Find Your Dream Job, Episode 293:
How to Identify What Makes You Fabulous, with Kyle Elliott
Airdate: April 28, 2021
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.
Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by Top Resume. Top Resume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.
Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume.
Employers hire candidates who stand out. So what makes you different from your competitors?
Our guest today says that knowing what makes you distinctive is the key to getting the job you want.
Kyle Elliott is here to talk about how to identify what makes you fabulous.
He’s the career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com.
Kyle’s clients have landed jobs at Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and nearly every other Fortune 500 company you can think of.
He joins us from Santa Barbara, California.
Kyle, here’s where I’d like to begin, why is it important in a job search to know what makes you fabulous?
There’s more competition than ever before to land a job. There’s less supply as a result of the global pandemic, and there’s more demand as a result of more people being unemployed, so if you want to find a job, you have to figure out what sets you apart from the other 250, 500,1,000+ people applying for that role. Your job as a job seeker is to figure out, here’s what sets me apart from everyone else applying for this role, and then to market yourself using that material, and put it on your resume, your cover letter, your LinkedIn, in interviewing, and say, “Here’s what sets me apart.” To make the recruiter’s job and the hiring manager’s job easier.
In a job search, Kyle, shouldn’t you talk about an employer’s needs? Not just about yourself?
Absolutely. Most people, when they go through their job search, they’re already talking about the employer’s needs. They’re saying, “Here’s what you have to offer, and here’s my experience that aligns with it.” Most people have that down, they’ve got their bases covered there, and then what happens is, you may make it past that first screening round, but then to make it past that second and third round, to land a role, you really have to say, “Here’s what sets me apart from everyone else who is also meeting the role expectations and has all the qualifications.”
In the clients that you work with and in your experience, Kyle, do you find that most job seekers know what makes them fabulous?
Most of them, deep down, once we do some internal diving, know what sets them apart but at the surface level, a lot of people struggle with that. One of the first questions I ask is, “What sets you apart from everyone else applying for this, let’s say product marketing manager at Facebook?” and my clients just freeze and I say, “Okay, let’s work on that. Let’s figure out what sets you apart from everyone else.” Because a lot of people struggle.
They’re so focused on saying, “Here’s my experience, my skills, my education,” that they struggle to dive deeper and say, “Okay, here’s what sets me apart.” But then once we do some deep diving, once we ask other people for some feedback, which is one of the tools I recommend using, and once we look back at the feedback they’ve already received through performance evaluations, letters of recommendation, testimonials, they realize other people have already done a lot of the work for them of saying, “Here’s what sets you apart from everyone else.”
When you work with someone to do that kind of work and they review those documents and get feedback from colleagues and friends and family, perhaps, what kind of statements do you look for that are going to matter to employers?
Yes, so I don’t want just general statements of, “Here’s what sets me apart from everyone else.” I’m 7 feet tall, for example; unless you’re applying for a basketball job, that’s not going to matter. Instead, I want to know what sets you apart from other people that’s also going to be a benefit to your employer. For example, one of my clients spoke 5 languages and was in a business development role that was a global executive role, so that’s something that you can really harness to your advantage and say, “Hey, here’s how I’ve leveraged my fluency in 5 languages.” To then go out and secure new business, to develop powerful partnerships, and secure multimillion-dollar contracts. So really think about what sets you apart and how that’s a benefit to the employer.
I’d always ask my clients, “Okay, why does this matter? Why would the CEO of your company care about this, and if you can’t give an answer you need to keep refining what that is that sets you apart from other people.
I’m glad you’re making that point because, with some candidates, I think they believe that the skills by themselves or the credentials should make the sale with the employer, but it doesn’t work like that, does it, Kyle?
No, I think of a Bell curve. A lot of people, when they’re job searching, are in the middle of that Bell curve. I have people come to me and say, “Kyle, I’ve applied to 200 jobs. I’m qualified for these jobs.” And I say, “Yes, you are, you match everything in this job posting, and so does 65, 75% of people who are also applying for this role.” So what you want to do is get further right on that Bell curve and say, “Yes, I match all of the qualifications that you’re looking for, and here’s what I also have that no one else has to offer.”
Instead of competing against everyone else, you’re saying, “Here’s everyone else in one pile, and then here’s me, and you’re not going to find anyone else that has these same qualifications and skills and experiences that I bring.”
Talk not only about what you offer but why it matters to that particular employer.
Exactly, you really wanted to connect the dots on that. That’s something that I’ll see job seekers forget about sometimes. They’ll share these amazing factoids or experiences or stories, but not connect the dots and say, “This is why it matters for you.”
So I always encourage people to say, “So what?” Ask yourself that, so what, every time you share a fact on your resume. Okay, “I have 5 years of experience working in Europe.” Okay, so what? Why would that matter if you’re applying to Facebook? So you really want to connect the dots every time you share something on your resume or LinkedIn or during an interview.
What’s your best tip, Kyle, for figuring out why it might matter to a particular employer because you’ve got that skill or qualification or credential, but how do you figure out the why when you’re approaching a particular company?
I love looking at the job posting, so that’s one of my favorite things; look at that job posting and see what they’re looking for. So say, “Here’s what makes me fabulous, and here’s why it matters.” And speak to their job posting. You can literally pull language from the job posting and then massage it to fit, so say, “I offer this and it matters because…” and then use language from the job posting, “Because you’re looking for someone with global experience.” And then you’re connecting the dots for that recruiter who’s doing that initial screening, and then you’re also connecting the dots for the hiring manager who’s then going to be doing that second or third interview, most likely.
Well, let’s step back and talk about how to identify what makes you fabulous, which you mentioned at one point, was to reach out to colleagues, family, and friends, look at evaluations, but is there a first step that you always recommend, Kyle?
Yes, so I want people listening to visualize a Venn Diagram, and on the left side, you have who you were as a child, and we’ll come back to that in a moment. But on the right side, you have who you are now, and in that right side of the Venn diagram, I want you to put those letters of recommendation that we talked about, your testimonials that you’ve received, and then one of my favorite activities for job seekers to do is to text three or four, five, friends, colleagues, current or former supervisors, and say, “What makes me fabulous?” And see what they say and put those responses on the right side of that Venn Diagram. So you have not only what people are saying makes you fabulous but previous feedback you’ve received as well from those performance evaluations and letters of recommendations.
Then on your left side, you have what lit you up as a child. What did people recognize about you, or what did your parents say, and when you think about yourself, what brought you joy as a child? And then the overlap of these two is what’s been there all along. Who you were as a child and what you enjoyed, what you’re recognized for now, and that overlap is really what makes you fabulous at your core. It’s stayed with you over the last 20, 30, 40, 50 years, and has remained constant. That’s what makes you fabulous.
In your work with your clients, do you find that they might be reluctant to send those types of text messages to colleagues and friends?
I find sometimes that they’re reluctant and then as soon as they get that first response, at least ⅔ of people start crying, and they’re not used to getting this positive feedback. You know, when we think of feedback, it’s always negative, or almost always negative and when they get this positive feedback, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing.” So I encourage people to set it as their screen saver on their phone or print it out and post it, and then they’re like, “Man, I’m going to do more than three people, Kyle. I’m going to do 10, I’m going to do 20, I’m just going to text everybody I know and let me send some Facebook messages.” So I find people are a little hesitant at first but then once they do it, they get such great feedback and it’s so helpful in navigating the job search.
Talk more, Kyle, about why it’s important to look back at what interested us as children. Don’t we grow out of our childhood interests?
I find with my clients, when they’re unhappy at work or when they’re struggling to say, “Who am I?” I was just on a coaching conversation with someone who said, “Kyle, I just don’t know who I am at my core.” When we were children we didn’t have masks as much, and what I mean is now, when we think about, here’s who I am at work, in my career, there tends to be this mask of professionalism or this mask of, “I need to make a salary. What’s going to make me money?” Or, “Here’s what I should do.”
I think of it as the should monster of should, should, should. I should act like this, I should be doing this for a career, and when we were children, we didn’t have that mask, or not as much. So, I like looking at our childhood and seeing where people were without that mask, and see, can we pull some of that to where you are now? And when people are unhappy doing that, I’ve found, if we inject in more of what lit them up as a child, it can reinvigorate some of that energy as an adult.
Kyle, I want to take a break and when we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Kyle Elliot about how to identify what makes you fabulous.
Do you have a fabulous resume?
Ask an expert.
Go to macslist.org/topresume.
A Top Resume writer will check out your resume for free.
Go to macslist.org/topresume.
You’ll find out how you can fix your resume right away.
Or you can hire Top Resume to do it for you.
Get a resume as fabulous as you.
Go to maclist.org/topresume.
Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Kyle Elliott.
He’s the career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com. His clients have landed jobs at Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and nearly every other Fortune 500 company you can think of.
He joins us today from Santa Barbara, California.
Now, Kyle, before the break, we were talking about your suggestion that a listener create a Venn Diagram, and on one side put testimonials from friends and colleagues, people who know you well, and on the other, a list of things that interested you as a child, and in the center, those are the things that make you fabulous.
When you have that Venn Diagram, what’s the next step? What do you do with that information, Kyle?
Yes, so once you’ve identified the overlap, and what’s in the middle, and what sets you apart from other job seekers, your role is then to communicate that. So take that Venn Diagram and then look at your resume, and say, “Okay, the overlap here is that for the last 20-30 years, I’ve been creative. Everything that I do is creative, yet I’m in finance. I bring creativity to it, so let’s make sure I put creativity on my resume, and there’s creativity on my LinkedIn, and when I interview, I share my creativity.” Or if on your Venn Diagram, it shows a lot of global experience, make sure on your resume, you talk about it, your LinkedIn you talk about it, when interviewing, you talk about it.
I really think of that Venn Diagram as a checklist that you can take as you navigate your job search.
As you work with clients, do you find that they’re surprised at what’s in the center there?
I find, oftentimes, people know what makes them fabulous at a high level and they’re able to name one or two things, and then once I say, “Okay, what else? What else? What else?” And I ask them this, maybe a dozen times, until they run out. And I have one rule when I’m working with clients, and that is, “I don’t know,” is not an answer. And so they’ll keep going and going, and once we get past the first few, they’re surprised with what comes up and what they start remembering.
Positive feedback they’d been given that they’d forgotten about or things that lit them up as a child that now shows up at work. So it’s so powerful to see what surprises them and what lights them up that they forget about or think that’s common. They may say, “I just thought everyone approached work this way.” But really they did it in a unique way.
What happens next, once you have this information? Do you find it’s challenging or easy for your clients to talk about what makes them fabulous, both on the resume, perhaps in job interviews, or in other professional settings?
Some of my clients really find it a challenge to show up and share what sets them apart from other people. There’s a lot of fear around showing up authentically and saying, “Here’s what sets me apart from everyone else.”
People are afraid that if they show up without that mask, if they show up that authentically, they might be rejected, and that’s one of the biggest fears people have, is being rejected. However, on the flip side, what also scares my clients, is, “Kyle, what if I show up as my authentic self, they accept me, and then I have to show up as my authentic self day after day after day?”
On either side of that equation, there’s a lot of fear that people have, and it’s a huge risk showing up as yourself or showing up inauthentically. Either way, it’s a risk.
Can you talk more about that fear that people have of showing up as your authentic self day after day? Why is that a challenge?
It is so vulnerable to show up as yourself because what if people reject your authentic self? My clients share that they’re afraid to show up as their authentic selves because they say, “What if they reject me? What if they don’t like me? What if I’m just not a fit and then it becomes personal?”
But if they don’t show up authentically, if they just share what’s on the surface, if they’re rejected, it’s not as personal and people don’t want to make it personal and that’s where a lot of the fear lies, when people are afraid to be taken…for it to be personal and that rejection to be personal, rather than objective.
In a job search, often candidates try to understand what the employer wants and presents that in that mask or that face but you’re arguing that…or your point is that you benefit if you do the opposite. Why is that, Kyle, why is presenting your authentic self going to help you in your job search?
Yes, employers want candidates who are authentic, and what’s going to happen is, at some point, this mask is going to come off. I work with clients who are often unhappy in their current environment and what we realize in those scenarios is that either the employer had a mask, where what they market is not the same as what the actual environment is like, or the candidate had a mask. How they showed up in the interview is different than how they show up every day at work. So if you remove the mask, what’s going to happen is that you’re going to show up the same during your interview as you will on day one, day thirty, day ninety, and throughout your employment. So there’s not this risk of you feeling catfished, let’s say, and going in and the organization being different or you being different, so everyone can come in and be authentic and you’re more likely to be happy in that environment.
Any tips for job seekers who are in an interview and talking to an employer about an opportunity, and wondering if maybe the employer is wearing a mask? How can you suss that out?
Yeah, so one of my favorite tips is to ask direct, assertive questions about the culture. So this is actually from one of my friends who is also a coach; she just suggests asking, “If there was one thing you could change about the culture here, what would it be and why?” And there I find it’s really difficult for people to just make something up about the culture that they would change, but instead, it gets that interviewer to be direct and say, “Here’s something I would change.” And that can give you an idea to see, is this company is open to change and how do they view their own culture.
Then after the interview, I’m a huge proponent of reaching out to people who currently work at the company, and who have previously worked at the company on LinkedIn, and say, “Hey, I see you worked at Facebook,” for example. “I have an interview at Facebook, or I’ve just had an interview at Facebook. Can you tell me what it’s like working there? What do you like about the culture? What do you not like? What would you change?”
Then really hear from the inside what it’s like.
Is that a conversation that you can have via LinkedIn messages or emails, or do you recommend doing it by Zoom or by telephone?
Either way. I would go with what that person who you’re reaching out to prefers. Some people like Zoom, some people like LinkedIn messages or emails where you can go back and forth. I would really just focus on getting that information that you need. And then there’s also platforms like Blind, Reddit, Glass Door, where you can also learn more about that organization and really see what people are saying about the culture there. There is so much information out there, that employers can no longer hide what their culture is like, or it’s more difficult to hide what their culture is like. So then what you can do is go out there and say, “Okay, is what their marketing on their career website, is their employer brand really matching the employee experience?”
What advice do you have for a listener who might be concerned about the risk of both doing things that feel uncomfortable, that might be tying into their authentic self, but it’s new and it might involve failure?
What I encourage people to do is think about some of the best moments in your life. For me, that was proposing to my partner, it was moving to Santa Barbara (we just moved here last year), it was leaving my full-time job to run my business, caffeinatedkyle.com full-time. All of these great moments have one thing in common, and it’s risk. So if you want more great moments in your life, you have to take more risks. And one of the greatest moments I’ve found in my clients’ lives is owning their fabulousness and sharing it and showing up authentically.
It’s a huge risk, but just as I shared, all of the great moments in our lives are associated with huge risks, so if we take more risks, we’re going to have great moments, even if that risk is showing up and sharing your fabulousness during an interview or on your resume or on LinkedIn.
Any advice, Kyle, on how to manage that risk? You want to take chances but you don’t want to overdo it; what do you see your clients do when they try to manage that risk?
I’m a huge fan of having a sounding board. Making sure that you have mentors who are where you want to be in the next 3, 4, 5, 10 years, investing in coaches, and then ensuring that you have people who are willing to give you real, honest feedback. I think there’s one thing to have a mom or family member or partner who says, “Okay, that looks great.” But you also need people in your life who will say, “No, I’m not a fan of this. Let’s change that.”
I remember a supervisor when I sent an email out, she came in and said, “Kyle, this is a horrible email. I don’t like it, and here’s how you can change it.” So you want to make sure that you have those people on your team who will give you that honest, correct, assertive feedback that you deserve.
Well, Kyle, it’s been a terrific conversation. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
Beyond my one-on-one coaching that I do with clients, career coaching, interview coaching, resume writing, I am also in the 5th semester of a doctorate in education program. So I’m currently doing research on student mental health and the role that storytelling plays in mental health stigma. So while my full-time job running my business is helping people tell their career stories, I’m also now researching how storytelling impacts mental health. That’s what’s next is really saying the impact that storytelling can have on mental health and mental health stigma.
I know listeners can learn more about you and the services that you offer by visiting caffeinatedkyle.com.
Now, Kyle, given all of the great advice that you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing that you want a listener to remember about how to identify what makes you fabulous?
It is an incredibly competitive job market out there. We have more candidates than ever before for far fewer positions. If you want to stand out, you have to figure out what sets you apart from other people and it is a huge risk to share what sets you apart from other people and to show up authentically. But know that the best moments in your life are associated with risk, and if you take this risk it’s going to be worth it. You’re going to have more great moments, including, hopefully, landing a job that you love.
Make sure you never miss an episode of Find Your Dream Job.
Subscribe to our free podcast newsletter.
You’ll get information about our guests, free job search articles, and transcripts of every show.
Go to macslist.org/shownotes.
Again, that’s macslist.org/shownotes.
Next week, our guest will be Dr. Tega Edwin. She’s a coach who helps women unhappy at work find a fulfilling career.
Many of us tell stories about our abilities that just aren’t true. This negative self-talk can sabotage your job search and your career.
Tega says it takes a strategy and patience to overcome these doubts. She and I will talk about why limiting career beliefs matter and how to beat them.
Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.