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Everyone thinks about pursuing that coveted dream job they may have conjured up during childhood – yet research conducted by LinkedIn of over 8,000 professionals shows that only 30 percent have actually locked one down. Kudos to that 30 percent, but that leaves 70 percent of the labor force still yearning for something different, which suggests we're not managing our career paths the right way.

On top of that, 19 million employed Americans are planning to leave their jobs in the coming year, according to a survey published by Cornerstone OnDemand. With so many Americans on the move, and so few of us still feeling a bit unfulfilled, how can job seekers distinguish themselves better in hopes of finding a more ideal opportunity?

Jay Forte, speaker, author, career coach and owner of Humanetrics, a company that consults organizations on how to capitalize on the strengths of their employees, has some clear-eyed advice as a starting point – "If you blend in, you lose," he says – and some additional suggestions on how to put your own career path on a better track, and stand out from the pack.

Identify a Realistic 'Dream Job'

Step one requires having a clear idea of where your ambition can take you. Before you hit the job boards, spend time journaling, researching, and looking for common themes in your previous jobs, hobbies and talents. (If you're a bit more scientific, download a copy of the career-development classic, What Color Is Your Parachute, and take the various tests.)  In the new age of heightened self awareness, adds Forte, the art of mindfulness, being present and understanding yourself can be invaluable in guiding people towards a realistic dream job. 

"You have to do your homework," says Forte. "You can't bluff this part. Do your work, take great pride and have a huge amount of courage moving forward. Do something outrageous because you're convinced this is right for you. People who have done this step are truly ready to say 'I'm a fit.'"

(Here's another fun exercise that might help: Try an online job-hunting tool such as GigZig. Enter your current job title and the tool taps into a national, community database of related jobs and corresponding salaries that you are most likely to land within five years.)

Make a Bold Introduction

"Don't bore someone with a standard cover letter," Forte says. "Tell me in your own, clear words why you're the perfect fit. If you're bold enough to say that, you have my attention."

Instead of the traditional rehashing of your background and experience, use the piece of paper that's typically occupied by a cover letter to give your future boss three reasons why you should be their first choice. Make it worth your prospective employer's while to read it. Consider telling a relevant and compelling story but don't go overboard. Remember this classic college entrance essay? Here's a brief excerpt:

"...I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes..."

Exude confidence – just don't make stuff up. If it's truly the job you belong in, you don't have any reason not to be confident. "Everybody wants a story," Forte says, "but your story has to fit."

Find a Creative Way to Show Off Your Expertise

A standout example Forte refers to often is the graphic artist who scrapped the boring cover letter and resume combination and created and designed a custom job application that truly showcased his ability as a designer. He hand drew a mock-up newspaper that told his story, outlined his background and experience, and culminated on the last page with him landing his dream job as a designer. 

Another success story: an accountant who applied by listing her assets (which were numerous – talent, education, work ethic) and her liabilities (which were hopefully few) in a spreadsheet format. Unlike the stack of cover letters that came across the employer's desk, this candidate not only stood out, but proved her understanding of the subject matter she would be working with. It may not be a fit for every industry, but it's creative tactics like these that ensure that that truly passionate job seekers don't get lost in the pile.

 

Photo credit: Can Stock