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Is your job search "cookie-cutter" or "hand-dropped"?

I’ve been honored by my career colleagues with an invitation to participate in The Career Collective. Once a month, a group of career professionals will blog on a subject topical and timely for a job seeker. We’ll post our thoughts on our own blog and link to the post of our colleagues on the same topic. What a great resource for job seekers and what a great way for us, many solo-preneurs, to learn from each other. Always take advantage of shared wisdom. I do! Our first topic is: Are you a cookie-cutter job seeker? Responses from the others are linked at the end. Follow the hashtag #careercollective on Twitter.

One of the first questions I ask clients in the resume creation process is who’s our audience? I tell them we have to know what our buyer is buying before we can sell to them. I may conduct all my business over the telephone, but I know a “deer in the headlights” look when I hear one. If necessary, I back up a bit and say, “OK, let’s talk about, how you’re searching.”

I want clients to see their skills as a product, the hiring authority as people looking to buy the product and the job postings as keys to unlock the secret to what the buyer wants. Sharing their search process lets me see if they “get it”. It’s also a window to how much research they’ve done on their own and how much additional coaching I have to integrate into the process.Sugar Cookies - dreamstimemedium (edited)

In spite of all the job search information out there, in this technical age, here are some “cookie cutter” responses to the “How are you searching?” question I’ve gotten in the past two weeks. No hand-dropped, custom-made cookies here:

“I looked in the paper this past Sunday.”

“I looked on the Monster board and I’ll post my resume once we finish it.”

“I’m going to put on my best interview clothes and drop hard copy resumes off at a businesses around town”

“My mom has a friend who knows someone.”

“I’ll find a recruiter. Once they see my skills, they’ll find me a job.”

“I’ve not looked in more than 10 years. This is all new to me.”

“I need a generic resume. I can do anything. Employers like that right?”

“I’m not good with computers.”

So, how are you going about your search?

Do you anxiously await delivery each Sunday for the paper? That’s maybe 9% of the job market. You’re leaving 91% of the market untapped.

Are you posting and looking only on The Monster and big boards? Depending on the board, posting and hoping yields about a 2% return rate. (Sorry gang. It takes effort). Do you know about places like, a unique job search engine that only lists jobs taken directly from company websites? Have you discovered some of the niche sites out there focusing on specific industries?

Are you visiting in person? I don’t know about you, but I find it presumptive to think, in times of reduced staff and more work done by fewer people, someone is sitting there with nothing better to do than wait for you to arrive, hand them your resume and discuss your wants and needs. But then I don’t cherish drop in company either. (There might be a bit of personal bias there. <smile>)

Networking is the best way to land a position, but having one person who is a friend of a friend is not a network or a job search strategy. Building an effective network takes time. Don’t panic. It’s never too late to start.

Think a recruiter will help? Recruiters find people for jobs. They do not find jobs for people. BIG difference. If you’re not a fit or you can’t sell your value, forget it, they’re on to the next candidate. Gayle Howard, also a career collective blogger, did an excellent break down of working with recruiters here.

Not looked in 10 years?
Then you’ve got some catching up to do. It’s a whole new world our there. Make Google your friend and learn. There’s a wealth of information out there. There’s also garbage. Read with a critical eye and use what makes sense to you. If you’re not a sandwich board kind of guy, don’t force it, but bring your skills up to date. Laurent Brouat shares some great ideas in his post about looking where others aren’t. Capitalize on social media. You never know who you’ll touch. But, I assure you, you won’t touch anyone if you’re wringing your hands and sputtering, “I don’t know how” while making excuses about your privacy. This is a  21st century job search. Deal with it.

(Quick story: I landed a resume client because, after some difficulty with a local optometrist, they told to take my business elsewhere. I tweeted this on Twitter: “My life is now complete. I’ve been fired from a job, a marriage and now as a customer.” This simple 140(ish)-character post resonated with a woman in California. She not only became a client; she referred me to her neighbor who also became my client. And, most recently, I met someone, also via social media, who might be able to use the CA client’s expertise. I will refer her. If I wasn’t interacting through social media, none of these connections would have happened. Engage. Step outside your comfort zone and use social media to build your hand-dropped, custom brand. Amazing things happen when you stretch and make yourself a little different from the rest of the crowd.)

“I just need a generic reChoc Chip - dreamstimemedium_1251213 - editedsume. I’ll do anything”
is NOT a job search strategy. Employers have neither the time nor the volition to figure out where you fit in to their organization. Tell them boldly and proudly what you bring to the party or they’ll go looking for the next person that does. Research. Know what your buyer is buying and sell your skills. No one cares about what you have done until you put it in the context of how, what you have done will benefit them. You don’t see Ford Motor Company advertising Mustangs to 80-year-old grandmothers do you? They know their target audience is usually young. They’ve built a successful advertising campaign around knowing their demographic. That’s not to say grandma won’t be rockin’ down the highway in a Mustang convertible with tunes blasting, but that’s the exception, not the rule. I wont’ say landing a job with a generic resume and an “I’ll do anything” approach won’t happen. I will say, like grandma, that’s the exception, not the rule.

“I’m not good with computers.” It’s 2009. Computers are a part of just about every job. Get over yourself and take a class.

(Another story – yes, it’s from Twitter. I follow a 95-year-old man on Twitter, @marcelmurrell. He is quick-witted and hilarious. He has a Facebook account and is even funnier there because he gets more than 140-character to demonstrate his humor and wit. He posts links to YouTube. He edits pictures on his Mac and uploads them to Facebook. He retweets and interacts on Twitter like a champ. He’s 95! He’s been around longer than color TVs for heaven’s sake and he gets it. Stop saying you’re not good with computers and you’re can’t learn. You need that skill. If Marcel can do it, I dare say, you can too.)

A successful job search requires creativity, strategy, a willingness to research and learn new skills, tenacity and above all, a positive attitude. Get out of your own way. There are a bazillion resources out there. Find the mix that works for you. Customize your search. Don’t stamp it out using the same cookie-cutter everyone else is using. Differentiate yourself from the very beginning or you’ll look like the rest of the cookies on the plate. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the biggest and best cookie from the batch, hand-dropped, full of chocolate chips, slightly misshapen, perhaps, but a standout from the rest, touting its tasty pleasures over the perfectly shaped, look-alike cookies on the plate. Hand-drop your search and amazing things will happen.

Oh, and don’t forget your thank yous. Gratitude is power.


Here’s what my colleagues have to say about this topic:

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter of Career Trend Eating bananas doesn’t make you an ape

Laurie Berenson of Sterling Career Concepts Job seekers: Break out of the mold

Chandlee Bryan of The Emerging Professional On the cookie-cutter approach to the job search: Do you need a recipe?

Megan Fitzgerald of Career by Choice Ongoing career management is no longer optional for the expat in today’s new world of work

Katharine Hansen of Quintessential Careers Avoiding Being a Cookie-Cutter Job-seeker In Your Resume and Throughout Your Job Search

Gayle Howard of Top Margin Sabotaging your prospects: cookie-cutter style

Heather R. Huhman of Break the mold: Don’t be a cookie-cutter

Rosalind Joffe of Working With Chronic Forget the cookies! Start with vision

Grace Kutney of Sweet Careers Passive job seeker = cookie cutter job seeker

Hannah Morgan of Career Sherpa Are you a cookie-cutter job seeker?

Heather Mundell of Dream Big Coaching Services How not to be a cookie-cutter job seeker

J. T. O’Donnell of Careerealism Cookie-cutters are for baking…not job searching

Barbara Safani of CareerSolvers Cookie-cutter resumes can leave a bad taste in the hiring manager’s mouth

Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers Conscious awareness and your job hunt and How can a job seeker stand out?

Rosa Vargas of Creating Prints Being a cookie-cutter jobseeker is a misfortune

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  1. […] Dawn Bugni The Write Solution: Dawn’s Blog Is your job search “cookie-cutter” or “hand-dropped”? […]

  2. Gayle Howard says:

    Great post Dawn! Jobseekers can take those tips to the bank. I cannot understand the number of people who think uploading a resume and clicking on the submit key is all it takes. All technology has done is speed communications up, it doesn’t take the “human” out of human resources.

  3. Rosa Vargas says:

    Excellent post, Dawn! You are so full of great advice.

  4. job search says:

    Your piece of advice is really nice and can be helpful, especially the one where you say that the resume should be designed for a definite speciality.

  5. […] Concepts: Job seekers: Break out of the mold! Dawn Bugni The Write Solution: Dawn’s Blog: Is your job search “cookie-cutter” or “hand-dropped”? Rosa Vargas, Creating Prints Resume-Writing Blog: Being a Cookie-Cutter Job Seeker is a Misfortune […]

  6. […] Career Concepts: Job seekers: Break out of the mold! Dawn Bugni The Write Solution: Dawn’s Blog Is your job search “cookie-cutter” or “hand-dropped”? Rosa Vargas, Creating Prints Resume-Writing Blog: Being a Cookie-Cutter Job Seeker is a Misfortune […]

  7. […] Is your job search “cookie-cutter” or “hand-dropped”? « Dawn's Blog – view page – cached + dawnbugni: @WorkWithIllness Agree. First thing I say to clients is the market is difficult, very difficult, but not impossible. — From the page […]

  8. Hello there,

    I am so pleased to see my name mentioned above. Yes, I am a 95 year old that decided that I would never let go of my knowledge as long as I had it. I do confess that without a MAC this would not be possible. I am just not good with things behind the scenes and a MAC has allowed me a way to just press one button if I get in a jam. If I were younger I would take it upon myself to use a PC.

    The internet is an amazing outlet to meet others and grow. Just recently I joined Facebook and Twitter. I have connected with so many and I have also met wonderful people.

    I have to say that this is the first time I have been mentioned in a personal blog. Thank you so much for this Dawn. I am very impressed with your words. Maybe if I go back to work soon, you can help me out.

    Much love for my new found friend,

    Marcel Murrell

    (You might want to edit this, I do not confess to being a great writer. I cannot see well to boot!)

  9. […] Dawn Bugni The Write Solution: Dawn’s Blog Is your job search “cookie-cutter” or “hand-dropped”? […]

  10. Dawn,

    Here’s another one I hear a lot…”I think I have a profile on LinkedIn…I can’t remember.” Nice post.

  11. Great Advice Dawn – particularly around the importance of engaging in social media. Times they are a changing and job seekers must adapt to survive!

    I look forward to exploring future career collective topics with you.

    My best,

  12. First, I think the hand dropped phrase is great! And I enjoyed reading every paragraph, your gentle push/words of encouragement to step outside our comfort zone! Dawn, wonderful inspiration! Thanks!

  13. Dawn,

    This is very sound advice. Whenever a job seeker says to me, “I’ll do anything,” I recommend a book called “50 Jobs Worse Than Yours.” The thought of grave digging or working as a cellulite make-up artist can inspire specificity and creativity!

    Thanks in particular for sharing your memorable friend Marcel with us.


  14. I know a lot of job seekers wish it was “their father’s job market” and that sending out a hum-drum resume and talking to a few friends would result in an opportunity. (Although, was it EVER really that easy?)

    Being generic – will do anything – job seeker can be the kiss of death. Thanks for the great reminders! I’m glad you’re partnering with us for the Career Collective and look forward to future posts!

  15. careertrend says:

    Wow, Dawn, what a vivid post! Great job in explaining why 10-year-old job search tactics no longer WORK.

    Your encouraging words to job seekers that they CAN take the job search ‘bulls by the horn’ and gain traction are heartfelt. Indeed, Google is their friend! So much information for corporate research, including people’s names, what real people at real companies are ‘saying’ (in real time), is at the click of the mouse.

    Your Twitter story about garnering an optometry client through a simple, but very honest tweet speaks volumes! The inspiring story about 95-year-old Marcel Murell energized me!

    Kudos to you and your story-telling savvy!

    Jacqui – Your Twitter pal, resume writing colleague and friend!

  16. […] Career Concepts: Job seekers: Break out of the mold! Dawn Bugni The Write Solution: Dawn's Blog Is your job search "cookie-cutter" or "hand-dropped"? Rosa Vargas, Creating Prints Resume-Writing Blog: Being a Cookie-Cutter Job Seeker is a Misfortune […]

  17. I was drinking my cup of coffee as I read this and felt like I was listening to great advice from an old friend. Luv the hand drop metaphor (I don’t even own a cookie cutter and make them all the time) and your reference to social media and…. the great tips abound.

  18. dawnbugni says:

    Career Collective members –

    Thank you so much for taking a moment to comment. I am honored to be a part of such a wise and giving group. I can feel the encouragement you give your clients through the encouragement you left here in the comment section. (I promise next time I’ll do a better job of responding individually.)

    Job Search –

    Thank you for taking time to stop by and comment. Hopefully, you’ve taken advantage of the rest of the wisdom shared by the collective. I am humbled by the collegial and collaborative spirit of this industry. This is proof of that wonderfulness.

    Marcel –

    You’re an inspiration to everyone. May we all remain as wise and willing to learn as you. I especially loved this from your comment “Yes, I am a 95 year old that decided that I would never let go of my knowledge as long as I had it.” Oh if we all possessed that drive. You are definitely proof “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.”

    Hugs to you my new friend.
    PS – No editing needed. You write well too. 🙂

  19. Excellent post, Dawn! Entertaining, engaging, heart-felt, and valuable.

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts — and to following Marcel on Twitter!

  20. peltdeend says:

    Excellent article, great looking website, added it to my favs!

  21. morren says:

    Thank you so much for this awesome post.These tips are very useful to job seekers.

  22. […] Dump the myth of a one-size-fits-all job search. (It’s not true in clothing and it’s not true in job search either.)  Customize your search to fit the specific needs of your audience. Differentiate yourself. Make the reader feel special. Speak to their pain; their needs. Apply an “It depends/Shades of Gray” approach to your search and start gaining traction. Who wants cookie cutter, when you can have hand-dropped? […]

  23. […] needs. Apply an “It depends/Shades of Gray” approach to your search and start gaining traction. Who wants cookie cutter, when you can have hand-dropped? (And yes. I still have my “Headquarters” […]

  24. […] Dawn Bugni The Write Solution: Dawn's Blog Is your job search "cookie-cutter" or "hand-dropped"? […]

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