THE BLOG
01/11/2016 09:24 am ET Updated Jan 10, 2017

Five Career Essentials Not Taught in College

There are 5,000 minnows just like you swimming in your career pond. Your minnow doppelgangers have the same degrees from similar institutions around the world, similar career aspirations, similar credentials, and similar generic responses that fall into the "I am organized, efficient, and do not need excess supervision" camp. All of this sameness fills rows and rows of Times New Roman on boring resumes that flood recipient's inboxes like litter. Entering or climbing up the work force requires separating yourself from the masses at every turn.

Although the following isn't guaranteed to land every opportunity you dream up -- these tips definitely move the advantage into your court and help to diversify you from the other 5,000 minnows.

1. Hack email addresses

The digital brain based economy might have the ability to play havoc on our work/life balance and may have depleted the industrial economy -- but knowing how to use the "connected" nature to your advantage is a strong special power for digital era networking and career climbing.

The case and point for this is that nearly anyone on the planet can be contacted. As Randy Pauch said during his famous last lecture, "The brick walls are there for a reason, to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people." If you really want it the option is out there.

You found the manager, director, or contact at an organization of your choice. If you could only get your information into their hands -- and not the generic "catch all bin" of email correspondences. With a little finagling every company shows their organizational category for email. For example, you want to contact Roy Greene and he works at the Boston Globe. First, you need to find out how the email is organized. A quick search on their site shows @globe.com is the email suffix. Further a quick perusal of any available email addresses at the company shows that first name initial followed by full last name is the formula. Now rgreene@globe.com is your desired and unlisted email address. Most emails either take the first.last@company.com format, first initial last name:flast@company.com or last name first initial combination: lastf@company.com.

2. Be a writer -- the benefits are too great not to partake

This is not about becoming the next great American Novelist but instead to write to be an expert in your field. Specifically, the act of writing career field specific pieces is three-fold. First, it gives you a reason to contact leaders in your area of focus with a real reason for an in-depth conversation. Most of your peers only reach out to those career leaders to ask for jobs/internships -- and this is usually met with a cold shoulder. Interviewing field specific leaders for a piece you plan to publish diminishes the guard and opens the willingness to help.

Second, by writing and publishing in your field you are distinguishing yourself from your peers who only have in-class or limited field experience. Clearly you know more about the field than they do -- as you have written these well-crafted pieces and interviewed many key leaders for them.

Finally, when the time comes to look for an upward moving position you have contacts you now can call on and discuss career strategies. The key change is discussions now revolve in the "I have known you for a while" category as opposed to "I just met you because I want this job" category. The distinction between the two outcomes is significant.

A great source for hosting your writing is the newly evolving platform Medium.com. It hosts top-level writing in all fields and has credibility -- yet anyone can submit pieces to the site. You are guaranteed to have your pieces hosted in a quality platform for the world to see.

3. Get gutsy and plan

In the digital era you are applauded for your successes and your failures evaporate into thin air. Due to this, it is important to be striving and not get comfortable with status quo. Don't settle. Instead ask for extra leadership responsibilities, push your comfort zone, and use your down time effectively (as opposed to endless scrolling of Facebook).

As we bump up levels in life we often are met with an inner voice that says we don't belong at this new plateau. Disregard those thoughts because everybody is amazed at the scenery at the top of a mountain hike -- but after you live on that mountain for a few months the views still might be excellent but not as mesmerizing.

It is equally important to ask yourself where you want to be in five years -- and do something (even extremely small things) to keep making your way to that end goal. If you are in the middle of an ocean on the helm of a sailboat, and wind is in your sails and you are traveling at a good speed, you appear to be heading somewhere. But if you don't have a GPS waypoint you could actually be doing huge circles that are not discernible on the ground vantage point yet your course would quickly show up on a GPS navigation plot line as ridiculous. We need to maximize our traveling in life and not be doing redundant circles.

4. LinkedIn detective work (no premium subscription required)

It has never been easier to find a person online at a company of interest. LinkedIn is an asset. Couple LinkedIn information followed by a quick Google search -- that is a digital superpower.

LinkedIn often only tells us the first name and last initial of a contact we would like to make -- yet currently do not share a common connection with. Unfortunately when you are starting out in the job market we often lack a strong connection framework and are met by this dilemma often. LinkedIn tells us Ron F. is a marketing manager at Atlantic Records. Google search Ron F. marketing at Atlantic Records and now you found him. Comes right up as Ron Fraiser.

So you found a good LinkedIn connection whom you don't know. Let's now unravel how to make small talk:

  1. Find the profile of a person you want to contact in the company you have interest in.
  2. Find what groups they belong to.
  3. Join the group.
  4. Hover over their name to contact them (and hope they are not the 3 percent that change default settings to not accept contact).
  5. Express interest and compliment them on something.
  6. Keep your writing to three or four sentences in length to limit scrolling and make a quick, succinct request.
  7. Thank them for their help.

5. Intrinsic interest and diverse skills win

If you don't need to occasionally wake up at 2 a.m. to jot something down because you are deeply thinking about how to solve a problem, you may be lacking intrinsic interest and be heading in the wrong career direction. The problem with this lack of intrinsic interest in your career is that down the line you will eventually compete with people who do have an authentic intrinsic interest in the job -- and they always win out. Why shouldn't they? They wake up at 2 a.m. because they are truly engaged about the task at hand. They use their subconscious. And they are motivated with more than a paycheck. They live for this and you don't. It makes sense that they should win.

A biology major with a documentary studies minor, a double major in economics and dance, now those are unique combinations. Unique parings make for unique ways to see the world. And in a creative, brain-based, digital economy it is those unique virtues that rise to the top.

It is never too late to get more expertise. There are so many unique skills that can be mastered at an expert level from your house with minimal or no cost. Sites like Lynda.com make this easier than ever.