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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Little Boxes – and they all look just the same

Little Boxes – and they all look just the same

October 24th, 2010

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“Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.”

— Malvina Reynolds

When you are writing your resume or interviewing for a job, do you fall into a common trap? Despite all your unique insight and experience, do you end up looking and sounding like everyone else? Do you we end up looking like the “little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same?” For decades we have been taught to sit down, shut up, and act like everyone else. We have been taught to wear the same clothes, watch the same television shows, read the same books and have the same opinions. Even a cursory look at the world today will show you that this is no longer true. The world is an amazingly diverse place. Yet, when we go job hunting, we revert to methods from the 1950’s and beyond. We endeavour to be the “company man” who keeps his head down and makes it through our career relatively unscathed.

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In today’s work world, being the same as everyone else also makes you as expendable as everyone else. If one cog can be replaced with another, perhaps even cheaper, cog, it will be. When you endeavor to be the same as everyone else, you are limiting yourself in a very fundamental way. If you want to find and build the career you deserve, you need to highlight those traits that make you different from those around you. You need to be clear what unique insights, experience and training you have acquired that allow you to do a job a a much higher level than everyone around you.

Some of you might be thinking, “but won’t being different hurt my chances at getting jobs at the big corporations?” Yes, it just might prevent you being hired by those large corporations, but I would add that in most cases, you don’t want to be hired into a job where mediocrity is considered state of the art. Being “just good enough” should never be your goal. This is the thinking that traps hundreds of thousands of people in jobs they hate — jobs that leave them feeling empty without any sense of accomplishment beyond “time served.” I want you to think beyond the world as it was and start seeing new opportunities that exist outside of the boundaries of conventional work thought.

The fact is, your job search will be more difficult if you decide to take this path, but the end result will be infinitely more rewarding. While there are millions of companies looking for mediocre cogs to fill their corporate machine there are thousands of companies that have already seen a better way. They actively seek out people who are different and exceptional. These are the companies where you should be focusing your attention. Don’t waste time on companies that don’t “get it.” Focus on those that, through their actions, show a new way of thinking, working and hiring.

Focusing on what makes you different, unique and special raises you above the job candidate noise. I am sure you have seen something like this in real life. You are watching a play and one actor seems to rise above everyone else in the cast. There is something special about them. You can’t always define what it is, but you sense it. I have seen it the open mic night at my local coffee house. Performer after performer gets up to do their two songs, but the audience isn’t really paying attention. They chatter away, focusing on the conversations and their coffee until, suddenly, the place falls silent. This performer has demanded their attention and gotten it. They haven’t done it by shouting or chastising the audience, they commanded the attention through shear force of their performance.

You want to be this performer, this actor, this speaker, this worker. You want the shear quality of your work, your knowledge, your actions to make people take notice of you. You might be surprised to find that it isn’t that hard to stand out when everyone around you is so lackluster, so meek, so much the same as everyone else. Use this to your advantage. Even a small effort to display your uniqueness can have amazing results.

Look for opportunities to show who you are, what you do and how well you do it, whether that is in-person or online. Display your unique knowledge and skill and don’t just be the same as the “Little boxes on the hillside.” Rise above the typical work world and the typical careers you see. Your job is to build the career you deserve, not the one that other’s think best for you.

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