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The Principle of Decommoditization: How to stand out to hiring managers

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21 21 15

Many of us are starting to realize that doing the same thing as everyone else doesn’t work any more.

We have a deep invisible script that if we simply work harder than other people, we’ll win. But that’s a lie.

I remember hanging out with a college friend of mine right before she started law school. I always liked to joke about the inferno of hell my law-school friends were about to walk into, just for kicks.

“So people get pretty nutty in law school,” I said. “You’re going to turn into one of them, aren’t you?”

(Note: 100% of people I’ve used this line on delusionally respond, “No, not me…I’m going to be different.” Yet they almost always turn out the same.)

But not my friend! “You’re right,” she said. “But I think if I just buckle down for the next 3 years, I can be near the top of my class…” In other words, ‘I’m going to do what every single other law student is doing…yet somehow I expect that I’ll be at the top of the class.’

It sounds logical — just buckle down! — but again, everyone else is doing the exact same thing. Which results in desperate moves like this:

“PricewaterhouseCoopers received more than 250,000 applications through its Web site over the last year, but it has hired only 1 percent from that pool, said Holly Paul, its United States recruiting leader. She said a house painter with no qualifications beyond high school had applied for 10 different openings that required college degrees and accounting certification.”
New York Times

When it comes to finding our Dream Job, most of us are doing the exact same thing as literally millions of other people: Submitting our resumes through job websites. Waiting for companies to call us back. Going into interviews and “answering questions.” If that’s the game you’re playing, you’ve already lost.

It turns out that to get the attention of companies and hiring mangers you want, you have to stand out. But how do you do stand out? Does that mean using colored highlights in your resume? Wearing a particular kind of shirt so they remember you? How do you stand out in a way that helps you actually attract the attention of important people — before you meet them, in the interview room, and even at the negotiating table?

We know we “should” try to stand out, but it’s not clear exactly how.

Yet top performers know how. Even in this economy, they have multiple job offers. Many top performers who were laid off in 2009 and 2010 had multiple job offers within days.

While they’re collecting the best jobs — often before the jobs are ever announced publicly — most people fight over the scraps by “spraying and praying” for their shotgunned resume to be answered by someone. You see this level of humiliating desperation mirrored only in the life-coach market, filled with 98% useless people with no discernible skills while 2% take the entire industry’s profits.

Standing out is hard. Not only do you have to know HOW to stand out, you have to execute masterfully. To show you how, today we begin the 3-week Dream Job Boot Camp. This week, we’ll be covering SPECIFIC EXAMPLES of how to stand out in a way that gets you the right attention, at the right time, from the right people.

You’ll learn how to make your resume “semi-automatically” float to the top of the pile, beating out hundreds of competing candidates. I’ll show you the specific resume that secured me job offers from Google and other companies — as well as analyze exactly why I constructed it the way I did.

Next week, I’ll do a series of posts about networking, including the exact emails I’ve used to meet CEOs and hiring managers.

Finally, in week 3, I’ll cover interviewing & networking — but this will be private to members of the Dream Job launch list. And then I’ll open up my premium Dream Job course to those of you who want to take your hunt for your Dream Job to the next level. As always, I expect this free material to rival anyone’s paid material.

I’d like to begin by talking about the surprising challenges of standing out.

The Surprising Principles of Decommoditization

That’s salt, also called a commodity. It’s called a commodity because you don’t care which brand of salt you get…they’re all the same to you. You can substitute one brand of salt for another and nobody would be able to tell the difference. And as a result, the price of commodity salt is extremely low.

Most people’s job searches turn them into commodities. They’re easily substitutable bodies that are only serving to fill headcount requirements. You do NOT want to be a commodity, because if you are, you’re exactly the same as the next 100 applicants — and there’s no way for any of these techniques to work.

For example, imagine you’re a hiring manager. You put out a job description for a project manager and, in today’s economy, you get 250+ resumes in 48 hours. Hiring managers give your resume, on average, less than 10 seconds of attention before moving on to the next one.

Yours must stand out, yet most people consistently produce mediocre applications that look like everything else out there.

I know because when I’ve hired for roles in the past, I gave each applicant about 10 seconds. In fact, rather than looking deeply into each application to see the applicant’s true nature (that’s not my job), I looked for ways to disqualify them so I could find someone who finally, truly stood out.

You do not want to be a bottle of salt. You want to be a truffle, something so unique and valuable that people will pay disproportionately for you. They will not be able to even conceive of substituting you, because through your application, you will uniquely solve their problems so deeply that you’ll be considered “one of a kind.”

When that happens, not only have you secured the job offer, but you have laid the foundation for negotiating an enviable salary. THIS is how negotiation works — with 80% of the work being done before you ever set foot at the negotiating table.

Think about the fact that if you submit your resume through the front door like most people, you get less than 10 seconds. People don’t like hearing this because it makes them mad that they spent “all this time” on a cover letter and resume, and the hiring manager won’t even “take the time” to read it. You get comments like this from delusional Hacker News user ntkachov:

“Well then, Don’t expect me to even bother writing a cover letter or tailor my resume. In fact, if your only going to be scanning over my resume in 30 seconds why, on earth, should I even spend any time filling out your form to send you my resume? When I send people my resume, I at the very least expect them to read through it. If my skill set matches what you are looking for and you are thinking of an interview, I expect you to at the very least Google my name, or check out my website/github which I conveniently include as a QR code.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s not the hiring manger’s responsibility to see you for your best self — IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. This guy has probably never hired anyone. Instead, he’s projecting his expectations onto the hiring manager, which are wildly out of touch with reality. (Also, a QR code? Are you seriously kidding me? ‘Here Mr. Hiring Manager, I’m also including a key to an anonymous bank safety-deposit box in Manhattan where I recorded a DVD of my skillset…now please follow these clues to identify the box and forge my signature to gain access to the security box.’ Get the hell out of here.)

It’s easy to scoff at this guy’s unrealistic expectations. But YOU — yes, you — do the very same thing:

  • You write emails with too many non-essential words, or emails with too FEW details, expecting the hiring manager to read between the lines
  • You write cover letters that say the exact same thing as everyone else, yet expect to get an interview
  • Your resume includes words that have not “earned their way” onto the page, limiting your space to highlight the material that really matters, yet you expect the reader to really “understand” your background

Big problem. While most of us aren’t as transparently kooky as that above commenter, we actually do the functionally equivalent behaviors. We expect hiring managers to truly understand our soul, when they really just want to finish hiring so they can get back to work eating potato chips and playing Zynga. We expect them to take the responsibility to “discover” us, when it’s really our job.

In my research, I have seen thousands of applications, and they are almost uniformly bad. I don’t say that to be condescending, but I have data to back it up. In fact, when I tried to give away a $12,000 scholarship to my Dream Job Elite program, I could not identify even one winning application out of 100+ applicants.

On the other hand, when an application is superb, it immediately stands out — instantly. There are certain Competence Triggers that will capture the attention of a hiring manager and “semi-automatically” bring your application to the top of the pile.

Here’s one remarkable way to stand out — a SPECIFIC TECHNIQUE that has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars of documented results, and untold millions of undocumented results: The Briefcase Technique — now with NEW commentary.

Results of using this simple technique:

“I work for a Fortune 500 here in KC and have been kicking ass at my normal 8-5 job making peanuts for salary. I’m 25 years old and have been at this gig for 2 years busting balls. Promotions at our place are scarce at best and are given to top employees with long tenure.

With this invisible script glued in my mind, I blew through 13 interviews for 13 different senior positions. FAIL. But on each one, I refined my approach, redid my resume, tested my questions, and gauged reactions from managers. I created a game with myself on how many of these rejection interviews I could collect.

HR wasn’t pleased. They were wigging out saying that ALL my feedback was, “Justin’s a great candidate BUT…they went with someone else.” My 14th attempt blew the interviewing managers out of their toilet seats. Why: because I changed the script, used the briefcase method, job shadowed my potential client, wrote a detailed proposal with 5 things they can do TODAY to save the company $1500/week EVEN IF they don’t hire me.

Ramit, thanks for the extra $10k, 5+ weeks of vacation, and 6% 401k. I look forward to talking to you on the phone.”
–Justin R.

“I’ve applied your briefcase technique to get my current ‘dream’ job. It was basically a position for an Instrumentation Engineer and required skills… Networking and my grades got me the interview but I blew them away by bringing in all the documents I did in college related to control and safety. I showed them how I was technically competent and they bought it. They were totally fascinated. I beat out all the 20 people who interviewed for that position and was offered this job 2 days later.”
–Wee

“When an recruiter called me up offering a position at a global oil and gas company…Here’s where your briefcase technique really came in to play. I remembered the fact that whipping out this document in dramatic fashion instantly increased your chance of success, so I thought I would try it and let me tell you, the hiring manager actually looked shocked. As if she had never seen that level of preparation before. I received a call two hours later saying that I had gotten the job and they would be putting an offer together.”
–Aleem K.

This one technique alone will easily pay the cost of the Dream Job course 10x over the next few years — and more over your lifetime. And here it is, my gift to you, because I want you to take action.

And we have far more complex techniques and frameworks in the course itself, where we explain WHY it works — not just how to do it. That allows you to tweak the tactics to fit unanticipated situations, so you can dynamically apply them to virtually every conceivable scenario.

Now that we’ve established that standing out — or decommoditizing yourself — is important, we should talk about the TYPES of decommoditization. For example, we’ve all seen the guy who set up something like “TwitterShouldHireBrian.com” and ended up getting the job. Those examples are fun, and they can work occasionally, but we’re not being different for the sake of being different.

Instead, we’re going to be different strategically, so we sidestep the entire losing game that others, who submit their me-too resumes down the Black Hole of Doom, are playing. We are going to systematically study WHERE should be different so we can focus our energy there, while holding the unimportant things constant.

You do that by decommoditizing yourself, or standing out in the right way. It sounds so obvious — of course our resumes should be different! Of course we should use our personal networks! So why don’t we do it?

Standing out is hard. It’s actually EASIER to fail. We discovered something fascinating in our research: It’s easier to do what everyone else is doing…even if it doesn’t work.

Interestingly, we would prefer to do the same actions as everyone else even if we don’t get good results rather than trying something different. We use words like “How do I know if that will work?” You don’t, but you know for a fact that what you’re doing right now (sending out 200 resumes/month, including a mediocre resumes and writing down your “passions” on a piece of paper) is not working.

So here’s how to start.

3 Ways Top Performers Decommoditize Themselves

Top performers play an entirely different game.

When they decide to find a different job, they don’t start googling around to “see what’s out there.” They already know about jobs that are not even public yet, thanks to their networks.

They can send a few emails and bypass the entire hiring apparatus — designed to keep losers out — and get a meeting with a hiring manager.

Their friends will vouch for them, saying “You really need to talk to this person,” which profoundly changes the tenor of the conversation. Imagine being introduced as someone who the hiring manager “needs to talk to” rather than a random applicant desperate for a job.

They are not commodities. They cannot be substituted for another body to “meet headcount goals.” They have developed unique skills, and they communicate those skills to convince the hiring manager that they deserve special treatment.

STOP! Stop right there. It’s easy to say, “Yeah, maybe that works if you have ____ (elite college, 15 years’ experience, the deep baritone voice of Ramit). Don’t put up your own psychological barrier of why these people are different than you (the barrier here is the Shrug Effect). Yes, maybe 5%-10% of these top performers were born with rich parents or they’re naturally gifted. The rest of them worked their asses off.

Here are 3 ways that top performers decommoditize themselves.

1. Use specificity to stand out. This is one of the first lessons that led me to develop the “Nod and Shrug Fallacy.” When you say “get specific,” everyone nods and shrugs — yeah yeah Ramit, I got it — but nobody actually does it.

For example, if I asked you right now, “What’s your Dream Job?” what would you say? 95% of us would say something like this: “I’m looking for a job that’s challenging and rewarding…something that lets me really make an impact…I like to work with people.” Yes, I like to breathe oxygen too.

A top performer will say:

  • “I’m looking for a position as an Inside Sales Associate at a social networking company in San Francisco.”
  • “I’m interested in becoming a Development Manager at a women’s issues nonprofit in Washington DC.

See the difference? When you get specific, you don’t make the busy person do your work for you. YOU do the work — you don’t wait for someone else to find your Dream Job for you. And once you can be this specific, you can go to your network and ask for their help in locating connections to these companies. In other words, if someone comes to me and says “I don’t know what I want to do with my life,” that’s a long discussion. If they say, “Do you know any sales managers at B2C tech companies in Silicon Valley?” I will introduce them to 3 within 10 minutes.

I’ll cover more of HOW to get specific on the Dream Job launch list. Interestingly, note that many of the things that people believe are important — for example, # of hours required at the job — turn out to be totally uncorrelated with how happy people are at their jobs. It’s like Moneyball for Dream Jobs. More on this in the course.

2. Master the art of preparation. Another “Nod and Shrug” area where people say, Yeah yeah, I know I need to prepare.

Yet think back to the last time you went in for a job interview. How did you prepare?

  • AVERAGE PERFORMER: “I spent an hour browsing their website and Googling around for news about them. I also talked to my friend on the phone for 5 minutes about what kind of questions he thought I should expect.”
  • TOP PERFORMER: “I’d already met with 3 people on the team before the interview, so I knew exactly what their challenges were, and even the words they used to describe them. I wrote all those notes down, then compared them with what I found on the web. Then I crafted my narrative. I invited a friend over — he’s a management consultant so he knows how to ask tough questions — and he came over to mock-interview me for 2 hours. I recorded the video and stopped every 15 minutes to calibrate.”

Sound hard? Good. Losers and whiners won’t do the hard work because, by definition, they are not top performers. That means people who spend 2x the time can get 5x the results — which is exactly what disproportionate results are all about. Yes, you will have to work harder, but you’ll get first pick of jobs, while other people fight over the scraps.

3. Get referred — by ANYONE. People love to talk about how they don’t have a network. I ask them, “Really? Who have you tried to reach out to?” They respond with a blank look and a shrug. They will die unhappy.

  • AVERAGE PERFORMERS: “I tried but I just don’t know anyone! I emailed a couple friends but they’re in the same boat as I am. It’s frustrating when it’s all about WHO you know. How can they expect me to know all these people when I’m just starting my career?”
  • TOP PERFORMER: “First, I checked my LinkedIn profile and sent out some emails. I tested 3 emails and the third is performing best — I’m getting a 50% response rate. I set up 3 coffee meetings for next week. Then I went into my college alumni database. I also mentioned exactly who I’m looking for when I was hanging out with friends, and one of them knew a director at the company I want to work for! So we are having coffee tomorrow.”

By the way, this isn’t hypothetical. Here’s one of my Dream Job Elite students sharing how he thought about networks differently.

”When I started, I was only applying to one company, my #1 dream company. Now I’m applying to a targeted group of employers to tighten up my application and interviewing skills so that when I do apply to my #1 company, I’ll be in top shape and have other offers in hand for negotiation. – I had no portfolio for applying to my Dream Job. After getting quick, specific advice from several experts though, I know exactly what to focus on in that portfolio now and it’s underway. – I started with a weak resume’ and no cover letter, now I have a tailored theme for these materials and numerous stories to back that theme up. – I initially had 0 contacts at my #1 company. Now I have 7 with whom I’m talking to regularly there.”
–Logan, Dream Job Elite graduate

Notice that Logan has used the Dream Job material to create a SYSTEMATIC WAY of standing out. That means he analyzes what areas need to be different and tests them accordingly. This means that if something is working — if the emails you’re sending out are getting you an 80% response rate — you don’t need to waste time changing that. But if something is NOT working, you have a birds’-eye view to know exactly where to focus your time…and how to change it.

”I used to stay inwards, trying to acquire more skills in a vacuum and waiting for the perfect moment. Now, I’m completely the opposite. DJE trained me to have an almost knee-jerk reaction of talking to experts and testing in the marketplace.”
–Chris, Dream Job Elite graduate

There are several areas of the Dream Job search that we’ve found to be very effective in decommoditizing:

  • The companies you target
  • The emails you send
  • The questions you ask
  • Your cover letter/resume
  • Your interview performance, including questions, answers, body language
  • Negotiation
  • First 100 days on the job

I’ll cover each of these in turn. But don’t wait for me for the answers — you should be thinking of these on your own. Ask yourself:

“For my resume/cover letter, what do AVERAGE performers do? What should a TOP performer do?” Repeat throughout your job search.

Note that if you are submitting 10 resumes per week, the first thing you can do is ask: Is this producing any results? For most people, submitting resume after resume is worthless. So is working with a recruiter. So is trying to apply broadly to as many jobs as possible.

But this requires being brutally honest with yourself about what’s working and what’s not. Only then can you make tactical changes to improve your results.

Why Decommoditization Works

It’s frustrating to hear person after person complain that they’ve submitted 20 resumes into a black hole, and “you never hear back!” But that frustration turns into sadness when I ask them what else they’ve tried, and there’s a complete lack of awareness about other options.

What? You’re saying there’s another way to get jobs besides randomly submitting a resume? I don’t believe you.

Huh? There’s a way to stand out even if you don’t have 10 years of experience? You must be trying to sell some ebook.

This isn’t stuff we’re taught. Yet it can be done.

“Reaching out to cold contacts has been the most helpful using the email scripts that Ramit helped me with. This has expanded my networking circle but more importantly, it’s set the foundation for my system. Now I can use it time and time again when I’m exploring different dream job options or if I ever want to find another dream job a few years later, I know this will still work. 27% response rate for EA position in a VC firm and 57% response rate for VIP hosts.
Annie, Dream Job Elite graduate

Some top performers are just naturals at these principles. Others study them, like I did. Either way, the results are powerful.

So while average performers are complaining about their job-search results, top performers are playing an entirely different game. They get responses because they don’t go through the front door. When they walk into an interview, they know intimate knowledge about the company’s needs and challenges — and often, they know the interviewer! Finally, when you combine all the different ways they stand out, their interviews and negotiations take on an entirely different tenor — one in which they’re evaluating the hiring manager as much as the manager is evaluating them.

To Do:

  1. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.
  2. What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.
  3. Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

Leave a comment below with your answers.

 

Join the free Dream Job Boot Camp list.

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120 Comments

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  1. [...] of actions and their perceived impacts. He may come across as arrogant in his style, however, fine tune his advice to the point of self  confidence. Formatting and whitespace on a resume ain’t gonna do [...]

  2. Hi Ramit,
    My dream job is to work as a Java Web Programmer for a large company in Texas. Problem is I have a very small network since there I’ve lived all my way life in Illinois. If I do find an inside contact in a company I’m targeting, I’m not confident that I would be able to get the insider info and research necessary to use the briefcase technique every time.
    Would it just be better to forgo the briefcase technique in that case? I don’t want to look stupid and waste the time of my interviewer with lame proposals.

    • I don’t want to sound like an asshole, and from years of reading this site, I just know Ramit won’t answer you… so I’ll just say this: Did you actually read this article? Your situation is almost exactly the same as Logan’s, profiled above. You should apply to other companies that you don’t want to work for, test and refine your methods, get offers in your back pocket, and then unleash what works on the company you do want to work for. Testing is what this entire site is about!

      And your confidence doesn’t matter. Do what research you can, try it out, and see what happens. Allow yourself the chance to fail, man! I wish you the best of luck

    • I’m sure Ramit would say that if you think the proposal is lame then obviously the hiring manager will think so as well. Like the old adage, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t…either way you’re right.” Have more faith in the briefcase technique and actually BELIEVE in it and maybe you won’t think it’s so lame. You’re not trying to trick the HR rep. This proposal of yours should actually be worth something to them. If you don’t believe in it, would you expect the large Texan company to?

    • Thanks for the advice (I apologize for the newbie questions). It’s just the distance thing; I can’t exactly set up “coffee meetings” with people living in a different state. I guess I just have to be extra creative.

    • Hi Azam,

      If you can think on your feet, why dont you use this technique at your pitch meeting.

      You ask the client the questions about his business and then give him solutions but above all, get to the core – get to what he really wants done – and you will close the sale easily..

      But you must get to his pain.., you are in his office for a reason.., find out exactly what that reason is and then give him the solution..

      Game-Set-Match..

  3. Hi Ramit,

    1) For me, I really need to decommodotize my initial e-mail contact with potential clients or people that I’d like to have coffee with. I sell products into the food market, so I do have a ‘targeted’ entry e-mail into each segment (bakeries, breweries, meat plants, etc.)…and right now I pretty much copy/paste depending on factory type. I really need to dig deep inside these potential customers to really find what makes them tick. For example, not all meat plants want to save money…some want to make sure they pass every audit and are doing things in a clean and proper way.

    2) What most surprises me about decommoditizing is that I think many people (myself included) think they are already decommoditized. “I’ve put action verbs in my resume”, “I asked 2 questions in my interview”, “I made the sale even if it only was a 50% chunk of the total business they had to offer”. A lot of things you hit on up there make it stand out to me that I need to do a lot more of the TOP performer work…not just more decent work.

    3) I think there are 2 main reasons. One is that they are following what most of their peers are doing. The problem comes when some of their peers have success doing it the conventional way and then swear that’s the only way to do it. I got my first job firing resumes off after college…that’s what everyone did around me. The second is the point you made above about referrals. I think people can be afraid to ask for referrals because they either think they don’t know anybody or think the people they can ask won’t be able to help them.

  4. Hi Ramit!

    That was a MONSTER post! I loved your tactics, they can be applied to almost any field.

    Question: What about engineering positions where the candidate has to go through a technical interview? It seems to me that techniques like the Briefcase one are hard to apply in such cases (of course, other strategies like the referral one work)…Are there any tacticts specific to engineering interviews?

  5. Cover letters are so 1990′s. Companies don’t owe anything to job applicants. Companies are just trying to survive and then thrive. As a job applicant, you have to show them how you will make their lives much easier.

    I am on my 3rd job since college and my last two jobs I got through networking and reaching out to weak connections. I actually got rejected by the HR department of a startup and then emailed the CEO…and had an offer 3 weeks later.

  6. Question 1 & 2 require a longer time to think about and get specific enough with the answer. I’ll work on that after work tonight.

    But 3. (Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.) just screamed out to me.

    A friend of mine said one of the things she wanted to do different in 2012 is score her dream job. (sound familiar?) So I pointed her to this website and said, read that for 3 weeks. The answer? Hm, that’s a very long text. I’ll think I’d rather just send out my resume a few times, that saves time…

    To me, this is part laziness, but also part being trained to think that the resume is the end all to the job search. So why read someting, or do something that’ll just end up with you sending a resume. Also, we’re told over and over that just working hard should be enough. Following your passions should be enough. So, the easy explanation if you don’t get it is that either you’re not working hard enough, your not following your passions, or you’re just too stupid. As the option ‘ doing the wrong thing’ isn’t there, you’ll assume you’re not following passions, or not wokring hard enouhg, because admitting you’re stupid is painful. But basically the entire idea that you might be doing the wrong thing isn’t there, which in this case stops my friend from even looking at this site. Let alone learning how to improve.

  7. A) Networking. I want to network and provide value instead of the leech-based networking that actually comes to my mind. The problem is 1) I don’t keep up with people in my network, 2) I am not sure what actually consists of who is included in my network (such as hiring mangers where I didn’t get the job, do hey count? and 3) my current network is small and the people in it are people I have known for years but we share different goals (i.e. my friends are looking for jobs for the moment and I am focused on being debt free and reading personal finance blogs at 3am). I actually have been slashing people from my network because we don’t share similar goals. They wanna work till 65, I wanna retire early.

    So basically Network Optimization.

    B) To be very honest, my network isn’t as strong as it should or could be. The Briefcase technique is one of my favorites (which I used many times before unknowingly) but I lack the refined network to get the inside scoop on companies and positions to really capitalize on it. I took a Top performer out for coffee the other day, and she basically told me to expand my network by reaching out to school alumni, use social media, and a few other things. She also stated she will help me with any thing i need and review any and all materials I generate. The coffee costed me $10, the value gained will be enormous.

    C) My friends really don’t know where to turn. I actually had a coworker who was applying for a internal promotion and I advised her do a little research on the position and challenges (she already knew people in the department) and just use the Briefcase technique to bring it up. She didn’t get the job

    I have another guy who won’t even take these things into consideration. And by things, I mean other options of getting jobs. It becomes depressing sometimes speaking to him, its the same ol’ blah blah. He doesn’t like taking ANY risks. I try to convince him to try something different to maybe get different results. Nothing. And this isn’t career based only. We play video games together and in a given scenario, he becomes predictable and easily beatable. I know one of his invisible scripts haha!

  8. 1. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    I could decommoditize myself at work, but haven’t. Currently, I work in the branding and marketing department of a big conglomerate overseas, and most of the work I have done has been handed down to me: the project was created and needed to be implemented, so my role has been mostly operational. I could develop project proposals to a) increase our connection with leaders in the fields we are interested in (social entrepreneurship; technology; infrastructure, etc.), and b) become “movement marketing” leaders by giving lectures (I would give them) at local universities on it (a la Keith Ferrazi way as he describes in Never Eat Alone—by which he brought Deloitte to the forefront of the corporation reengineering movement). [As I wrote this I thought “why am I not doing this?” So I’m starting to work on them now]

    2. What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    Something that really stuck with me after reading this post (and I actually opened up a word doc to take notes) is asking myself: For x specific thing, what does an average performer do? And what does a top performer do? Much like creating an Ideal Client Profile (in Earn1k), I think this thought process gives me an ideal situation—what’s the ideal situation/the top things I can do—which I can then implement step by step. It gets me from the ambiguous “I should really be doing more” to the “here’s the road map with specific check points”.

    To answer your question more specifically, the concept of decommoditizing myself seems really interesting because I have found myself ENDLESS times thinking: “oh everyone is going to do that, so I’m going to do the same thing, because what else could I do? That’s just how it is… I’ll just hope I stand out”. This is why the average performer vs. top performer question is so powerful: it helps me fight that “go with the flow” impulse, and helps me come up with specific ways of differentiating myself.

    3. Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

    (I can’t think of a friend at the moment, but I can think of my experience). Like I said earlier, I know that I should do more, and be better, but I am not sure what to focus on, or the task of “being better” just seems endless and incredibly time-consuming so I get analysis paralysis (key Earn1k concept). That’s why I find the average vs. top performer so helpful—it’s a specific, tactical way of answering the question “what can I do better?”

  9. Ultimately if one wants to get their dream job, they should spend every waking minute imagining what they will be doing… (with emotion..!)

    This is a law…

    Ultimately you will get it.. Events will occur to ensure you will get it, period..

    • Hi Jack,

      I respectfully disagree with you: while imagining what your real job is like and being enthusiastic about it is important, that’s only one small part of the process. I think a huge (and more important) part of getting it comes from actually doing work to get it.

    • Hi Helen,

      of course you have to work for it
      you make enquiries
      you do the studies
      you network with people
      you ask employers
      you educate yourself
      you get experience..

      Everything you do is to attain your goal…

      you will get it.. – guaranteed..

    • That is an overly simplistic view of “the law” and seems to be used as an excuse to do nothing far too often. I have used visualization(what you would call imagining) to great affect in athletic performance but I never stopped training!

  10. The most important place to stop being a commodity would be the first 100 days on the job. Once you ace the interview, it’s imperative that you can actually do what they need you to. I want to be an account executive at a large ad firm in NYC, so in the first 100 days I would need to pull in and secure more clients than anyone else.

    The most surprising part of this post was when you mentioned knowing the interviewer before it actually started. Also, I love the specificity of all these tactics. I took the seven areas to target you listed along with the two questions to ask, and I’ll be going through those right after I leave this comment. I never thought about the job search as a system before, but it seems to be helping.

    One of my friends is a lot like Chris up there. He wants to completely master his skills before going out and doing anything with them (I think it’s a fear of embarrassment). I mentioned that he should be testing his approaches, but he just dug into his beliefs even more. The crazy thing is, during our conversation, he wrote some very decent pseudo code (good enough to impress me, a non coder), but he still doesn’t think he’s ready.

    • Why overcomplicate things in life?

      Decide what you want and go after it like there’s no tomorrow

      as long as you dont quit, you’ll get it..

      Are you questioning this law?

  11. I need to be building a better network in my current field. I’m actually one of the very few experts in property appraisal data, which will become very relevant to banks in the next few years now that they all have to collect it, but I don’t have the contacts I’d need to make an easy lateral transfer.

    I also don’t have a good handle on exactly what (if anything) they think they need in that field, to make the “I can solve your problems” pitch.

    • cliff samuels jr Link to this comment

      Since you are an expert, use that to your advantage and show the banking industry in your area how you could be a invaluable asset to them.

  12. “What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.”

    Networking, I think, is the most important. Most of the interviews I’ve gotten in my current career have come through connections of varying degrees of strength. But I’ve historically had a strong aversion to putting myself out there, actively getting to know people. Partly this is due to my personality — I like being the one sought, not the seeker. But mostly it’s due to my ineptitude in approaching effectively. I think I’m getting a little better at this as I get older, but my performances are still hit-or-miss. Not putting myself in a position to practice & test doesn’t help, either.

    “What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.”

    The notion of decommoditization isn’t surprising, per se. All the career books I’ve read & the coaches I’ve listened to harp on how important it is. Indeed, I know it’s important (Tom Peters’ “Brand Called You” article is probably the template others use for pushing this concept.) But I’m not certain how to decommoditize myself when I’m not an expert on anything that matters, my 10+ yrs of experience is all over the place (which I like because new is sexy & challenging), and very little of what I do can be accurately measured (I’m a tech writer at a software company.) The things I’d typically cite about myself as assets are really par for the course in my field. What really worries me sometimes is the possibility that I might only think I’m a top performer but I’m really not, and haven’t ever been.

    “Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.”

    I think more people don’t do this because they’re blocking themselves, like I know I am. As you’d say, invisible scripts have an incredible hold over people & it’s really hard to see beyond that veil, especially if you’re not around people who’ve surmounted similar obstacles themselves. Self-sabotage (thinking you’re not good enough/worthy/etc) plays a big part as does not understanding what you offer vs what others offer. That’s a big block I have as well. Also, not having a clear understanding of what a “top performer” in your field looks like whether due to lack of info or dearth of solid practitioners.

    I also think, for some people, it’s just laziness. Case in point: Yesterday, Microsoft JobsBlog posted on LinkedIn about some openings in their Kinect group and included a link to the Kinect group’s talent page, which itself included a link to the MSFT careers site listing all the openings. The post got several enthusiastic comments, all of which said in essence “Check out my LI profile & consider me PLEASE!” Hello, it’s LinkedIn — you think anyone searched their own networks for anyone they knew at MSFT, let alone Kinect, to see who to send their application to? Uh, no. The tool is right freaking there, and NO ONE USED IT. Even I was rather shocked & I’m the regional queen of procrastination.

  13. 1) The most important area I could decommoditize myself myself is with my network. I have a close circle of friends, but I have an invisible script about the need for “separation” of work and social lives, so I feel like I have a wall up between my close friends and my network. I spend almost no time on my professional network because I view them as less important (and less fun) than my close friends — when they are actually probably just as important. Right now, networking for me is very much only-when-I-have-to. I’m also in a field that I’m not a huge fan of, so I’ve convinced myself that people in this field aren’t worth spending time on building a network with (realizing this is yet another invisible script, whoops.)

    2) Honestly, the surprise is that I could be a top performer (yup, another script there, damn these are all over the place). I *am* a top performer at my job, and yet, I don’t think of myself as one. (800% growth in B2B sales in one year after having never done it before Summer 2010). I have a narrative that I’ve lucked out so far, and that my success I’ve had up to this point is as far as I can go. In other words the luck that got me here won’t get me there. The surprise is actually that I know so many of these techniques (thanks to E1K and others) and that I haven’t implemented them in a systematic way. That’s what terrifies me, is that I have not been systematic, and I have all the tools to be. The cool thing is that since I’ve been a top performer thus far, if I systematize the tools I have, I’ll blow away last year’s growth this year.

    3) More people don’t do this because it forces them (and me, and you) to really, truly, introspect. Exercises like these means people actually have to stop and think about what’s not working in their lives (which, in many cases is likely paralleled in what’s not working for finding their dream jobs). Finding a dream job is a perfect course for you, Ramit, because underneath it all, *so* much of it comes down to psychology. I bet there is a different overarching invisible script that prevents each one of “most people” from taking action. I’m not saying I don’t have that invisible script (or that you don’t, Ramit). I am saying that, with awareness of the script and a conscious choice the battle it, anyone can elevate their game.

  14. 1) The companies you target
    What do AVERAGE performers do?
    Average performers just choose from what’s available on monster.com. They don’t look at which specific companies they want to work for.

    What should a TOP performer do?
    Be specific. A top performer knows what job they want and the companies they want to work for. They ask their friends for company recommendations, Google for companies in the city they’re looking for, and read through potential firm’s websites to make sure they have a good culture fit.

    2) The emails you send
    What do AVERAGE performers do?
    Average performers use the word I a lot. They don’t put in the effort to read the email from the reader’s point of view.

    What should a TOP performer do?
    A top performer would make a list of people he wants to contact, draft up three template emails, and send each template (highly personalized) to five people on the list. Doing that he will have a good idea of which email has the highest response rate, and he can send that one out to the rest of the group.

    3) The questions you ask
    What do AVERAGE performers do?
    Average performers go in without doing any research, and ask basic and general questions. “Do you like your job?” “What’s your day like?”

    What should a TOP performer do?
    A top performer would have researched and learned about the person he’s meeting with. He knows what the guy’s job entails and has a good idea of the problems facing the company. The questions a top performer asks are way more specific and will pull information out of the answerer that isn’t available anywhere else.

    4) Your cover letter/resume
    What do AVERAGE performers do?
    Average performers send the same resume out to everyone. They go on Monster, HotJobs, or Craigslist, and use them to find resume targets.

    What should a TOP performer do?
    A top performer researches and interviews before writing a resume or cover letter. The goal of his interviews would be to find out the company’s problem and the true job description so that he can put them word for word in his resume.

    5) Your interview performance, including questions, answers, body language
    What do AVERAGE performers do?
    Average performers will read a few blogs about how to interview well, maybe think through a few questions and copy stock answers from other websites.

    What should a TOP performer do?
    A top performer knows how to see the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. He practices in front of the mirror and records test interviews. He builds a toolbox of stories to tell that highlight why he’s the best for the job, and he practices with people who hire for a living.

    6) Negotiation
    What do AVERAGE performers do?
    Average performers go in without doing much research on salary and without practicing negotiation. No matter what they tell themselves beforehand, average performers will take the job regardless of the compensation offered because they have no other choice.

    What should a TOP performer do?
    A top performer will have gone to sites like Salary.com or Payscale and found out what the median salary for his industry is. He will then construct and practice an argument for why he deserves a salary that is closer to the top range. He’ll use tactics like the briefcase technique to wow the hiring manager, and make sure he gets the salary he deserves.

    7) First 100 days on the job
    What do AVERAGE performers do?
    Average performers take some time learning what to do and figuring out the general feel of the place, then they settle down and do what’s assigned to them.

    What should a TOP performer do?
    Top performers take initiative in their first 100 days. Before getting hired, top performers asked the hiring manager what they could do to wow them and then set personal goals that far surpass those expectations.

  15. this strategy is GOLDEN!

    As a business owner I hate having to train someone and spend more time showing someone how to get things done when all I want to do is hire someone to get things done faster.

    If someone came to me with a proposal of all the things they’d work on the help me grow my business, and they documented how much time it would take for each task… it would be hard NOT to hire them.

  16. Right now I have been using Ramit’s technique to find my next dream job. I have it narrowed down to several specific descriptions of what I want to do and at what type of company I want to work at. The geographic location has been set and now I am working on a few versions of cover letters/e-mails to send out to weak network ties in order to get my foot in the door at a company. I do not have a #1 dream company that I am targeting, but I think the idea of testing different types of e-mails is a great idea that I will implement immediately. I haven’t touched my resume much because I don’t think that is the issue, I believe it is getting someone to take the time to read it or speak with me about the position. I need that back door access.

  17. Don’t be the tablesalt. Be the pink Himalayan salt in the grinder bottle.

  18. Hey Ramit,

    The most important place that I can de-commoditize myself would be in the initial intro. I feel that when I first meet people, I’m a little bashful to lay down all my different skills in a list to hold their attention so they’ll keep interested in me—and cold-hit e-mails, I’m no good at. I play it real safe when reaching out to people, and you’re right: low success rate.

    De-commoditizing myself has probably been the most important lesson I’ve learned from you. I realize that while I do have a lot of different skills, I am honestly a commodity. It’s kinda jarring because your life is about you, and you think you’re the main character—the protagonist; the truth is, you’re just one of many. I’m on limited time, but I never write in, so I’m struggling to think of a specific example, but if possible, I’ll comment again.

    I really don’t know why more people don’t do this. An example is my girlfriend. She’s so incredibly shy and thinks that all of this is so impossible, but she hasn’t really taken the right steps to get anywhere (she’s doing the résumé black hole thing) and I’m trying to push her without being too aggressive (we’ve fought about this). So my plan now, is to lead by example.

    My goal is to be a copywriter at a New York City advertising agency and I want to make it happen by June. Let’s see if I can do it.

  19. Hi Ramit,
    Now don’t laugh. But my dream job is to be an business etiquette instructor and adviser. However it requires privatized instruction that I can’t afford just yet. I’m a bit out of your age demographics at 54 but everything you teach applies to any age.

    To decommoditize myself is simply using who I know instead of what I know. If I don’t know the person I need, find someone that does. I have moved to a new town in a different state and for the last year have been slowly seeking out people with connections I will need later on. I have gone back to college and find most of my instructors are part-timers with business consulting jobs full time. Cultivating them as resources for later is a big part of my education as well as the actual classes.

    My generation of women were not taught to be resourceful enough to cold call much less contact higher management for jobs.Send in the resume, you get called for the interview.. it use to be that easy. Get a temp job as a secretary and eventually you’ll get hired on full time. The intimidation factor was a big deal. However saying that, I realized that almost every job I have gotten over the years was from referrals. Rarely did I walk into an interview without an intro from someone they knew. I always got the job.
    I guess to answer the question as to why most people don’t make the effort would be:
    1. they don’t know who to contact and
    2. too intimidated to actually contact them.
    We are all afraid of rejection and tend to avoid it. I think if you want a job these days, you need to develop a tough skin and just do it.

    • Bunny – why would he laugh? I see people at my office all the time who could use a refresher from someone like you. These instructors are also valued as speakers to professional organizations like the AICPA, FPA, etc. to do “lunch and learn” meetings. Young employees especially can benefit from tips to help ease their way into interactions with older corporate officers and clients. Rock your dream, Bunny, don’t downplay it!

      Best, Terri

  20. 1. I definitely need to work on actively identifying and leveraging my network but the foremost priority to decommoditize myself is increasing specificity. All my other efforts have largely been wasted because up till now, I’ve been lacking the level of specificity regarding my dream job. I knew I wanted to be in HR, perhaps eventually pursuing a degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology but that was about it. I am excited about researching the industry/field to really hone in on what my dream job is. What suggestions do you have for reaching out to contacts in this initial phase of research?

    2. What surprised me about the idea of decommoditizing myself was that the very specific definition of my dream job the starting point, not the end. I thought all the other things – interviews, networking, negotiating – were means to reaching my Dream Job one day (if I got lucky). But by failing to take ownership of my dream job, I allowed external factors to shape my career path.

    3. Thinking of myself and my peers, I think there are two main reasons people fail to decommoditize themselves: 1) ignorance and 2) fear – both of which you touched on. A lot of my friends, especially those that didn’t have ‘real life majors’ in college, struggle to ‘figure out’ how to even be average performers in the job market after graduating. So many of us are oblivious to how the game is played – and won. This lack of knowledge and constant rejection also really makes it harder to get creative, take risks, try something different. So, as you said, we spin our wheels and take the easy route – failure.

  21. 1. The most important area where I could decommodotize myself: Is in the questions I ask. I realized that I have always been focused on trying to keep talking and talking and that really people really WANT to be deeply UNDERSTOOD, whether it’s a hiring manager, a client, a friend it doesn’t matter, it’s universal. One key to this is asking good questions, listening and then asking EVEN better questions.

    2. I’m so surprised at myself for the average performer mindset, entitlement and fears that has been holding me back for YEARS. It always seems easier to complain and blame everything/one else, but really after being a few years out of college and still not having the life I want it’s actually become harder to suffer the average performer mentality and lifestyle than to start problem solving systematically and see how action becomes easy when I combine getting past hidden fears and using clear scripts and tactics. I’m Equally as surprised to realize that none of what Ramit writes about is reserved for Geniuses or people who are born into privilege. It’s reserved for those who choose it.

    3. People don’t do this because we have years of training in certain beliefs and mindsets–whether it’s parents, friends etc. We have deep psychological reinforcement from those around us to keep doing things exactly the same way we’ve been doing them. We make what seems like an inconsequential assumption but is really debilitating: We assume we can only control a small part of our lives, and that the rest is up to fate, or someone else’s discretion.

  22. Hello Ramit,
    I love your perspective and your advice has been spot on! I truly can’t wait to try some of these techniques in my life and my job search.
    I am currently job searching in a city in California while I am still living in Oregon working at my current job, what recommendations do you have to reach out to those in the field of my choice and network when I am so far away?

  23. 1) The most important area where I could decommoditize myself is in building my social network. I know a natural one is there that is always useful but to truly end up where I really want to, I am going actively seek out the most important connections that can help me achieve my end result.
    2) What surprises me about the idea of decommoditizing yourself is that specific advice on the most useful job hunting tactics is never recommended by anyone. Is that because it is hard work and the mass majority of people are just not willing to put in the effort to achieve the goals that truly make them happy?
    3) I think that most people don’t do this because they are never enlightened to the idea of it. Most people enter our mass education centres ( i.e. public school) and are never pushed to actively engage their brains and become freethinkers (let alone hard workers). Then, after years of having the idea of following the masses drummed into their heads and being told X,Y and Z will work, they fall into the downward cycle of ‘try’, ‘fail’, ‘repeat’ never even entertaining the thought that there might be a better way to achieve results and their goals.

  24. 1) Joining Linkedin.com. The ability to privately and/or public share information about you, your expertise, your background, testimonials about why you’re the best at what you do, and who you know (and who knows you), are all powerful assets. If you’re looking for networking opportunities and unadvertised positions, this level of networking is like having your own recruiter working for you 24/7.

    2) When I interviewed for that amazing recruiter position (see yesterday’s post), I did some key research. I identified the company’s top issues and took a problem/solution approach. My proposal painted a picture of exactly what I would in the position. At a key moment in the interview, I presented it to the VP of HR. When he smiled and handed it to the local HR Generalist, I noticed his eyes bugging-out and him smiling from ear to ear, as he read intensely. They were no longer looking for the best candidate. They were now envisioning me in the position. Fearing I might not accept their offer that soon followed, he asked if he could keep my proposal. I replied, “Hire me and I’ll give you a copy”. The rest, as they say, is history.

    3) Fear of embarrassment and looking like a fool. The real question is: What do you have to lose by stepping-out of your comfort zone? The briefcase technique is powerful and works. I share with my students that interviews are like dating. Your choices of who, what, when, where, why, and how all determine your success. Instant rapport is also key. As human beings, we have the natural ability to sense and see emotional stress or a relaxed attitude. Our confidence vibes are expressed, be it consciously or unconsciously. Now, being able to flip from the interviewee to the interviewer role in the process is a whole different level of power interviewing. Make it one where you nail it every time :) Nita

    Keep in mind: “Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet.”

  25. I am reading these posts so closely that I’m worried my eyeballs are going to get sucked off my face and pulled into the future — I CANNOT WAIT for the next installment. I am literally in the first month of a job hunt and doing a ton of these things:

    1. Everyone I know got a holiday card or a note from me in the last three weeks, with some personal content and a mention of my ongoing search.

    2. A handful of people who hire people like me have seen my resume and said it looks great. (Ha ha! And while I was asking them for feedback, I got them to LOOK AT MY RESUME!)

    3. I’ve only applied for one job, but I’ve got two people with connections at that company reaching out to offer personal recommendations.

    Okay, but to answer the question you actually asked:

    1. I’ve suspected that the “briefcase technique” could be invaluable, but I didn’t get how to apply it in my industry — until this post. Now it’s snapped in place, and I’m working on a work sample.

    2. What surprises me most about the concept of decommoditizing myself is that I have been approaching every situation with the idea that I need to present myself as someone who is accommodating — by which I mean, I can’t announce that “I want to do X”, because it means people won’t consider me if what they need is Y. But here’s the thing: I am an AMAZING X. I have a ton of experience and enthusiasm, and after four different jobs, I know firsthand that I bring tremendous value as an X. So if people want a Y, they SHOULD discard me — if I took a Y job, it would keep me from finding the spot where they really need a great X. (And this isn’t about branching out — I love branching out — it’s about targeting my search to the fields where I can really thrive.)

    3. Why don’t more people do this? In my industry, there are probably 2000 people who want every job. No, that’s not an exaggeration. So everyone is afraid to say “I want to do X,” and miss out on a job because the employer is looking for a Y. But I have SEEN what it looks like when a X takes a Y job, and it is a nightmare. (Getting fired 21 days into a 12 week assignment? Seen it. Coworkers not-so-secretly raging at you behind your back? Seen it. Employee becoming increasingly frustrated and miserable — and gaining about 5 lbs a month via stress eating — because they’re not thriving? Seen it.)

    P.S. Ramit, would you ever consider doing a post comparing a successful Dream Job applicant and a failed Dream Job scholarship applicant? Even if you had to black out some identifying details, I think it could be invaluable. I read a lot of those application/posts, and identified a couple that seemed really promising, so obviously I have some misperceptions about what competency looks like.

    • your #2 is totally me. thank you so much for posting. i am working hard at following ramit’s advice to be specific. psychologucally it’s difficult for me to present myself as an “X” when the “Y” could be an opportunity that I could take, and benefit from. I need to realize if i’m awesome at “X”, like really awesome at “X” (and i am), it would be the best opportunity for me. I’d be in MY zone.

      thanks again for sharing.

  26. 1. I definitely need to decommodotize when making initial contact with new clients. I work as a stylist so I am usually hired by a photographer or producer on a per-job basis. They either call an agency with a roster of people available or they have independent stylists they have worked with previously. They can certainly have their pick. Since I am not with an agency I need to work doubly hard at ensuring photographers even know I exist. In the past, I’ve sent out emails with one or two images from recent shoots with a little blurb about what I can do. Then I often forget to follow up with those I know clicked through and showed interest. Every once in a while I get ambitious and call or email people directly to ask for a meeting. I am starting to realize that these are lame techniques on their own. And I need to make my promos and my work stand out more. I have been sending promos out like they are resumes and waiting for the magic to happen. I need to get more specific, target the people I really want to work with and stop wasting time on the others.

    2. I am most surprised at coming to the slow realization that I’ve accepted being an average performer when it comes to marketing myself and finding new clients. I think I tried not to analyze it too hard for fear of feeling disappointed in myself for slacking off as well as being frightened of “selling” when I am a creative. I hid from admitting I wasn’t taking action and living up to my potential. I lay blame where it clearly does not lie. To be specific, my industry, photography/advertising, is full of young, hip, 20-somethings who seem to party together etc. I realize that part of getting jobs in my field is a result of friendships, loyalties, and creativity but I have been using that as an excuse. Telling myself that certain photogs won’t hire me even if I tried because I’m not cool or young enough. Or I am not part of their inner circle. But the real problem is me. I haven’t really tried. I haven’t truly tested these so-called theories I have that are holding me back. I am surprised that I have accepted inaction as a result of fear.

    3. I think one reason why people are afraid to decommodotize, and I will include myself here, is fear of being rejected on a personal level. If you are doing everything that everyone else is doing and it seems like no ones getting the job, it’s easy to commiserate and blame it on the economy or the person hiring or whatever. If you do all that extra work to make yourself stand out and be seen as unique and it fails then it can feel like a personal rejection of who you are. There is no shield of a resume to hide behind. It’s reminds me of something a lot of actors experience. They are brilliant when playing the most zany, strange and whacked out characters but give them a role that’s close to who they really are and often it’s the most difficult thing to do as you suddenly feel you are exposing your true self. That people will see it’s really them, not a character, and they will be judged negatively.

  27. I recently emailed Ramit that I just accepted an offer for my dream job – I’m making a career jump from accounting to communications.
    1 I got a job internal to my company, so what I did to decommoditize myself was to first email the hiring manager with a short email detailing his requirements and how I met them and asked if I could speak with them for 15 minutes about the position. I only got to talk with the HR person, but it was a way in to know what they were looking for in the position and I modified my resume based on my conversation with her. I then asked my colleagues if they knew anyone in the communications department and I was eventually introduced to the person that had left the position by speaking with the colleague of a colleague. I was able to pick her brain and based on what she told me, I compiled a writing portfolio that I whipped out briefcase technique style during my interview.

    2. What surprised me about the idea of decommoditizing myself by taking initiative in asking questions and preparing for my application and interview was that even though it took some time and hustling, it really wasn’t that hard. I just had to take the courage to send an email to the hiring manager and although he was too busy / wary to talk to me directly, he forwarded me to his HR recruiter, which was still really valuable. I also utilized a network I never realized I had. My biggest lesson was that you do not know unless you try. If you think you can’t, you’re right!

    3. Why don’t more people do this? I think there are two things:
    A. Laziness. I have recommended Ramit to a dozen people, some that have been unemployed for 2+ years, and they say “Yeah, I’ve tried this” or “That takes too long”. I’ve actively tried helping these same people find jobs but it’s so frustrating that I can’t get it through their thick heads that if you’ve been applying 100% online for 2+ years, maybe you should try something different.
    2B Lack of confidence / ease of accepting the status-quo. It ties into laziness in that people don’t want to reach out to others or think that “if everyone else makes a LinkedIn profile (and that’s it) then that will help me find a job!” It’s also hard to find GREAT advice like Ramit’s, and when you’re inundated with useless advice such as “Make business cards and pass them around”, it’s easy to do just that.

  28. Here’s a story that illustrates the difference between average and top performers;

    In the “commoditized” world of professional pilots, jobs, qualifications and pay are often linked to flying time. The more hours you have, the more opportunities you can have. However, I worked with 2 different flight instructors over the last year, both early in their pro careers, who had very different approaches & results. The first was an ex-Sales Manager who was flying every single day, training students, flying jets, gaining new ratings and experience as well as successfully managing his real estate rental portfolio on the side. He has over 5000 hours of total time, much of it in high performance, high prestige aircraft. Instructor number 2 has 750 hours and is working his way up to the 1500 hour minimum required to land a low paid, entry level job with a regional airline. He currently has a few students and will fly 3-4 days a week, weather and schedule permitting. Interestingly, instructor 2 has an aviation degree from an accredited university, while number 1 brought his external experience to change the script! Both are smart, professional and diligent people and both are good pilots.

    Instructor # 1 is connected all over the airport and is not afraid to ask for what he wants. He used his network to discover who owned the jets on the airport and approached them individually to discuss their frustrations. He discovered that one of the key challenges faced by jet owners is pilot scheduling. He set up an online calendar for himself and vowed that if his time was not scheduled, he would be available to fly, any time of day or night, weekends, holidays, whenever. He then presented this flexibility in his schedule to the owners and asked that they pay for his training to fly their jet. Once he had one owner sign up, he had access to the rest in the inner circle!

    The other instructor is “doing what they said in school”, scraping by on low wages, building time and hoping to get hired by the airlines “someday”. The crazy part is; I found out a week ago that they both began their initial pilot training at the exact same time.

  29. The most important area where I could decommoditize myself is by immediately ceasing to apply for jobs through job portals and instead looking for another way into dream job opportunities by giving myself to a solid network.

    What surprises me about the idea of decommoditizing myself: it wasn’t obvious to me that it’s impossible to stand out if I’m always doing what everyone else is doing. Yeah, the cream rises, but it rises BECAUSE IT’S DIFFERENT. I’ve been a cup of milk in a vat of milk. No more.

    I think people are afraid of decommoditizing for a several reasons, but a couple big ones are 1) pride and 2) fear of screwing up something basic.

    1) Pride has held me back networking my way through the side door instead of going through the job portal front door. I have been extremely reluctant to use a network because I felt really embarrassed about asking others for help, like I would be regarded as a shitty user or somehow incapable. I now understand networking is about giving to your network.

    2) Fear has been a barrier in creating unique resumes and cover letters because I thought there was a standard, and any deviation from that standard would result in automatic disqualification. “This guy thinks he’s a special snowflake and the rules don’t apply to him. Haha, dumbass.” But sounds like I’m way off…very curious to learn more.

  30. Ramit, one quick question, how can we use the briefcase technique with over the phone interviews or emails? I’ve personally used it on small scale projects (like freelance writing) to get a higher rate, but I’ll be honest I just kind of threw it in there and hoped it worked. It did, but I really didn’t have it all together nicely like I should have. I want to have my “briefcase” more together so it can work better, but the things I’m applying for are all telecommute. Thanks!

  31. cliff samuels jr Link to this comment

    The comment by –Justin R. in the post was a true real world example of your technique. It required him multiple attempts to get his desired result but with each failure he adjusted his approach until success was achieved. This is the real result a person will achieve. Only a few will get it right the first time using the Brief Case technique.

  32. ” What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.”

    Ask for referrals. I hate asking people for favors, but need to get over it.

    ” What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.”

    That anybody can do it. We’re not really precious and unique snowflakes, despite what they taught us in kindergarten.

    “Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.”

    It’s easier to fail conventionally than to try to stick out – that way, your failure is less personal. If you’re doing what everyone else is doing, then it’s emotionally less damaging to fail.

  33. 1. I need to decommoditize myself in interviews and informal (networking) meetings. I’ve gotten my resumes and cover letters to a decent state, and target my job searches such that I get interviews for the majority of positions I apply for, but when interacting in person or over the phone, even when it’s not an interview situation, I tend to just answer questions and not be proactive about making my unique talents and ideas stand out.

    2. I have never consciously thought that I wanted to conform to what everyone else is doing, but it’s amazing how pervasive (and internalized) the social pressure is to not stand out, especially if you’re a woman and the way you stand out is by being intelligent. A friend recently pointed out to me that when I talk my phrases are peppered with “like” — sometimes several times in one sentence. I had no idea I was saying it so much. She astutely observed that it might not just be because I’m from California, but that I’m adding them in to make myself sound less smart.

    3. I think a lot of people believe there is a formula to getting a job, and if they just figure out and follow the formula that will lead them to success. They’re so focused on what the experts say not to do (don’t make your resume too long, don’t address a letter “dear hiring manager”) and what they say you should do (use action verbs, dress one level more professional than people at the company you’re interviewing at) that they end up presenting themselves as “perfect” candidates who do all the right things but are no different from any other candidates who follow all the same rules.

  34. Chris J Coleman Link to this comment

    I’m already working to expand my network and make connections in the geographic area that I’m working to relocate to, but at some point in the game my resume will come into play whatever approach I take. My resume had been worked on for several months before I even found my self “needing” a new job, but it’s still just the best I’ve been able to create along fairly traditional lines, so that’s something I’m going to be look at correcting.

    It surprises me that I’m already taking some of the steps that you advise for decommoditization, pleasantly so. That tells me that it can’t be all that difficult a thing, if you approach it in the right way and put in the time and effort.

    I think people avoid this because in general, people want to follow conventions and do what everyone else is doing, as that validates what their doing as being “correct”.

    • Chris J Coleman Link to this comment

      It also surprises me that I didn’t check my grammar more closely before hitting Submit!

  35. Who would even hire the guy you’ve outlined on this page? sounds a bit overboard and stalker, reminds me of the guy who tells the girl he loves her on the second date.

  36. First, arrange coffee meetings with 10 employees at the company you would like to work at, be sure to exchange phone numbers and send follow up texts, make sure to bring gift bags, tell the 10 employees how you can save their company 1 million dollars by switching cable companies, use the brief cake technique and pull 10 cakes out of your briefcase, rent a condo across from one of the employees each week, invite one employee to lunch every day, or just stand in your window staring.

  37. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t?

    The most important way I can decommoditize myself is to highlight my amazing story. I have consistently taken risks, tried a number of different projects/jobs, worked internationally, and enjoyed unique experiences that my dream employer would find valuable. I haven’t done so because I’ve always assumed that PE employers want a formal technical skill set that I do not possess. I did not go to business school, I don’t have formal valuation/analysis skills, and I have not worked in operations in a large company.

    What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story.

    I’m surprised because every time I look at a job advert. in PE, it seems to require specific PE (large IB, PE analyst) experience. However, my experience in the real world has taught me that it is more about people skills, relationships, resourcefulness, and ability to see opportunity where others won’t that makes the difference in picking winners. I have an amazing ability to pick up technical skills almost instantly (Standardized tests, licenses, etc.), and I feel like the ‘core operating system’ (memory, relational speed, interface, etc.) is more important than the specific software you install (or uninstall). I feel like I could install any set of ‘software’ within a short period of time: valuation, analysis, accounting, etc.

    Why don’t more people do this?

    People feel that the more neatly they fit within a box that’s been predefined (Harvard BA, MBA) they more success they’ll have. I know a lot of these guys, and while many of them are and will be successful, I also see their limitations. Some of them have had the creativity and ingenuity squeezed out of them to the point where they have become total tools, incapable of relating to others who do not share their pedigree.

  38. 1. Creativity – I’m really creative when it comes to finding solutions for problems. I thing this is my biggest strength but at the same time I find it to unimportant to show it.

    2. It forces you to think about yourself and to think differently. If I want to decommoditize I have to figure out what I can do and what I can do better than most of other people. This gives me the opportunity to know on what I can improve and what I should present about myself.

    3. When I look of most of my friends they think that’s all about grades and beeing polite. It’s like they totally ignore the fact that they aren’t the one-and-only applying for the job.
    Additionally, when their approach worked once, if it fails in the future why should they try to change when it already worked once?
    I think they just don’t see the link.

  39. 1) The most important area where I could decommoditize myself:

    The more I learn about Ramit and his students, the more it becomes clear that I need to get better at EVERYTHING.

    If I had to be specific, however, I would say that I need to improve how I interact with people. I’m very good at what I do, but I can’t seem to make myself act confident about it. I have done no work to develop a personal/professional network, even though I cognitively understand its importance and see the value of Ramit’s methods, entirely because I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. Here some specific things I’ve noticed myself doing when dealing with people:

    * I tend to look at people’s neck/chest area instead of their eyes
    * I have nothing to say past the first few sentences of a conversation/small talk
    * If asked a question, I can answer it, but have nothing to say past that
    * I slouch, hands in pockets
    * If I’m with someone, I automatically stand behind him/her
    * In any confrontation situation, I automatically withdraw – total “flight”, no “fight”
    * I fidget – can’t hold still.
    * In group settings (both social gatherings and business meetings), I never, ever, say anything.

    Nearly everybody does the above list to some level or another. I know I’m not unique. It’s the not being unique that’s the problem. Socially inept people are forgettable. There’s just so many of them.

    2) The most surprising aspect of the idea of decommoditization.

    That English could actually be twisted enough to create a word like “decommoditization”, and people would understand it.

    More seriously, the whole idea that I, the person around whom everything in the universe revolves (at least that’s how I see it most of the time), am nothing more than a body filling a spot in my employer’s HR report, is pretty mind-blowing. Now that I can see it, it’s glaring. The work I do is very important to my company, and I’ve already said that I’m very good at it, but with a bit of training, a one-armed monkey could probably do the job as well. Wow. What a mindf**k.

    3) Why don’t more people do this?

    Comfort. People (me especially) like comfort. No one wants to feel embarrased, out-of-place, or like a failure. That’s uncomfortable. Shotgunning resumes like everyone else is a common action and comfortable. Only talking to the people you know and not expanding into other social circles is comfortable. Reading a blog and thinking about how great it would be to do all this stuff, and never acting on it, is comfortable. People like to stick with the world they know.

    Conducting a self-evaluation like I just did for question #1 above was *very* uncomfortable.

  40. This is EXACTLY what I need EXACTLY at this moment. I have hit a brick wall in my current job and I know that I am under-employed. But I am so over cattle-call resume submissions, and I feel the need to not go the route of cutesy-poo in making myself stand out. (How realistic is it, really, to send balloon telegrams with each submission?) I am so diggin’ this!

  41. I’ve been meeting people in my current field in the evenings over beer, trying to extract insights into their inner ambitions. I don’t seem to have any ambitions of my own, but what I hear from them is very pleasing. I find that talking to people regularly makes one far more ambitious than hiding behind a monitor all day. Plus, beer makes people loosen up.

    No genius points here… but for some techies, this may be non-obvious.

  42. Most Important Area:

    The most important area where I could decommoditize myself has to be in how, and who I meet with for coffee. Since I’ve been following your material for a while (probably too long to still be sitting here only slightly further forward) I’ve started actively approaching people to ask for specific advice with varying degrees of success.

    Getting to first contact is comparatively easy, getting past that to meeting up and continuing to build the relationship is a bit harder. I’m willing to accept that most of it is to do with my attitude and how I approach it; I don’t feel comfortable ‘intruding’ on ‘important peoples’ days. While I know it’s an incredibly silly invisible script, it’s where I’m having the most trouble.

    Surprises and Reasons:

    What surprises me is that even though its an obvious idea and makes complete sense, the idea of setting yourself apart isn’t one that you come across too often in the normal course of a job hunt. Or, rather, you see it with reference to creative portfolios (so long as you provide the requisite life drawing), or with the wording on your resume, but beyond that it’s either not explored or shunned (thinking about in school and college here).

    Worse, because you don’t come across it very often in a positive way there’s a level of resistance and fear you then have to fight past to do what logically makes more sense than the cookie cutter approach. It’s some new foreign thing requiring skills we’re not used to using in that way or in some cases we’re not even aware we have. It engages our lizard brain.

    • “Since I’ve been following your material for a while (probably too long to still be sitting here only slightly further forward)”

      You’re not the only one floating in that boat, Heather…

  43. 1. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.
    As a writer and editor, there are associations to join and certifications to go after, but I haven’t done those yet… Mostly I’m struggling with pigeonholing myself.

    2. What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.
    That I wasn’t already doing it! I thought specific action words were what this meant. It wasn’t!

    3. Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.
    I think it seems less efficient. Why send out 1 exceptional application a week when you can send out 10 a day?

  44. 1. As a graphic designer, it’s a given that I use the right side of my brain–the creative. My portfolio shows this. But so what? So many designers have good work. BUT unlike other creatives, I stand out because I think with the left side of my brain to break down problems. I ask the right questions to understand the problem. I’ve been told that I have a very analytical mind and one that can think several steps down the road. This combined with my artistic side leads me to come up with unique functional design solutions, ie, not just designs that “look pretty.” How many other creatives can think with the left brain too? I’ve worked with so many over the course of my career and not many can do this. It definitely makes me different because I get how the non-creatives think. I know what they mean when they say “this color isn’t right.” It’s got NOTHING to do with the color! There’s a deeper meaning behind that phrase. So when I go back to the drawing board to revise a design, I know that changing the color isn’t going to solve the problem. When I walk back into the conference room next time, the solution that I present goes beyond just a color change.

    2. What surprises me? That I’ve known for a while that this a skill that sets me apart from the competition but I still don’t know how to show it off before I walk into an interview. Or how to leverage it to get that promotion I’ve been fighting for a year now. My boss doesn’t have the authority to give me a promotion. His boss does. And even though I’ve worked with his boss for awhile now, it’s only been for 5 mins at a time. Plus, he doesn’t get this skill. How do I approach my boss’s boss for a promotion when my annual review isn’t with him but with my boss?

    3. Most people don’t do this because they’re “followers” not leaders. Ie, they’re going to buy plaid because that’s what the trend is even though they look bad in plaid. Plus, that’s what most career books and even that career class in college tells you to do. It worked for them before, so why wouldn’t it work for them again?

  45. 1) Doing the right preparations by taking the right people out for coffee, asking the right questions to learn about the organization, team, and challenges. Using their answers to guide my pitch in the proposal, theatrically emphasizing the level of preparation I show compared to the average. I haven’t so far as I’ve stuck to the invisible script keeping busy with low-payoff activities that feels good/productive, but yielding poor results and couldn’t figure out why running around different processes randomly.
    2) What surprises me about the idea of decommoditizing myself: there is an option to try something different systematically on each step, and analyse the results rather than following the invisible scripts of trying harder, staying in the trenches, making myself feel more terrible but believing that the sacrifice was worthwhile, and accepting whatever scraps come my way at face value with no room to negotiate due to desperation.
    3) People are resistant to change as they are a creature of habits. They are fearful of failure by trying something different and wasting their time, even though the conventionally unproductive job search habits are wasting their time more. They are doing what makes them feel productive, but not necessarily the most effective way to get to the goal of landing a decommoditized job.

  46. I am glad I have found this website when I have. I am starting my search for jobs and my future career and I have been able to take in new ideas and philosophies to start out on the right track. I know personally, that networks are an area that I am weak and need to improve. Sometimes it is a fear of previous awkward experiences that has kept me away from approaching more people, but with the knowledge of its benefits and the acceptance that I am avoiding it I can overcome it.

    I feel like most people I know don’t do this because they think they are too busy and if they don’t have time then everyone else doesn’t have time as well. In my eyes, people overlook that it stretches beyond your grades and degree to identify people that seem valuable to have around. If you haven’t taken the time to formulate your ideas into a concise and coherent format, then hiring managers will find it difficult to see great potential in you.

  47. Hey go-getters! :)

    #1 I really need some help decommoditizing myself when it comes to getting a REFERRAL! I am extremely curious about what you have to say about that in your course, especially for someone who is a total n00b to the industry experience-wise. Sometimes, I’ve met with friends and people i know who have the job that I want, but no one ever wants to RAVE about me. I thought “I’m not best friends with this person, but surely they know me well enough to at least say good things? Why isn’t this working?” Honestly, I feel like such a loser for posting this publicly, but maybe someone else knows what I’m talking about.

    #2 I was extremely surprised to see that you would consider me AVERAGE. I thought I was working the hardest. I’ve never seen anyone else hustle the way I was hustling. It seemed like everyone else was either getting jobs simply by submitting their resume to the company site or being “okay” with staying unemployed. I was the only person I knew who took the time to call people, meet with people, get a mentor, etc, etc. and I produced no results. I grew tired, exhausted, and thought “There is something I’m missing, but I don’t have the energy to figure it out right now” and took a break. My point is, I thought I was doing the work. I thought I was going above. I knew I wasn’t going above AND BEYOND, but I thought doing more than what everyone else was doing should be enough. It wasn’t. I’m surprised that the standards are this high.

    #3 – More people do not do this because it is a lot of f*cking work. Ramit, do you even have to ask? If what you expect of the AVERAGE person requires work that I thought was ABOVE average — then imagine how many FEWER people are doing what a Top Performer does! It takes a lot of work and quite frankly, who wants to put in that much work for a job that they are afraid they won’t get anyway (an invisible script — “I won’t get it anyway”) OR they may fear they won’t enjoy the job. All that hard work just to hate the result. Perhaps people just don’t know what their dream job actually is or they are afraid of making a fool of themselves if they put in the work and fail. And of course, there are the people who think you’re supposed to graduate and be handed a job, but I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about people like me — who THOUGHT they were trying.

  48. Great topic Ramit – thanks again.

    1.
    When I meet people already successful in an area I want to break into/learn more about.

    I can easily hold general, friendly, engaging conversations with them but as soon as the subject turns to the work/business/field of expertise, intimidation kicks in big time. I’m constantly falling into that weak role of an interested but inexperienced/inadequate junior (regardless of our ages), feeling the need to earn their respect and listening.

    So I’m clear that I need to decommoditize in such networking situations.

    2.
    The idea of knowing an interviewer by the time of the interview surprised me – such a thing had never even crossed my mind. Woke me up to the power of networking in advance and to be able to discover “on the grapevine” what was available so as to completely bypass the regular job application process.

    Referrals have always helped me most in the past – in fact I have never got any freelance work through anything but referrals, and in regular jobs I’ve never failed to score an offer when my interview has come with a referral.

    3.
    a) One of my friends is always sharing his creative ideas with me (which sound great to me as a layman) but won’t share his ideas with people of possible influence as he feels he doesn’t have enough of a name for himself to convince them he’s not just “another wannabe guy with a good idea”.

    Very similar to my own issue mentioned in question 1.

    b) Some of the strategies you mention are so out-of-the-box (yet absolutely obvious) that more people don’t think of them.

  49. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself?
    The networking emails I send requesting mettings & being prepared with the briefcase technique earlier in the interview process than at the moment of offering me the position.

    What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself?
    Having invested hours of research and practice in negotiating salary and knowing my audience, I was recently surprised during a working interview. During the interview, my potential employer introduced me to a friend of his as his newest employee before we discussed a job offer or compensation. He assumed I would take the position no questions asked! Once we sat down and discussed compensation, he was quite unprepared to discuss benefits. WHAT??? He offered an hourly rate that was on the low end of acceptable (for me) with extremely limited bennies. When I asked about other benefit categories he said he wasn’t even sure he could do anything else. “I THINK we have a 401K but I have no idea about matching.” Really? I was shocked that someone so competent in their area of expertise was cluelessly running hiring like this. Clearly, I need to qualify employers better.

    Why don’t more people do this?
    Others I know are buying into how terrible the economy is and that we should just be grateful to have any job. They are so intimidated, despite layoffs and cutback hours at work, that they aren’t even applying elsewhere. They feel that if they are the new person on the totem pole at a new position they will get cut first when the economy tanks further.

  50. 1) What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    Researching and contacting people, Not what you are thinking Ramit, I’ve NEVER thought about the company and it problems it never crossed my mind before you said. Then talking with people from that company were present or past to not only get a deeper understanding of the company (Is it a good fit?) but to also have a unfair advantage.

    2) What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    I would have to say how easy it was to get a response, I setup a resume i think i called it dream hacker? (it been awhile) Well 3 days latter i got a response and went to see them. From there i meet up with other interviews at this company and they lead us in gave us the tour etc. In the end I decided that it was not the right fit for me, Well low and behold they called me three months straight after that trying to get me to work for them, yes by that time i most likely could of named my price.

    P.s. that was a blind resume like 80% of others do and just following the advice to just change one thing on your resume results in that.

    3) Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

    Simple it like the I I I or me me me people well most people are not taught to think differently. At home when your a little kid your told NO dont do that but when you ask why Because im the mom or im the dad.

    In school it get good grades BUT dont study together that bad your a cheater, Which seem to translate into me me me because of the above as well as dont work together that cheating.

    Which is total bs in the end

  51. 1. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    The most important area for me is outlining all the problems that I have identified in my 3 plus years at the job. I handle a variety of tasks including online marketing (PPC, SEO, Email marketing, paid listing, web analytics), distributor relationship, sales reporting and analysis, attending 7-8 tradeshows annually, etc. I do everything from designing, implementing to optimizing campaigns. The problem is that I have too much tasks on my hand so I have not been able to go deep in each medium and make most out of it. I want to highlight all the shortcomings of not being able to drill down in each of the online marketing medium and showcase how they can be more effective and can generate higher ROI if done carefully. I also want to give away some of my responsibilities so I can focus on my strengths in online marketing.
    2. What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.
    This very morning I was writing 3 things in a spreadsheet for all my responsibilities:
    1. What am I doing currently in all marketing channels and other responsibilities?
    2. What’s lacking or where is the loop hole which is not generating results?
    3. What can we do to improve so we can reach set goals?
    This process was amazing. I was actually able to see all the tasks that I am planning to do and that there is a lot more in each medium that could be done than what I had originally thought. But there was one BIG thing lacking. I was not able to decide how much time would be required in each tasks and what kind of help will I need to complete those tasks. If I cannot assign the approximate number of hours then it is hard to say that those tasks will be completed by the set time.
    I also realize the areas where I am currently lacking and this creates a sense of urgency to sharpen my skill sets in those areas. It also tells me that if I cannot do this on my current job where I have working for the last 3 years then how can I possibly do it on a new job.
    3. Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.
    Well, everybody wants a quick and short solution. Moreover, this requires people to step out of their comfort zone. Most people look at short term results rather than long-term. People don’t want to change their habits until it is absolutely necessary. A lot of people go by the phrase “Minimum input, maximum output” which could work for a but not for majority and is also not sustainable. This is also something which is like an alien concept to most people. It takes a while for people to change their habits, step out of comfort zone and do something which is tough but can yield great results.

  52. 1. If you hadn’t said the most important thing, my answer would have been all of the above. An important start for decommonizing myself would be doing my research. My super extensive reasearch has consisted of checking out the employer’s website. I look at my cover letter and realize it’s crap. It’s filled with the same old lame info and phrases you would hear on a how to web page . No matter the position I was applying for, I’ve demonstrated little knowledge of any company’s inner workings. Like you said, I need to actually talk to people who know what’s going on. Without all of that I’m not even getting interviews.

    2. What surprises me most is how difficult I make simple concepts. Netwoking! I’ve been one of those people who says… “I don’t know anywone, blah, blah blah…” you can finish the rest easily. However, I’m starting to realize that I meet tons of people on a weekly basis. All it takes is for me to stop and care about what they do and what they have going on to begin to put them in my network. Remembering what someone does for a living, what is important to them, what their working on, etc. is a good beginning for connections. It allows me to say Hey! In know someone who fixes computuers. I know so and so at such and such job, let me introduce you to them. And so on. I thought it was something complex and difficult. I thought you needed to be some crazy successful person with lots of money and experience to have a good network, but the reality is that’s not where it starts at all. While your concepts take time and effort, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist for them to make sense.

    3, I’d say people don’t do this because of fear, intimidation, and a lack of direction. People don’t like failure. People don’t like to put a lot of work into something if they’re uncertain that it will work. You can tell someone x number of people have been successful and they can still think it may not work for them. I know several people who often think well, I’m afraid I’m not good enough to sell myself. I’m afraid my ideas wouldn’t be good enough. Talking to people, sending out emails, doing the research, taking the time to do the work is all intimidating to many people. Anything that takes time seems to intimidate people. One of the other common things I come accross is that people don’t seem to narrow down exactly what they’re looking for. If you don’t know where exactly you want to be or what you want to be doing, it’s hard to get motivated to do research on the hundreds of options you have available.

    Oh yeah! Don’t forget… these simple cover letters, resumes, and interview answers are EXACTLY what so many of us are taught to do–that’s it, nothing else. No instruction other than here is how you make a cover letter and resume that will stand out (in the exact same ways that every other applicant’s does).

    Now, I say all of this knowing that I have allowed myself to be in the same boat as these people I talk about. I’ve decided I want to leave my career field in elmentary education and develpe my skills in dance. To do this I will most likely need to move half way accross the U.S. I’m in a place where I need to find a job outside of my schooling and experience that will allow me the finances to do so. I feel like I’m starting all over, but everything I read here shows that its not out of reach. I’m looking forward to everything I will learn here. The interesting part will be narrowing my own possibilities and learning how to apply all of these concepts over long distances. I’m ready to get out of this boat and make things happen!

  53. 1. My most important area to stand out is in flaunting my expertise and talents. I’m getting better at it, so it doesn’t feel so foreign. I’ve actually worked with a drama coach for this part. Funny in retrospect.

    I now know that “I’ve been trying to figure out” how to approach people with my proposals without coming off too aggressively, passively, or conceitedly. (That is, for the people whose opinions matter to me.) Too much thinking, not enough action. The people I’ve pitched my proposals to have been receptive and interested, though.

    My fear stems from coming off like a bitch-worse for women in the long run and maybe harder to balance.

    2. The biggest surprise is how little formal education that’s genuinely required when providing value. This is different from acquiring knowledge. The latter is a must for anyone wanting to excel. The former, not so much.

    Good and great business owners are hungry for knowledge and experience. All the time. And they tend to distinguish themselves by providing high levels of professionalism and ethics, considerably upping their value to their industry, their companies, and their clients.

    3. At one point during law school, I began to work hard to change my mental script. I began by valuing other student’s talents regardless of their class rank. It basically started with “That person has great oral advocacy skills. She could probably work at ___ prestigious place.” After experimenting with that, I began to do it with myself. It took a lot of work to change my beliefs. I even had to put the books down and wake up a little earlier every day.

    Most people wouldn’t dream of taking personal responsibility for their behavior or beliefs, especially in law school. It’s added work, takes time, and maybe a little too corney/new-agey. I’m still a work in progress, but it’s been worth it so far.

  54. 1) I want to decommoditize my leadership skills. In the opportunities I’ve had to be a supervisor, I believe I’ve done a good job. However, I haven’t gotten the positions I’ve wanted. I need to figure out what my bosses want for the next supervisor and fill that need for them.

    2) When you decommoditze yourself, it niches down your suitable jobs. I’m not saying this is a bad thing–it means you’re going to be perfect for some jobs, but obviously a misfit at others.

    3) I looked over a resume for a very talented friend. Great GPA, several years of work experience where she was rated #1 out of her peers by her boss, lots of responsibility. She hadn’t put any of that in her resume before I read it. Her logic–she didn’t want to look pretentious.

  55. ONE
    Need to break down my ideal job role to specifics, to a point at which can either start the company myself, or start researching / applying to suitable companies.

    Also, as Heather and Dave say above, whilst all this advice is unbelievably useful, I need to accept that there will always be something to refine. Therefore I need to start trying these techniques out on companies who are near, but not quite my dream job. Build up a portfolio of offers, emails, rejections, failures. Practice. Then when I finally decide where I want to be I will have some useful scripts to modify.

    TWO

    It surprises me that it’s not more of an obvious thing to do! In order to stand out we hide a little line in our CV and feel really happy with ourselves, rather than actually standing out and being different. Derek Sivers has a great TED talk on his site on how difficult it is being the first person to be different, illustrated by a group of drunk festival goers.

    THREE

    Many recent graduates feel a sense of entitlement to a job out of university. Interestingly this seems to apply to applicants from all levels of university education. Therefore we feel that resumes are enough; why should we do more when we are owed a job?
    We are also scared of failure, particularly when it involves added interactions with insiders via email etc.

    Recent graduate friend conducted ‘full-time’ job search. Fire a few resumes out per day, sit around on facebook the rest of the day. No results. Depressing. More facebook. Even less inspiration to do something different.(Downward spiral.) Send more resumes via internet, with facebook on tab behind. Found menial work, still holding out for the dream job. How many years will he/she be waiting?

    The education of communication and negotiation is non existent, certainly in the schools and university that I went to. During my engineering masters course, in many ways i feel that communication was suppressed by the ‘hard work’, rather than being nurtured. We are subliminally taught that its creepy or slimy to negotiate, to ‘cheat’ by asking for referrals etc.

  56. 1. The most important area where I can decommoditize myself is informational interviews and initial contact emails. I am actually not worried about it though – now that I’ve made the connection (see #2), I can’t help but notice opportunities to decommoditize myself.

    2. What surprises me most about this is (face-palm moment) I have been decommoditizing myself at work for YEARS and didn’t think to make the logical jump that something needed to be done about my job search process as well. I followed the generic advice doled out by career centers to hundreds of thousands of new graduates, and patiently sent out resume after resume, never hearing back from anyone and thinking something was wrong with me. What’s worse is – even if, after the 100th resume, I thought for a second that it might not be me, but the process that was faulty, some helpful friend or relative or career advisor would tell me to have patience, and to just keep at it because the job market was really tough. I suppose everyone around us knows only the resume-blast method to get jobs, and they continue to propagate the lie to everyone else they know as well.

    3. I read this interesting study that talks about what distinguishes girls from boys. As kids, girls are praised for “being (innately) smart” and guys are praised for “putting in a good effort”. Consequently, when girls and guys get to college and find themselves stumped by advanced calculus / hard science classes, girls look at this and think, well I’m supposed to be innately smart, and I am not getting this, so I must not be meant for this or am not smart enough for this. Boys look at this and think, oh okay, I guess I didn’t apply enough force, let me push at this a little harder or from a different angle, and I can conquer calculus.

    That sounds a lot like how I approached my job search till now. If something didn’t work (resume blasts), I thought the problem was with the content on my resume (or with me) and not with the fact that I was expecting a two-dimensional document to convey my personality, skills and interests.

    The other reason I think more people don’t do this is – we don’t know it can be done differently. We are all competitive creatures at heart and terribly afraid of failure/rejection, so if something doesn’t work, we don’t instinctively announce this to everyone and say, hey, this is what I did, I got rejected, how do I improve it. Instead, we fester, wallow and decide that the only way to fight this is to self-improve our way out of the situation.

    PS. Your 80/20 guide and a series of events at my workplace propelled my headlong into a very determined job search, and this time, I have done my research, worked hard to distinguish myself and tested every step of the way. The response is so instant, it’s like being in a roller coaster that’s hurtling forward towards what I want. Thank you.

  57. 1. I coud make my self send out by using my network to find out the companies issues before I walk in. This is something I have never considered.
    2. What suprises me is that there are things that make me stand out from the crowd but I don’t think of myself as different. This mode of thinking makes me the same as everyone else.
    3. People don’t think of doing something else because this is what they are taught and assume that it is the only option for them.

  58. #1. Decommoditization in the Software Development industry is tricky. But heres a quick action list: 1) Identify a spot where you dont qualify for the job you want (you may want to make a big list and takle these as you go) . 2) Read a book on the subject. 3) Work on a project related to the subject (ex: if you want to get a job with Ruby on Rails, then write a site of some form in that framework). 4) Advertise what you’ve done in your blog and github account. Now heres the tricky part. It can become too easy to just keep repeating this cycle without ever actually getting to your goal? Why? Its like Ramit has said about business cards. So often people want to start a side business, they start with things like “Yeah, I gotta get business cards. Then I’ll put up a website. Then I’ll take a course.. Then maybe I’ll try to get a client” … The problem is there are a lot of actions that feel like starting which are not actually starting.

    How can I decommoditize myself? I need to write a side project or join an open source project. This is a key marker in the eyes of HR folks as a sign that you’re “passionate”. Aside: I dont think HR people know what passionate means. Usually it has a lot to do with exuberhance, emotion over rationale, and often the extreme emotions that are not appropriate for work (rage, sexual feelings etc..) … Anyways. I need to work on an open source project.

    Its time for bed so #2 and #3 will have to wait.

    #2

  59. 1) The most important area where I could decommoditize myself would be on how I can present myself as someone who can solve their problems. I want to go into an interview offering a solution, not simply looking for a job.I haven’t taken anyone out to coffee to talk about the specific problems they face in preparation for an interview. From what I read in your blog, taking the words out of their mouths is one of the most effective ways to get noticed.

    2) I’m a very private guy, so I have trouble showing others what makes me unique. But, I’ve realized that in order to really stand out, I have to let them know and that confidence plays a big part. I was surprised how simply letting others know that you’re capable and confident can really change the tone of the discussion. In a recent interview, I tried to apply bits and pieces of what you teach us, particularly about the things on competence triggers. You know how you can just “feel” that an interview went well? That’s how I felt. Compare this to one of the other candidates who got told “You are not qualified for any of the positions.” Ouch.

    3) What surprises me is how many people, especially from my batch of graduates don’t take the time to even think about this. We just go in to an interview and answer questions. Most don’t even take the time to look the part! Here’s a recent example:
    We just had an interview for a new graduate program at Macquarie. Most of the people I’ve talked to just came in to answer questions. None of them prepared anything. During the orientation, the guy beside me was even surprised that I was taking notes. Granted, I too was not as prepared as I should have been but, the idea that they’re competing with hundreds of other candidates with the same, or even better qualifications as them never seemed to cross their minds. I think it’s because among our peers, nobody really does this. It feels weird and gimmicky. Instead, just stick to what you know. It’s feels safer.

    I hope the webcast will be at the same time as your webinar last week. It was the first one I got to attend because of the timezone difference (UTC+8).

  60. 1. To stop relying on others to find opportunities for me, while I passively sit back (this applies to both opps at my current company, as well as “external” ops). I’ve typically relied on recruiters to find positions for me (externally). At my current company, I’ve not made the effort to 1) Determine and find my dream job 2) Meet the people in that group/position for coffee to pick their brains and find out more about the position. And 3) GET THE POSITION (blow the hiring manager away).
    I’ve supposedly been tagged as a “high-performer” at work, but I’m not happy with my pace of advancement, and it’s primarily because I’ve wanted to be the “good employee” and “wait” for my oppotunity to come, instead of going out there an getting them.

    2.It’s quite empowering to do this – like an internal pep talk. But the key, as always, is to ACT. I heard once that BEHAVIOR IS EVERYTHING, ie. we are what we do, and all the big talk in meaningless unless we act.

    3. I think a big reason people (ie me) don’t do this is “fear” – they don’t want to upset the apple cart at the company, or be seen as “rebel”. I think there’s an inherent reluctance for people to sell themselves/put themselves out there, or to even seem better/different than others. They don’t want to be judged by others.

    I’m probably a relative “blue-hair” on this list (39), but it’s still not too late.

  61. 1. Most important area to decommoditize myself:
    Establishing credibility in the field of my new career is most important at this point. I have to help my new clients understand why they need MY services and not just someone else who might be similar to me.
    2. What surprises me about decommoditizing myself:
    What surprises me the most is that I’m having a hard time buying it. There are a lot of people that are similar to me. I actually just quit my dream job. I was a Kindergarten teacher and that is exactly what I went to school to be. And I loved it. (most of it) Parts of it drove me crazy (not the children, but the adults) and also I became pregnant with my second child, due the second week of school. So it became necessary to leave. So here I am like GOBS of other people who used to be teachers. I have some experience. I have a masters degree. And I know ways to help children learn. But I’m also DIFFERENT because I can see beyond what administration wants me to do (not exactly the right thing for the kids) and I don’t kiss up to parents (many families in this town hate me- they’ve pulled their kids from my class). So I’m not exactly popular but I KNOW what works for kids. I don’t want to be in the classroom any more (I loooove being at home with my children) but I don’t want to leave education. I’m thinking some sort of online tutoring (since I’m not exactly popular in my small town out in the middle of nowhere). What’s different about me is that I’m willing to look through the B.S. and think critically about what people are projecting as the “right way”. So even though I know how to help children learn and I know I could do a good job, I still second guess myself. I’ll admit it; I have some fear that I’ll encounter other retarded people that will want to see me fail, along the way. And that is total crap if I’m going to be successful.
    3. Why don’t more people do this… Think of a friend… :
    More people don’t do this because it takes effort. I have to be honest. I started to type my first answer and realized that my reply wasn’t actually answering that particular question. So I had to think deeper. It would have been really easy to just click the x at the top of the tab.
    I think a lot people also don’t do this because they don’t see how it applies to them. They don’t think that the exercise is worth their time and don’t believe that there will be some sort of positive occurrence as a result of doing the exercise.
    The friend I choose is my husband. He’s incredibly smart and really has a lot of potential. But he’s the type of guy that doesn’t like to be taught by other people. He’d rather be self taught. So when someone tells him that he needs to do xyz, he gets all offended because he doesn’t think he needs any sort of teacher (ironically, he’s married to one?). My husband is now looking for a job again and I think he really needs this. (By the way if you’re my husband and you happen to read this, I’m learning all I can to help you because I LOVE YOU). So I’m sending him the emails that I’m getting and I learning so that I can give him ideas for how he can do well in his upcoming job search. That way, even if he doesn’t sign up for himself, I can be armed with some ideas to pass along. If I mention them, he just might use them.

  62. 1. Stop applying for jobs on websites. Period. I took the concepts that you mentioned in your first DJE video and APPLIED THEM. Now, I have an amazing job that’s a helluva lot of fun. Fun? Work? Yes!

    The big “Aha!” moment for me was when my friend asked me if I would be interested in this job. I DID NOTHING. My friend did all the work. He recommended me to the owner. He told me what the owners concerns were because they are good friends. He told the owner that I was the best choice. The only thing that I had to do was tweak a few things for the interview to fit the position perfectly.

    After my interview (which wasn’t really an “interview” at all), the owner told me that I “wowed” him. Game. Set. Match.

    I won.

    2. The realization of just HOW MUCH I decommoditized myself in the past astounds me.

    I would tell my friends how no one would want to hire a music major with no work experience outside of retail. I would joke about how the only thing that I was qualified to do was selling insurance. I would even sit down in interviewers and tell the interviewer that I WAS NOT QUALIFIED! No, I’m not making that up.

    Now, I’ve realized that my experience is incredibly unique. It makes no sense. But it’s allowed me to see things from a different perspective. And THAT . . . is valuable.

    3. Most people don’t do this for three reasons:
    - 1. It’s hard. It’s much easier to sit at home and bitch about the economy and cry. It’s easier to say that your degree is worthless. Just like it’s easier for a fat person to whine about their genetics while they stuff their face with bacon-wrapped lard balls.

    - 2. It’s unknown. Most people are clueless about this stuff. Like myself, they don’t even realize that these other options exist. They don’t realize how big their network actually is. They don’t understand how to separate themselves from the unwashed masses.

    - 3. Most people are insane. Everyone is familiar with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity–doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We get a sort of tunnel vision when we apply for jobs (or do anything) and keep “trying harder” because we’ll get it next time. “You’ll get the next one,” seems to be the rallying cry of the mediocre. And that’s why Ramit is so big on testing. Because it’s insane to do something without testing. If you don’t know the results of your actions, your actions were pointless. So, test it. If it doesn’t work, STOP DOING IT! You’ll save yourself a lot of time and aggravation.

  63. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    My basic approach towards working needs to be decommoditized, so I will start with my current job. After coming in with expectations of being able to make an impact, I’ve gotten buried in the day to day grind and lost my vision of being a stand out employee and I have definitely settled for being ‘just a normal clock puncher.’ I’m not fond of my job, but at the moment I have the idea that if I stand out here, it’ll be great material for my next job hunt.

    What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    The idea that it’s possible at all. I never really took job searching seriously, and even though I got my current job through a recommendation, I never thought I could have strategically used my network to find a job I might have some passion towards. I was content to just go after what was available. The idea of being more than a commodity, of being someone that the company NEEDs is a huge ego inflater. An earlier commenter mentioned doing warm up interviews at other companies before going after his #1. That would make me feel like a sought after NBA All-Star free agent instead of hoping for calls back.

    Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

    I think there are many reasons, some of which compound upon each other:

    a) They don’t know any better
    b) Everyone around them is doing it
    a+b with a little extra) Maybe things haven’t gotten so bad for them that they are on the verge of eating a relative, so because they don’t know better and they see everyone else doing the same thing and things aren’t terrible they see no reason to make a change.
    c) Even if they are told that most resumes suck, the self-aggrandizing bias will let them think they are special enough that this rule doesn’t apply to them

  64. Ramit, I work in a top Indian law firm as a junior associate – its one of the best jobs in the country for graduating lawyers. I managed to decommoditize myself during the interviews for my first job when I was in college – and I had 100% success rate. But now I am stuck – because I cant think what is the next job that is not a natural progression of career but something higher to aspire for.

    What is the area I can decommoditize myself at this point?
    on my expertise and authority – since I am young and just months out of college – an instant reaction I get sometimes is that a presumption of inexperience. in reality, I started doing professional work while i was in law school and I have more real experience than many of my seniors. One way I plan to decommoditize myself is by writing a book on cutting edge areas of transactional law. I am also aiming at getting a column at a newspaper/ magazine.

    What surprises me?

    Absolutely nothing – I have been doing this for quite some time – I knew academics will take me only as far as other people with good academic record goes – so i took steps to establish my authority in certain areas through extensive blogging (and I used social media to get people in my network to read those blogs), built a network of people who can help me and who i regularly help.

    I manage to stand out because despite being very new in the profession I can bring in business from new clients, and in my network I have a reputation as a businessmaker – and sometimes founders of startup law firms will even want me on board and offer equity in informal discussions.

    My friends – will sometimes agree that they should write a blog (or contribute on my blogs at least) or write a book or develop a network – but it seems there is a lot of inertia – and doubt as to how all this will work out.

  65. 1. I’m in college right now, and so there are loads of opportunities for me to build a network–professors of my classes, my work study boss, my advisors. I need to explore these opportunities while I have such a clear chance to do so, stop worrying about doing “alright” in classes and start making efforts to make my work positively stand out. Visit during office hours, ask questions about my work before I turn it in–make myself a familiar face.
    2. What surprises me about decommoditizing myself is that the more I think about it, the less insurmountable my supposed obstacles seem. I mean, half the people I could begin networking with work across the goddamn street from my living residence. I haven’t visited because I’ve told myself that I don’t have a good reason to drop by. Really? I’ve NEVER had a question about ANY of the work in my classes? No reasons to talk with my professors while they’re sitting, bored, having invited dozens of students to the office hours that only one or two actually take advantage of? I feel like I’ve been delusional.
    3. The friends that immediately pop to mind for me tend to be fairly intelligent people who feel SO confident in their intelligence, that they don’t need to validate their intelligence by showing off to people, or networking, or… producing quality work…. Because they COULD stand out. If they wanted to. But the system is totally lame, so why should they? Right? …Right?
    ………What do you mean “externalization of problems”?

  66. 1. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    I’m happy with my job, so I don’t necessarily care about how recruitment officers see me. However as a consultant within a large firm I am currently a commodity. When a project comes up the planning staff will pick out some people to assign to the project. Based on.. Based on what really? Availability and a little bit of fit with the project. But mostly just a warm body and an adequate mind.

    Right now, I’m one of the countless bodies they can pick from. To really focus my carreer in the direction I want to go (functional expert in large portals/e-commerce sites) I need to make sure that the people planning these type of projects specifically ask for me. They should not be asking for warm bodies, they need to know they need me, and come to me rather than the other way round.

    2. What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    The idea of being a commodity does not surprise me. I remember my first interview 6 years ago (for a university, not a job) about what I specifically could contribute. I wasn’t able to come up with an answer. Given enough time I felt there was nothing I could do that no one else could do. I felt like a commodity and did not see a way out of that position. Now I feel there is a way out. Sure in the long term someone might be able to mimic what I can do, but I’ll be three steps better by then. You do not need to be uniquely the only person with a certain skill. You need to be (a least in a subset of people) the only one actually _using_ that skill and focus on getting that skill appreciated and noticed. Then you’re decommoditizing.

    3. I’ve answered question three already. Came back to answer 1 & 2 after further considering the question and the real, rather than the fast, answers.

  67. I’d never heard of a QR code till today and I ended up reading it twice today. Of course I’ve seen them. I wouldn’t know what to do with it…

  68. 1) What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    One major area I think I could be putting in a lot more work to stand out from others would be in my current job. I am in the project management field and I know I could put in more effort to do a better job, but I just don’t. Also, when meeting people that could potentially be part of my network to find my Dream Job, I tend to take the more passive stand, which obviously does not help my case but I do anyway.

    2) What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.
    The surprise is that logically I know that is what I need to do. But I find all sorts of excuses not to do it. Also that all the schools I have been to brainwash you into thinking that it’s not good to stand out – just work hard and earn good grades. (wait, that’s an excuse too)

    3) Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.
    I think it fear of the unknown and fear of failure. It’s so much easier to just go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing. Stay in your comfort zone. Live your mediocre life. Be a frog in the well. After all, that’s what my parents did. I guess it takes a bit of courage to even think that some sort of more fulfilling life would be possible.

  69. 1. I am a photographer and I have to emphasise more my ability to create studio quality images on location shots with a combination of compositing skills in Photoshop.
    2. I know I have a skill set that few photographers have, but it is hard for people to see that just looking at my photos. I have to verbalise this with specific stories.
    3. I think that deep down, people are afraid to be happy and live to the fullest, and it is because it requires more work. What is easier, working out and living healthy or sitting on the sofa and eating ? I have a friend, he is a great photographer, and I see so much potential in him, but he never goes after a job. They just always fall in his lap and he is happy with that but at the same time complains that he doesn´t have enough work. He never leaves the comfort zone…..

  70. #1  I should be more ruthless in eliminating the kinds of jobs for which
    I’m really not a good fit, but I like to believe I would be good at. I
    keep thinking I need to improve abilities or character first before I’ll be ready to qualify for the job I want.

    #2 biggest surprise? The difference between being a player and sincere. I’ve always thought sales (and dating) was skillful manipulation. But after years of whining and failed dating attempts, a few rocky relationships, I find myself in a happy marriage.
    How? Preparation, honesty, and persistence. In hindsight, I can see how my approach was more systematic – using an online service, thinking through how I presented myself, refining emails and answers, having many practice dates that helped me realize when I was not picking up on what was a sign this wasn’t going anywhere, but instead I had been giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, thinking, well theyre cute, maybe they’ll be a good match for me… After almost a year, I was getting doubtful, but kept going. Finally, when the right person showed up in my inbox, it was easy to be myself, express myself clearly, and realize this was the right person. All because I’d done my homework…
     
    To #3:
    Maybe deep down most of us think job hunting is like real estate…
    “Real estate is like sex – get as much of it as you can while you are
    still young.”
    And in trying to get as much of it as we can, we try to be like
    everyone else. Seems to work in real estate, too right? Every house
    remodel tries to maximize re-sale value – by looking like every other
    one. We are pressured into this by agents, brokers, and appraisers,
    too. The more we have at stake and the smaller a window we think we have to find a buyer, the more willing we are to target the broadest market possible. 

  71. 1. I want to stand out at my medical school interviews. It’s exactly the situation you describe, where applicants are a dime a dozen (hundreds vying for a spot). I have been struggling with how to stand out in a positive way, but I think the briefcase technique could work in this case as well.

    2. I’m surprised at how easy it is to begin writing a document outlining ways I could benefit the institution I’ve applied to, and that I hadn’t thought of having that with me in the interview before. It’s like I had a script that said that an interview is like an exam; you can only use what you bring in your head.

    3. I have avoided sending out cold emails because I don’t want to seem too annoying to the admissions committee (applicants are strongly discouraged from pestering the admissions office). But I guess you’re only annoying if you’re boring or vague.

  72. I’ve heard the briefcase technique mentioned a gazillion and seven times but never known what it was, thank you for reposting it! Every time it’s mentioned is to laud its effectiveness, but never to criticize it as BS.

    (1) Chase Jarvis has said over and over in his videos and blog what it takes to de-commoditize yourself as an artist, and what he says really resonates with me. Taking technical skill as a given, you need to bring your unique experience, network, ineterpersonal skills, and worldview into what you do so it stands out as something only you can create. My initial reaction to this is to say, “Yea, but who cares about what *I care about and think is great.” His answer is that you just have to take “your thing” and be the best at it, even if it doesn’t seem valuable to someone else–because it will resonate with others, and they will pay for its value. I need to take to his advice.

    (2) I don’t know if you said this, but I’ve started to come around to the idea of, how can you be great at what you do if you’re afraid to take risks for fear of being fired? I used to be a primary education teacher/sports coach, and all the things that really made me valuable to the school, more importantly what meant most to the kids, was things I did “against the rules,” pushing for funds and activities outside of what I should have been able to do. Most of the time I failed, but times I succeeded became some of the kids’ favorite memories at school. It’s tough in an environment where you’re pressured to be creative and stand out, but at the same time are discouraged to do anything different.
    /raises fist giving props to primary teachers

    (3) Besides being afraid of being fired/not hired, it takes a huge personal commitment. A lot of people aren’t sure what they really want to do, and they feel like if they put themselves diving head first into being excellent at something, they’ll be trapping themselves into doing it forever.

  73. 1. The most important way that I could decommoditize myself is to get job referrals through my network. Getting referrals from my network could significantly improve my chances of getting to an interview by, not only standing out from the competition, but also getting opportunities for jobs that haven’t been posted.
    I know that I have a network, but I don’t know how to effectively get in touch with them. A system for doing this would be incredibly helpful.

    2. Looking back to when I graduated from college, I accepted a job that was good, but not exactly what I wanted. I accepted the job because it was the first job that I was offered, and the pay a above average, so I took it. I did not contact my network to help me find for other opportunities. I did not schedule mock interviews with friends or recruiters (I didn’t even really talk to my friends about interviewing, such as which strategies worked, which ones failed, etc.). All I did was put together a resume (which I did not test).

    3. Others don’t do this because they don’t know what to do and simply do what they know. They do what they know how to do, and keep doing that, because they don’t know what the alternative could be. They are also afraid to try the things that they don’t know because they are afraid that they will fail and waste their time/energy.

  74. Seeking a bit of clarification on the BT for interviewing for employee position at new company…

    1. You do this at the *first* meeting with the person managing the position?

    2. Given that even a not-yet-advertised position already has a job description, how does a menu of options make sense? Are you framing it as “yeah, I’ll do everything on that list, but here are the top choices of what I think you *really* want me to take care of for you.”?

  75. Q1: MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself
    A1: Show to the current/potential employers that I am easily capable of taking on higher roles with more responsibilities, etc.

    Q2: What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself?
    A2: It seems hard to convince older people (hiring managers, etc.) that you are capable of doing more when you look at least a decade younger than them (and are). They look and you and say that you are really great but…need more experience…or some other small excuse making you second in the race, but not first. Do the top performers really need to go through the years to get ahead when they are already there? Or is this just an old tradition? How do we get over this and decommoditize? Showing proven record and results doesn’t ring the bell as well as it should…

    Q3: Why don’t more people do this?
    A3: It’s easy and more comforting to sit back, feel sorry for yourself, complain, and do nothing. And we are creatures of comfort and familiarity.
    Action takes some gut. This happens in all areas of live, like going to the gym and so on. Even I have to convince myself pretty much on a daily basis to work out or whatever. After it’s done of course I’m happy I’ve done it but it takes that starter action. Some people would rather bask in their comfort then leave that “safe” zone and take action. Human nature.

  76. 1 What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    My learning ability – I could show the stages of List of Things for Sale with progress and show how quickly I can learn.

    2 What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    That I’m so unique already – I just mask this under layers of bullshit to try and “fit in”. I’m afraid to be who I really am sometimes in case it’s not acceptable, but when really it makes me unique. I love tennis, I love drawing, I love UI design, I love good design wherever it occurs. I need to let this out more and just be myself more – am I curious about something? Ask the question! Do I love how something looks? Tell someone! Is something nicely designed? Say so! Don’t keep it in your head. And let my energy show.

    3 Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

    Easy – it’s because they want to be a “number”. It’s easier that way, to be a cog in a big machine. To just do what’s expected. There’s no risk there. The risk to taking something out that you love and showing it to a client, showing initiative? Well… you might get shot down in flames… or just get the job…!

  77. Bobby V. Berry, Jr. Link to this comment

    What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    —I am not sure what to decommoditize.

    What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    —It did not surprise me how well it worked. It is just I never thought about it that way. I have had many interviews following the Everybody Else path and got nothing for it, except stress and depression.

    Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

    — People don’t do this because it is work and none of their friends or family are doing this. Also, it is outside my comfort-zone.

  78. Numero Uno) I never really thought hard about this, but I haven’t truly prepared for job interviews before. I’ve done the average performer stuff, where I Googled the company and saw their website. I never actually took the chance to talk with people from the company to find out any challenges to tackle. I’d like to change that, especially since it’s looking like I may have a job interview in the future.

    Numero Dos) It surprised me in your article what top performers do to network in an effort to decommoditize themselves. I REALLY want to give that method a try now and send emails out on LinkedIn by next week.

    Numero Tres) LAZINESS. I’m thinking about my little sister right now when she’s applying for work. She just sends out resumes (if she even does that half the time) and doesn’t like to put much effort into her job search. God forbid she actually prepares for an interview. I’ve never seen her do it. That’s why she’s not getting any farther in her working career, in my opinion.

  79. 1. Obviously, there are many ways to decommoditize (thank you so much for offering the short list of the most important ones. disproportionate results at work). Since I’m studying in Orange County, I want a waiter position at restaurant that caters to the rich-lifestyle-centric, upper-middle-class, two working spouses demographic that is so prevalent here.
    Everyone my age wants those tips, though, so it is ESSENTIAL that I decommoditize myself during the interview. I have to show the hiring manager how I’ve taken the time to research and understand their business’s biggest goals and fears, as well as the plans I already have to tackle those challenges for them.

    2. The strangest part of this process is realizing that motivation and information alone do not eliminate the bevy of invisible scripts I have about the job hunt process. I am very much in my own way! (This is what an average performer does. What would a top performer do? I’m starting to see the deep utility of this mindset.) Every time I think of a tactic to try or course of action to take, there are countless thoughts about how I shouldn’t try that deflate me. (“What if that doesn’t work?” “An informational interview could be awkward or embarrassing.” “There are too many good ideas that need to be implemented. Overwhelming.”)

    3. Like I touched on in 2, there are so many invisible scripts that keep people from taking risks and trying things that they aren’t sure will work. The fear of failure that so many straight-A students and other self-proclaimed “perfectionists” are susceptible to is really a fear of having their binary attribute (I AM successful. To fail [ever] would suggest otherwise.) challenged by an apparent loss. As a recovering perfectionist, I advise anyone like this to stop identifying with binary attributes (sexy/ugly, smart/dumb, successful/failure) and realize that we have our whole lives to conduct as many tests and experiments as we like in this grandest of all laboratories, all in the name of constant and ceaseless growth.

    Getting off the soapbox now :P

  80. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    I feel fairly decommoditized already so it’s difficult to claim a single area as most important for action. Developing my network further is an area that I have not spent enough time on recently. I’d also follow as a close second with improving my resume’s impact and creation of scripts for initiating contact regarding my job search.

    What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    The feeling of vulnerability when considering turning to my network for aid in finding my dream job. I have always been willing to aid someone else in achieving their goals, but never really considering doing the same for my own needs. Your posting about being aware of internal scripts brought the feeling of recognition of my own behavior cycle that I want–no need-to break.

    Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

    Fear of failure leads to inactivity and a negative outlook and a lot of internal negative dialogue which effectively stops her from moving forward out of her current situation of unemployment which is draining her savings and causing frequent panic attacks.

  81. Years ago I went specific: I wanted to be a jazz musician and work in “that” particular school of Jazz. I started as a student, paying my fees, I volunteered to all the events organized by the school for free and each time asking for more responsibility (I´ve read Tim Ferriss did this somewhere). Companies are like governments: imperfect machineries were anything can happen (like unexpected guys becoming presidents). Soon I was the director of the school and ¡had to hire employees!, and read hundreds of boring resumes. Once in a while a musician would introduce himself: “Hi, I´ve heard you´re having a jam session this weekend, I would love to play and bring my private students, by the way, I´d like to offer you a master class on this subject I´ve noticed you don´t have at the school…for free”. I would hire this kind of teacher because he eliminates the fear of the manager hiring somebody he´s not completely sure about. And we both never wrote a resume.

    Daniel

  82. “We use words like “How do I know if that will work?” You don’t, but you know for a fact that what you’re doing right now (sending out 200 resumes/month, including a mediocre resumes and writing down your “passions” on a piece of paper) is not working.”

    Doing something over and over again with no different results. Thats the definition of insanity.

    Wrong thinking here from the majority of people, sadly its the same here in Germany.

  83. 1. Resumes and interviewing. There are four law schools in Houston, all of which will be graduating new lawyers in May right alongside me. I need to find ways to make myself stand out from them, even though most have better GPAs and more work experience.

    2. The concept that just sending out a resume and hoping to blow away the interviewer isn’t enough – in fact, that there *Is* more I can do. I thought I was stuck just sending stuff out and hoping, which left me feeling pretty helpless.

    3. It’s hard work. It takes thinking outside of the normal ‘how to get a job’ parameters that parents and teachers and school career offices throw at us.

  84. Call me an oddball but one of my invisible scripts has been that I always believe myself to be a commodity. Thus my lifelong struggle has been to push out of that: I have become a double major in math and physics, I frequent and use lifehacker to automate and improve my daily routines, I am a member of a circus troupe and, until recently, I have been in an a capella group. Of course the motivations are deeper than a simple drive to “be different” and I’m sure I’m not the only singing-juggling-mathematician, but I feel as though I have built up all these potential outlets of decommoditizing myself and yet have never acted on them. The most important area in which I have not yet decommoditized myself? Whatever project is at hand. Currently that’s the job hunt and thus, specifically, I am working on integrating this all into my resume.

    The above examples are ways I think I am different from others (that’s what I w
    as looking for! not “potential outlets of decommoditization”) and from what I understand that is important for decommoditizing but that’s not the entire picture! So a surprising thing to me is how i always considered the two ideas to be one and the same, but decommoditizing is a process and these differences are the materials used in that process. No personal life stories for this second response, I think I got there in the first one since I had never realized that invisible script till just then!

    I think more people would decommoditize themselves if it weren’t for the fear of breaking out of what the majority is doing. With interview preparation, this travels down to friend groups who reinforce the 1-hour google session because everyone else does it, and because the majority is so large that it almost doesn’t sound like there are other options available.

  85. Find companies you want to work for – ask VP, CEO, manager if he or she is hiring ‘x’ (job you want; nb – do your homework). If answer is yes, follow Ramit’s advice. If answer is no, enlist this person into your network and follow Ramit’s advice. No decommoditization via HR or online job boards.

  86. I want to work on the briefcase technique. I like the idea of getting to know people in the team to talk about the challenges and to get an idea of how to solve them.

    People are too afraid to try things because doing something different or change itself can be a difficult experience.

  87. 1) What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    I can design, develop, package, budget, fundraise, oversee, manage, understand legalities, create partnerships, am diplomatic and speak 5 languages. BUT since I have multidisciplinary experience and expertise, HR managers have told me that “it’s hard to know where to place you” because it’s hard to categorize. I was told to create a more skill-oriented CV and always end up feeling like I’m shrinking to fit. Since I’m not the average science or culture employee, oftentimes my CV gets passed by = no results yet, though I have been short-listed for 1 position.

    What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    Fear & insecurity about my abilities. When a friend who is a senior specialist at an int’l organization told me that he was impressed with my CV and that I should aim for more senior positions and avoid lower category ones. Maybe I’m afraid that I’ll bite off more than I can chew? Also, to be honest, due to the fact that recently I was subjected to bullying and machism (I do not work in the US or Europe) and, despite being a 1-woman-show which normally is laudable, had a horrible time with a negligent boss who did nothing to help me – so, I felt attached and very shy about forefronting my abilities – even doubting them as a result of the bullying. So, I decided that I ought to seek some “assistantship” or some “secretarial” position and mimic mediocrity so that I would no longer be subjected to such bad treatment. Mind you, after a trip to Belgium over the holidays, I feel empowered again that I have something to offer & that people would want my skills.

    3) Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.
    My bad reason was “not standing out” so as not to be bullied – but that’s wrong.
    A friend of mine didn’t want to “decomodify” because she didn’t want to have problems with other fundraisers (same city as where I have the bad situation). In this case, it’s fear of ostracism and wagging tongues.
    Another case – a civil servant friend in a European country is trying hard to fit herself into a mold so that she can follow what the “golden path” to recognition & success was until 1989. Unfortunately with the changing world, the “old boys club” model that she wants to follow only recognizes online degrees or continuing ed courses at a prestigious university as 3rd rate, so time & again she bombs when it’s promotion time. Instead of trying to be the equivalent of Harvard undergrad & MBA person, she should highlight her differences & how these represent the electoral population (99.9999% of whom did not attend prestigious schools). My 2 bits

  88. Hi Ramit and crew.
    How did I decommoditise myself to land my dream job? I sent out 1 application 1!?!!! I worked for a service company to a big 5 oil firm as a data technician really barely a librarian. The position was advertised in the newspaper. (Yes they still do that) and I knew the competition would be fierce so I took every key technical phrase they used in their ad and wrote specifically to it while citing job dates, budgets, money saved, employees managed, years spent doing it. The very best I could with grammar spelling sentence structure etc in each of the little boxes provided. I then attached a plain text copy of my cover letter and my focused resume with all of the same key words and examples highlighted. It got me an appointment. I f***up the appointment, I showed up a day early ! now I really stand out of the crowd!! I wasn’t able to talk to the manager but I got to ” chat” with the admin! Don’t ever underestimate the power of an admin… She thought I was nice and funny and eager. After all of the other meetings and interviews were over they asked her when it came down to me and another woman who she liked . She said me! So my new 6 figure job and I have turned a year older this month. Oh yeah about 30 days in I turned up the knowledge they hired me for and saved them my yearly salary for the next twenty years. Win! This year I’m going to do it again probably by feb 1. Im a Member of earn 1k and all of the soul searching and llist writing allowed me to nail the job and know that it was a great fit.

    • Very cool success Catherine – thanks for sharing this – gives me faith again that the key-word method is good :)

  89. I think the areas of writing emails to get coffee with current employees of target companies, and developing knowledge of how to effectively use the Briefcase Technique are some things that would really help me to 1) Find those unadvertised positions and 2) To stand out during interviews, since I feel that I don’t interview well.

    I think more people don’t do this because of a misperception in the relationship between the employer and you. Some people think that by the company posting a job, it means that they are on the ‘needy’ side of the relationship and really motivated to look for someone (the needy walks). However, in reality, the applicant is just one of many people looking for a job, so really they are the needy one. I think this also comes out of the “You are a unique snowflake” BS that you hear in elementary school, people think that employers will take notice of them just because of who they are. I hope schools have stopped teaching this drivel.

    I also think the Briefcase technique is an excellent exercise because it forces you to look at the reality of working at the company, to make sure it will be a good fit for you as well as priming the employer to give you work that you are already interested in solving.

  90. 1) The most important area that I could decommoditize myself is my elevator speech and at my current position. I am insecure and I suspect that an undertone of “request for reassurance” is sneaking into conversations. I am addressing this by bookmarking the positive comments that coworkers make to me. Some recent ones: “You were one of my favorite people to work with” & “S has that project, so I know it will get done”. At work, I am focusing on obtaining assignments that have tangible results that add describable business value. I can then add those to my file of “accomplishments” and refer myself there when I need reassurance.

    2) When I think about the top people, I focus on their strengths. When I think about myself, I focus on the areas I think need improvement. I also carry the “internal scripts” about where I was 5\10 years ago to color what I have accomplished. When I am telling stories to relate past actions to future promise, I am not sure if I should reference how much I have improved in areas. Does it matter what the areas are?

    3) They think that actions speak louder than words, even when your audience hasn’t been around to see the actions. They think hard work matters as much as results and that delivery of results on a low profile\lo value project matters as much as the same results on a high profile\value project. I see this in myself, as well as in others. I think it is something to keep in mind for people who are outside my current company (who wouldn’t have an opportunity to view the daily work habits) as well as the executives\decision makers within (who are too busy to seek this info out).

  91. 1. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.
    I think that specificity would make a huge difference for me. I have no lack of ambition and ideas of big things I want to do, but I never nail them down to specific things and sharpen my focus. This results in me getting big ideas and never following through with them because I lose that focus to something else too quickly.
    2. What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.
    What surprises me is that it doesn’t take THAT much more work to get the extremely disproportionate results that decommoditization brings. How much more work is it really to make a habit of following up with people? How long would it really take to look through my LinkedIn network to see who’s working at companies I would be interested in? It’s certainly harder work than the status quo, but it seems more about the discipline of consistency than putting in 60 hour work weeks. Obviously, it’s hard, because most people don’t do it, but that’s not necessarily because of a sheer volume of work to be done. It goes deeper than that.
    3. Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.
    I think it has the most to do with accepting the status quo and trusting those around them. We’re all taught the same basic and ineffective tactics for our work and career and most people never realize that there is another way. We put blind faith in “the system” that our friends, family, teachers and social groups use to remain average and never really sit and think about why other people get extraordinary results. There’s also a laziness factor in not having the ambition to seek out unique advice and tactics.
    My younger brother is a good example of this. I keep trying to send him good career advice and self development stuff, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. He’s a sophomore in college who’s more focused on partying and sports than his future and it’s easier to just accept the basic stuff he’s told than go out of his way to learn the right way.

  92. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.
    - In my work. I stopped trying to create original English lessons cuz I don’t get any reaction from the students, so I’ve been doing “normal” read-repeat-role-play classes cuz they’re easier and the reaction is still the same. But maybe it’s not. Maybe they secretly enjoyed the original English lessons more and are genuinely bored out of their minds now. Either way, I can’t tell.

    What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.
    TBH, I read what the top performer had to do to prepare for an interview and I said to myself, “I don’t want to do that much work.” I’ve pretty much commoditized myself right there. It’s probably because I haven’t grown to hate my average-ness yet. Being average is comfortable. Being extraordinary means you have to do extra things that put you out of your comfort zone. Like ask someone out for coffee and be rejected – or make a fool out of yourself at the meeting. “They’re going to find out I’m actually just an ordinary person and not a top performer after talking to me for 2 minutes.”
    Maybe if I turn myself into a machine instead of a person who feels things like embarrassment and shame.

    Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.
    Same as above. Because people are scared of embarrassment, shame, failure… basically feelings that separate the average feeling person from the top performers who act like efficient computers who churn out response rate calculations. I’ve yet to break through that “feeling” barrier.

  93. 1. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    I have a great network but only recently began testing email scripts. I noticed I use a lot of weasel words and low competence triggers (even in my own head!) in many of my emails. I say stuff like, “I’m pretty sure I want to work as a web developer,” instead of, “I’m looking for a company that is ahead of the curve on HTML5.”

    2. What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    The idea that managers are not LOOKING for commodities. I used to believe that if I didn’t provide the “right” answer to every interview question, the interviewer would automatically cross me off in her mind. I went in scared and timid with my nerves on fire, which caused me to project poor body language. The interviewer would notice that and be skeptical. Then when I was rejected, I assumed it was because I didn’t provide enough “right” answers. (Did I reach out to the interviewer for feedback on why I was rejected? Of course not.)

    3. Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

    First, it’s easier to do what everyone else is doing, even if it doesn’t work, because there’s a built-in group to commiserate with drowning their sorrows at the local bar all day. Everyone loves commiserating. Second, people believe they ARE a commodity (like I used to), because that’s what society has hammered into their heads (read the book Linchpin to understand why this is so). If you believe you’re a commodity, why would you invest any time to show you aren’t one? You’re so far gone you think it’s true.

  94. I have a friend who was interviewing for a position he really wanted. I told him about the Briefcase technique and suggested that he should use it. His response – “I don’t think it’s that kind of job where you need to do something like that”.

    What do you think was going on there?

  95. 1. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    I feel I need to do a better job on introducing myself and make my long time experience in my field stand out. I know I’m a good asset. I’m just a bad salesman of me.

    2. What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    I don’t know if it really surprises me. The concept of standing out of the rest is not new. However I am curious on how this can be put into action. And that’s why I’ll be at the live event tonight!

    3. Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

    We are afraid of trying new stuff even if we know that the old stuff does not know. The unknown brings uncertainty and in the job hunt you do not want uncertainty.

    It could also be lack of confidence and the inability to find what is the best you have to offer.

    Thanks

  96. Dear Ramit,

    Thank you for sharing all this great material!
    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and started to build up my network. I even now get people to actively get in contact with companies they know or work with to share my resume. I had my resume checked by hiring managers as well as consultants and received feedback on small things to change, but in general it is evaluated very well. Nevertheless, I have not been able to get any response from the companies my resume was given to through another person. Therefore, I am really looking forward to your resume teardown tonight. There must be something that none of the people I have talked to are aware of.

    Now to my question: You explain in one part that a top performer would already have talked to 3 people from the team before having the interview for the job. I am wondering: How do you get people to share this critical information about their company?
    I mean, they would have to share confidential information with an outsider that they don’t even know. How do I get them to do this?
    I feel like the important questions to answer are:
    1. Why should they want to invest time to help me?
    2. Why should they trust me with the information?

    I hope I am not asking things you cover somewhere else and I haven’t been able to pick up from your material.

    Thank you very much!

    Kind Regards

  97. 1) My MA degree will be in Asian Studies — what in the world is that, right — so I’m decommoditizing myself by specifically stating a concentration on Chinese M&A in the USA and US technology transfer in western China when I talk to contacts and design my LinkedIn page. What I’m not doing enough of is working out and experimenting with the story I use to explain why I don’t have an economics or MBA degree. I know that I’ve been studying economics as part of my degree and working with economic analysts both through internships and in my private life, but I don’t yet have a short, specific and interesting story to get the word out.

    2) I came out of the womb analyzing myself. Decommoditizing myself will not be hard in terms of identifying the inner stories that could keep me from achieving goals but rather in terms of being patient enough to systematize my self presentation. I get exciting about self knowledge and readily take action, often too quickly.

    3) Fear of rejection.

  98. 1. I definitely need to redo my resume, and think about how to word and structure it to decommoditize myself. Specifically, I need to figure out how to word and structure my work experience that tells a better story and explains my career transitions.
    2. I am surprised that I already knew about decommoditizing myself and doing the preparation to stand out from other applicants, YET I STILL don’t take the time to do it. When I see a a job opening that fits my search criteria I immediately send off my resume without looking to get in through the back door. It’s weird how natural of a response is it for me to react instantly instead of taking a step back and figuring out the different ways to approach the application.
    3. I believe the number one reason people don’t do this is because they DON’T SPECIFY. It takes an enormous amount of effort to decommoditize yourself in the way you describe above. Most people do not specify exactly the type of job they are looking for so they end up sending out 100s of resumes all over the place. Trying to decommoditize yourself in each of those applications is nearly impossible because it would take forever to do the work needed to stand out to 100s of companies. Only 10 minutes spent writing down one’s dream job would filter out 90% of the jobs they are applying to, thus allowing them to do the necessary preparatory work to stand out.

  99. hi ramith.im so inspired by your site.i wish that there can be an example for nurses like me.in the philippines there are many nurse graduates and all of us end up to work as VOLUNTEERS and worst,we have to actually pay them to allow us gain an experience.i really want to learn more so that i can make this hospitals kneel before me.:-)

  100. [...] doing the important things is more difficult. Cultivating a network, managing our finances, really discovering what we love [...]

  101. Really excellent article. And it is actually very hard to stand out, especially in a post credit crunch society where employers can cherry pick the best employees, you make some excellent suggestions.

  102. I need to be a better networker to the point where I can connect people with others that can help. If someone needs a hand, I want the first thing to pop into their head to be “Jaime probably knows someone that can help with that.” And I want that reputation to precede me. I haven’t gotten there yet because I’ve failed at this a bunch of times. There’ve been a lot of instances where I wanted to connect a friend to someone that could help, but came up empty-handed.

    What surprises me is what sets a top performer above an average one. By just doing more than average, you’ll stand out in an incredible way. It doesn’t even take a lot of effort, I bet I can talk to my friend that’s a hiring manager, and have them do mock interviews with me, video taping and reviewing it.

    I imagine there’s a sort of failure momentum going on. They try a single thing, it doesn’t work, and they don’t know what to do to make it better other than keep trying the same thing. It repeats, and eventually they lose the motivation to succeed. Their brain just can’t imagine them in a better situation after a certain point.

  103. What’s the MOST IMPORTANT area where you could decommoditize yourself — in other words, make yourself stand out — but haven’t? Be specific.

    The most important area is likely during the interview process. My past experience, I do not believe I prepared enough based on what I read on this article. In the future, I will aim to get connected with at least 5 people within the department that the position is hiring for, and from there get 3 coffee interviews to learn their sticking points in order to draft up some ideas for the briefcase technique.

    What surprises you about the idea of decommoditizing yourself? Tell me a story. Really look inside yourself.

    It may sound a bit egotistical but others have already pointed out that I stand out naturally. Based on their feedback, they have stated that I need a bit more confidence and to highlight what I bring to the table. A specific situation arose in which I was to run a information interview with a group of employees from a client. It was the first time I had ever done it, and I was freaking out about doing it. By telling myself that I knew the material, reviewed it, had prepared a list of questions and practiced with a couple group members allowed me to go through and run the interview much better than I believe an average student would have been able to.

    Why don’t more people do this? Be specific. Think of a friend who hasn’t done this and try to get in their heads.

    I think more people don’t do this because it is easier to do what the majority is doing. My friend from high school had always taken the path of least resistance, and continues to. Objectively he would be considered average for someone that has graduated with a university degree. He had a chance and find a job, and has been at it ever since graduating. Although he is good at what he does, it has never seemed to me that he really pursued to become more than salt, though that isn’t to say he isn’t happy with what’s he’s done with his life.

  104. I want to be Film or TV Director. I work part time as an Extra, I spend all day applying for Runner jobs in Media. And yes Im aware I get bad results cos my Resume/ CV is terrible.

    I will commit to making to it better, even if I have no University experience.