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

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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.”

“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 “” 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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  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..


  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!

    • There is a big distinction between thinking big and wishful thinking.

  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?