By Arnie Fertig
Sitting around a summertime campfire, a friend was finally able to joke about how he was using a shovel to break up the ice that had built up on his car windshield in a winter snowstorm, only to have it slip and shatter the windshield instead.
Of course we all know the adage that "stuff happens," but it is less likely to happen when you use the right tools for the right tasks. You probably weren't far beyond your toddler years when you learned the most fundamental rule of carpentry: If you want to pound a nail into something, use a hammer and not a wrench.
Just as a well-trained carpenter knows which tool to use for what, so too should an effective job hunter. However, as people seek to advance their careers, many mistake how and when to employ the tools at their disposal to snag the job of their dreams.
When you are engaged in a job search, it is important to consider how to assemble and utilize the tools essential to your task.
Your story. Your story is far more than "first I did this, and then I did that." And it certainly is not "I was responsible for…" It's larger and broader than that. Your story is the underlying message that conveys who you are, your work style, your key strengths, your achievements and the overall arc of your career.
Your story is about your personal brand that sets you apart from all the other people who are like you but can't claim your uniqueness. When you take the time at the outset of your job hunt to figure out what your story is, you'll have fashioned the master key that will open the doors of opportunity.
A well-told and compelling story will enable a hiring authority to say about you: "This is the kind of person I want working for me."
Resume. One of the ways you tell your story is through the tool of your resume. Yet people often don't grasp how to use this one- or two-page document to its full advantage.
Remember that its purpose is simply to get the reader to want to begin a dialog with you by creating enough of an impression that you have the right skills, education and experience to meet his or her current and future needs.
In that sense, your resume is the tool by which you tell your story in such a way as to convey your current value in the workplace. That value derives from the kinds of challenges you've faced, how you faced them and what results you've been able to attain over the course of your professional life.
Don't misuse the opportunity to tell your story by relating useless facts and irrelevant history.
LinkedIn profile. Almost every professional these days knows he or she is supposed to be "on" LinkedIn. But if you just copy and paste your resume into your profile section, then sit back and do nothing, you might as well take a hammer to your car's windshield.
LinkedIn is more than just one tool. It is more like a giant Swiss army knife, complete with many tools that can accomplish a wide variety of tasks. Your LinkedIn profile, however, is at the heart of the social site. Use it to relate your story in a personal way to a large audience. Don't be afraid to use the word "I" and show what makes you tick.
Professional organizations. Virtually every occupation or profession has its own organization or association. Perhaps you've been a member or recently joined just to be able to say that you are a member and to add it to your resume. But if you don't frequent its website, attend its meetings or take advantage of the opportunities it provides for furthering your professional education and enlarging your network of peers, you aren't using this vital tool the right way.
Professional organizations can be a great vehicle through which you can keep your skills honed, expand your network and find specific job opportunities.
Your wardrobe. How you look, whether for a Skype or an in-person interview, conveys a good deal about you and your story. Do you present yourself as a well-groomed professional? Are your shoes shined, is your outfit color coordinated, your face either shaved clean or well clipped? Alternatively, are your clothes too tight, crinkled or show evidence of what you ate at your last meal?
You might not like it, but people judge your grooming habits and attire. Given that, you have an opportunity to use them as a tool to present yourself as a professionally packaged person who has it "together."
Take the time to assemble the right tools, and use them properly. When you do, you'll make your job search run smoothly.