiority: If your resume doesn’t clearly show why you’re a superior candidate, then you brand yourself as being the same as your competition.
Now ask yourself, does your resume pass these three tests?
So, how did we end up branding ourselves as sheep…describing ourselves just like everyone else?
We’ve been taught to describe ourselves this way…and it’s been reinforced so often that it just seems “right”.
There are 3 basic reasons we brand ourselves as commodities:
- College Placement: Your college placement office is at the center of it all. College placement offices taught you how to brand the college as the provider of a consistent quality of worker. Your college placement office didn’t teach you to brand yourself, because that would teach you how to look different and unique.
Your college placement office branded itself by teaching graduates to write resumes that look exactly alike with a common format, common look and almost identical information – they published graduates’ consistent resumes in a book or eBook, which they sold to employers. Think back to college – if your resume wasn’t consistent with the placement offices standards, it was rejected … remember? For those of you who didn’t go through college or grad school placement, your high school career counselors taught you what they learned in college – to brand yourself like everyone else.
- Candidate Shortages: From WWII until 2007, the US and Western European economies had shortages of candidates and skills – there just weren’t enough workers to supply growing economies. Even during US recessions, there were shortages of skilled workers (just smaller levels of shortages). In 2007, the combination of the great recession, increased productivity and ability to source labor globally (both thanks to the internet) caused fundamental changes to demand for workers. Candidate shortages were replaced by job shortages.
When there were candidate shortages you could be a commodity and still get a job. It wasn’t as critical to differentiate yourself pre-2007, because employers couldn’t find enough people with just the basic skills needed for the job.
Today, there are many candidates who have the basic required skills for most jobs (yes, even management/executive jobs), so demonstrating skills makes you look like just about every other candidate … like a commodity.
- Reinforcement: Since job markets have only changed recently, most of the career advice given is traditional – based on the pre-2007 job market of candidate shortages. You’ll find this traditional but obsolete job search advice everywhere. Most articles, recruiters, outplacement, many career coaches, career articles and free career advice from government, community, church, alumni resources still use traditional job search techniques as the basis of their advice.
These folks don’t intentionally mean you any harm. The job market changed so quickly and so profoundly, that even most career professionals haven’t caught up yet to incorporate different suggestions for a new environment.
We might even include a 4th reason – society. Society teaches us to blend in, to fit in, to show we’re the same as everyone else. Even from childhood, in order to succeed in school and society, we’re taught how to be the same as everyone else. Even the football stars and valedictorian are taught rules to fit in – so how can we help describing ourselves basically the same as everyone else.
Branding yourself as a commodity is a choice – you don’t have to do it.
Most of us don’t even realize that we’re selling ourselves as a commodity because we just don’t know another way…
Stay tuned for next weeks’ column and learn how to brand yourself as the unique solution to a specific employer’s individual needs.