This article was written by Elisa Sheftic, creator of PrepareForYourNextInterview.com, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. Whether you are searching for your first job or looking to advance your career, the most valuable piece of advice I can give to any recent grad is to develop a "One-Upper Mindset." This framework will help you differentiate yourself among the crowd of young professionals in the job market.
Recruiters always talk about how competitive the job market is, and I think speaking about it in this way has become a little staid. So, let's create a visual. Picture "Bob" and his pursuit of being a "one-upper." Bob graduated with you, delights in being your competitor, and whatever you do to advance your career, his goal is to do it significantly better. Here is a real world example: I intermittently speak at colleges to give students some insights on the most productive way to job hunt. Each time I present, numerous eager students introduce themselves, connect on LinkedIn, and - in general - do all the right stuff to establish the initial networking process. They ask if I can review their resumes and provide some constructive feedback, and I'm happy to oblige. I often recommend some changes and provide a format that I like or make some suggestions, and I let them know that I'll be happy to review once they revise. Then, weeks go by and... crickets. Eventually, I may receive the revised resume a month later or longer with no explanation. What they obviously don't know is that I also met Bob at the same presentation. At the event, all were equally enthusiastic and professional. But Bob sent me his revised resume within 48 hours of our meeting, thanking me for my time, and asking additional insightful questions. Bob made it known that he is looking for an internship during the summer and asked for my suggestions. Bob also asked for additional feedback on his resume and presentation and seemed receptive to constructive feedback and, generally speaking, seemed like someone who would make a great impression with my clients. What the "slow responders" also don't realize is that they had unintentionally sent up a red flag. The best way to predict future success is to look at past performance, and since recent grads have limited professional experience, recruiters must make assumptions through our own brief interaction with them. By not responding for a month or more, what assumptions, right or wrong, can be made? Not responsible, not a strong communicator, and not good with time management, just to name a few. So, the lesson from this scenario is to ask yourself, in any professional or job-hunting situation, what would Bob do? Then beat him on the "one-upper" mindset. If only one person will be hired or recommended or promoted, then you need to do everything you can to stand out in a positive way (and mitigate any potential red flags as well). Go the extra mile and "one-up" the competition, including Bob.