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Want a Great Job? Stop Playing by the Rules!

05/19/2015 02:31 pm ET | Updated May 17, 2016

When it comes to finding work-life balance, one of the first steps is getting the right job. Unfortunately, when it comes to getting the right job, most people are going about it all wrong. They're looking at job boards, applying online, and sending bland, formulaic résumés and cover letters -- all but ensuring they'll be completely ignored. The people who are getting noticed -- and getting the jobs they actually want -- are breaking all the rules. Here's how they're doing it.

Solve a real problem

Nina Mufleh really, really wanted to work for Airbnb, the company that is transforming the way millions of people travel. She'd been both a host and a guest of Airbnb members, and fell in love with the company's renegade culture and its revolutionary peer-to-peer approach to hospitality. When she moved from the Middle East to San Francisco, she set her sights on landing a gig with Airbnb.

First, Mufleh tried the traditional route. She sent résumés and cover letters repeatedly to the company, looking for any way in. Though she had an impressive resumé -- including three years as the social media guru for Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan -- she got no response. But she soon realized that she was one of hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of people doing exactly the same thing.

That's when Mufleh decided to break the rules. Showing off her knowledge of the Middle East, her understanding of Airbnb's business needs, and her ability to pitch a business idea, the young go-getter created a website explaining Airbnb's opportunities in the Middle East and promoting her own ability to help the company take advantage. She tweeted a link to her new website to CEO Brian Chesky, Chief Product Officer Joe Gebbia, CTO Nathan Blecharczyk, and CMO Jonathan Mildenhall -- and had responses from Chesky and Mildenhall the very same day.
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Show off your sense of humor

As he finished up his MBA, Elski Felson moved from Pittsburgh to Santa Monica with hopes of scoring a role at mobile video trailblazer Snapchat. Already a bit of a nonconformist, Felson decided right off the bat that a standard paper or online résumé wouldn't cut it. Instead, he decided to create a video résumé, using the company's own platform.

For his video, Felson grabbed phrases directly from the company's job posting and then demonstrated -- in mostly humorous and unconventional ways -- how he met each of the requirements. The result is a goofy, sophomoric statement that clearly communicates Felson's sense of humor, eccentric personality, and, most importantly, his understanding of the product he wanted to support. No word yet on whether this approach worked, but kudos to Felson for creating something that more accurately conveys his experience, expertise, and eccentricity.

Show, don't tell

Just three years out of graduate school, Sasha Fedunchak doesn't have a lengthy list of job experiences. You might be able to brag of your time behind the grill at McDonald's or behind the wheel of a bakery truck (yes, those are both parts of my job experience), but Fedunchak is just getting started.

However, as Fedunchak clearly demonstrates with her eye-catching résumé, a lack of experience is not the same as a lack of expertise. Rather than trying to dazzle potential employers with a bunch of soulless jargon and corporatespeak, she has taken this opportunity to demonstrate her ability to translate ideas into images. Fedunchak's visually appealing, easily scannable document clearly represents a person who understands communication -- and how to stand out from the crowd.
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Break the rules -- and make your own

Whether you're searching for a job or trying to keep your head and your heart in your current job, playing by the old rules is recipe for disappointment and disillusionment. Your best path to integrating your work with a meaningful, fun, and fulfilling life is to break all the rules -- and make your own to take their place.

That's exactly what Sasha Fedunchak, Elski Felson, and Nina Mufleh have done. Discarding the old rules that tell you to blend in with the crowd and hide behind bland clichés, these three have instead chosen to solve real problems, to showcase a sense of humor, and to show what they can do instead of telling. In the process, they've created some new rules that are worth summarizing:

  • Grab their attention: An e-mail, online application, or piece of paper is not enough to grab the attention of a harried hiring manager or HR recruiter. Instead, do something truly unique that grabs their attention and makes them want to learn more.
  • Speak their language: A single boilerplate résumé that you use for every job just won't cut it. Show the hiring manager that you know what they need, understand their business, and can solve their problems. Customize your approach to the employer and type of job.
  • Be yourself: Only horses have "track records" and everyone looking for a job is "results-oriented." Ditch the clichés and give your prospective employer a sense of who you really are. Felson's video might make you want to punch him in the face, but he might be just what a Snapchat hiring manager is looking for. Don't be afraid to scare a few people off. Instead, find the right fit by being true to your unique experiences, expertise, and eccentricities.

This article originally appeared on ErycEyl.com. Subscribe to the list for weekly tips on how to keep your head and your heart while keeping your job.