As a new year dawns, there’s so much hope for standing out on your job hunt. More and more people are discovering the secret I want to share with you today: that you don’t have to have experience or credentials to launch a career you love. You can create your own experience by doing a few things that prove to employers you’re going to be a great hire.
So here are twenty practical ways to stand out on the job hunt in 2020. They’re all a bit different than what you’d find on most blogs, and they require ambitious job-seekers to undertake them. But if you try them (as so many stories show), we can guarantee you won’t blend into the crowd.
Click on a list item to jump to a specific section, or keep scrolling to see them all.
- Do more research on companies
- Do work before getting the job
- Show examples of work you’ve done
- Get wacky and creative
- Use video
- Build your own body of work
- Be personal in outreach
- Grow a social media following
- Document your work
- Write publicly
- Have a one-stop-shop for all your work
- Address the hiring manager by name
- Reach out to employees
- Take control of your follow-ups
- Build and share a sixty-day plan
- Work out loud
- Focus on quality, not quantity
- Don’t do stuff you hate
- Use video cover letters to pitch companies
- Do something different
1. Do more research on companies
Companies love it when you’re excited about them. It gets them excited about you.
When you find a job you’re really excited about, don’t just apply. Spend an hour and do research on the company. Learn about:
- Their mission
- Who their customers are
- What pain point they’re trying to solve (or are already solving)
Not only will this help you stand out in an interview (this research can help you ask detailed questions that make the interview a great conversation), but you could even use the information you find to create a quick project that shows you’re ready and excited to come in and create value specifically for them that actually makes a difference—even from day one.
2. Do work before getting the job
It’s probably not something you’ve heard a lot, but doing work before the job is actually one of the best ways to stand out.
Instead of asking a hiring manager to trust your resume or accomplishments, do a project specifically for the company and send it in with your application. For example, if you’re looking for an entry-level sales job, find out who the company’s ideal customers are, then create a spreadsheet with a list of leads they could actually use!
Or, you could offer to work for free for two weeks as a trial run so they can see you’re worth taking the chance on.
Prove you’re excited. Do work before getting the job.
3. Show examples of work you’ve done
Share projects you’ve done, things you’ve written, processes you’ve run. Link to tools you’ve used and examples of how you’ve used them. Don’t ask a company to believe a list of skills—show them what you’ve done! That work will speak for itself, and it’ll show a hiring manager you can do it again for them.
4. Get wacky and creative
We saw this recently and couldn’t help but like it:
While this is pretty far, far out there, it’s a perfect example of how much it can pay to do something different when you’re launching your career.
5. Use video
For your cover letter. On a skills profile. In email. On social media.
Video is a great way for hiring teams to get to know you before an interview. Put your personality up-front with a thirty-second video that talks about why you’re excited about the company and why you’d be a great fit.
You can even create tailored video pitches right here on Crash.
6. Build your own body of work
Employers love to see proof of your skill. A body of work is just that—blog posts, projects, graphics, spreadsheets, social media accounts, a newsletter—anything that proves your skill can be added to your body of work.
7. Be personal in outreach
Something that’s really easy to forget is hiring managers are people, too.
We know this part can get overwhelming—because what should you write, word for word, to be personal yet professional, and get a response? So here are a handful of email templates you can copy to stand out in an inbox.
8. Grow a social media following
Social media is one of the most underrated job-hunting tools. It’s also one of the most powerful.
In much the same way a marketer runs a campaign to promote something, job hunters can get in front of companies and hirers and employees on platforms like LinkedIn (best for connecting with people) and Twitter (amazing for talking with and showing your work to any company).
9. Document your work
Showing how you go about getting work done, and that you’ve finished a project, is a great way to give employers an inside look into what you’re like to work with and how you approach a challenge.
Here’s a quick guide to documenting a project—and example projects you could create to stand out.
10. Write publicly
Maybe this looks like writing a 2,000-word essay and sharing it on a blog. Maybe you need to write an ebook or a short story. Perhaps you make a habit of tweeting what you learn.
Regardless of what that looks like for you, showing your work is one of the best ways to stand out on the job hunt. Publishing your work gives you a huge chance of being hired—even if you don’t have relevant work experience.
To learn more about writing publicly,
11. Have a one-stop-shop for all your work (personal website, portfolio, skills profile)
Having a place people can go to to learn more about you is huge in today’s world of social media and the internet.
Here are a couple ways you could get started with building your online reputation (for designer types and non-designers!):
- Start a blog (with Medium or WordPress)
- Build a Crash profile (show your skills, your tech stack, portfolio, and experience)
- If you’re a developer, you can utilize GitHub to show your projects
- If you’d like creative liberty, try a tool like Webflow to design your own website without code
12. Address the hiring manager by name
Dear sir or madam reading this,
Please check out this tweet to see why you should address the hiring manager by name:
Whether it’s a cover letter or an email, always address the hiring manager by name.
P.S. Here’s how to find out who the hiring manager is at any company.
13. Reach out to employees
I’m always amazed and excited to see how most employees at a company are eager to help someone who’s just starting out.
So reach out to them. Invite someone currently in the role you’d like to be in to coffee to ask questions about their job. Show you’re immensely excited about the company’s mission, and share how you’re ready to create value for them.
Here’s a quick hack to finding the email address of any employee at any company (plus tips on how to email them).
14. Take control of your follow-ups
When you’re faced with the fear of not hearing back from the companies you apply to, know you’re not alone in that—and that you can take back control of your job hunt.
A good rule of thumb for follow-ups is if you don’t hear anything back, follow up every 24-72 hours until you hear something.
Note: if the hiring manager or interviewer says they’ll follow up with you within a certain period of time, it’s best to wait until that day or time to send an email.
Don’t be annoying, but it’s good to show your excitement by staying on top of the opportunity on your end.
Oh, and always send an email right before and right after an interview!
15. Build and share a sixty-day plan
Nothing says “hire me!” better than a personalized plan of how you would create value in your first sixty days (or month, or six months) on the job.
Even if it’s not perfect, it shows initiative and excitement—and that’s better than a resume any day.
16. Work out loud
Learning something new? Tweet about it.
Made a mistake but grew from it? That’s great blog material.
Have a project in progress? Share what you’re doing online (or teach others how to do it).
Working out loud—on a blog, social media, or more—creates an incredible signal for you. That signal shows you’re learning, you’re growing, you’re not afraid of a challenge, and you know how to get stuff done. Working out loud shows those things publicly to employers and gives them a look into your process—and how you could do the same (or more) for them.
17. Focus on quality, not quantity
Instead of applying to any job opening you come across, try narrowing down your options and applying only to jobs that excite you. Some of the most exciting jobs are entry-level roles at startups—and you don’t have to have experience to stand out to them.
The important thing to do here is to put extra effort into these applications. Use the tips from the rest of this post to really make your mark. Go above and beyond with your pitch and your emails. Make a project just for them. Send a video cover letter.
Remember: when the focus is on quality, not quantity, the hiring manager can actually notice it—because the work you put in before the job will show them you’re worth hiring.
Applying to specific roles and focusing on creating better applications for those roles will build your excitement, and it’ll keep you excited as you fight to stand out from the crowd.
18. Don’t do stuff you hate
It’s easy to say “follow your dreams” or “find your passion.” But it’s difficult to actually discover those things.
Instead, experiment. Don’t be afraid to focus on eliminating the things you know you don’t like in order to find the things you do like. Try getting an entry-level job in a position you don’t hate, and see if you like it. If you hate it, you’ll have at least learned what you don’t like, therefore narrowing down your options. In doing so, you might just discover what makes you come alive.
Here’s a great book all about doing stuff you don’t hate.
19. Use video cover letters to pitch companies
To learn about how to stand out to companies with a video cover letter—a tailored pitch—check this guide out.
20. Do something different
If you walk away from this post with one piece of career advice ringing in your head, I hope it’s this: do something different than what everyone else on the job hunt is doing. That’s the top way to stand out on the hunt in 2020. Don’t succumb to one-click applications or the same generic cover letter for every job opening. To stand out, you need to show you’re different.
So get creative. Don’t follow the crowd. Do what makes you come alive.
P.S. Got a cool story about how you’re standing out on the job hunt? I’d love to hear it! Send me an email at morgan [at] crash [dot] co.