If you’re like many people who have survived the recent recession, you’ve been looking for the next step on your career ladder for some time. Once you find a promising open position, it’s tempting to fire off your resume immediately – but how do you make yourself stand out from the crowd?
Becoming a company’s “top” candidate requires more than merely making contact. Consider these tips for positioning yourself at the head of your field:
- Never stop learning. Expanding your skill set throughout your career prepares you for inevitable changes in the field. It also demonstrates your interest and passion for what you do. Consider taking continuing education classes, earning further certifications, or obtaining a license you don’t currently have.
- Work on your “soft” skills. “Soft” skills include skills like communication, negotiation, problem solving, time management, and organization. Developing your “soft” skills makes you a stronger candidate, no matter what professional or technical position you’re seeking. They are also skills you can work on in nearly any setting, making them a great focus if you’ve been out of the workforce for any length of time.
- Build a well-rounded skill set. In addition to your “soft” skills, work on strengthening weaknesses or building new abilities related to your “hard” skills. Building your skill set may be done in conjunction with taking a class or earning a new credential, or it can be done for its own sake.
Although working in your field offers additional opportunities to stand out, you don’t need to wait for a job offer to start positioning yourself as a “top” candidate. Free time available due to unemployment or underemployment can be used to take a class or prepare for a credential or licensing test. Volunteer work, consulting positions, and hobbies all offer opportunities to practice “soft” skills, even if they don’t relate to the “hard” skills you typically use on the job. These positions also allow you add new skills and can shape your view of the world, making you a more well-rounded candidate for any position.