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To Be Seen as a Professional, You Have to Join the Right Secret Club

One of the main frustrations of people looking for a job tell me is that they do not have access to the right people.  “If they only knew me, they would give me a job!” is a common phrase. They feel like there are secret meetings somewhere where deals are made to give job that they richly deserve to a person whose only qualification is that they have an uncle in the business.  It’s all so unfair and wrong! I’m being kept out of what I’ve earned.

The truth is, there is a secret club where people are making connections and forwarding their careers and getting the opportunities that others aren’t. The only thing is, these clubs are open to anyone who cares to join. You just have to figure out how, and that information is available to everyone who cares to expend the energy to look.

I tell my clients that when you are a professional in a field, it is like you belong to a secret club.  You know who is in the club, and who is not in the club. Here’s an example: Imagine you are at a party, and someone starts talking with you and asks you what you do. Your answer could be about the job title (I’m a videographer), the industry you work for (I work in the frozen foods industry), the function (I’m in sales), the type of activities you do outside of your profession (I train dachshunds to jump rope) or any other thing.  If after saying this, your new friend replies “Me too!”, you might start having a conversation about your new-found commonality. Pretty soon, you will figure out whether this person does in fact have something in common with you, or is a faker. He or she might have no idea about different editing software, shipping issues for frozen food, what it means to close a deal, or what length of jump rope dachshunds need, but whatever it is, it is information that anyone who is serious about your field would have to know, and this has proven this person to be a wannabe.

Now, the secret club can be any list of qualifications, and there are secret clubs that overlap and hold other even more narrow secret clubs.  An example of this is that you can have people who work in marketing in the publishing industry in New York City in the field of college level chemistry textbooks.  Take any combination of those, and you will have a different secret club. Someone working in production for science fiction novels in Denver will have publishing in common, but nothing else.  If a friend works in marketing in a food distributor in Manhattan, she will be in the “marketing in Manhattan” club, but not the “marketing chemistry textbooks in Manhattan” club. To finish this out, the college chemistry professor from New Orleans who is at the American Chemical Society conference will have a beer with you and consider you a part of the chemistry club, but not any of the other subsets.

Once you have your criteria down, you can then make as many subsets as you want, and focus on those that are most important to you (surprisingly, some people don’t care what they do, as long as they get others needs met; check your own needs!)  This will help you to start thinking about what particular subgroup of the human working world is most important for you to locate. You are identifying your own secret clubs you want to join.

Once you have that, then you have to figure out what is important to entry into this club. To do this, you will need to research two keys to your acceptance:

  • Knowing the Password: You want to talk with people in their language, and this is important in so many ways when it comes to career.  Do you know the lingo? Do you know what they title things? Do you call items with the same terms they do? This is particularly important with job titles.  If you say you are a Gaffer, no own outside of the Film industry will really know that you were an electrician. You have to transfer not only the facts, but also your stories into something your target audience will understand.  I have seen numerous people not get interviews because they were looking to do a career change yet kept the same jargon from their previous industry, and no one understood it. Do we hangout in the same social media platforms?
  • Knowing the Handshake: Do you understand what it takes to be seen as a professional in this field?  I like to ask if you’ve walked through the same fires and jumped through the same hoops that other professionals have done.  If you don’t know what these are, you are going to continue to get nowhere. If you need a R.N. certification to work in a hospital nursing department, no amount of tweaking your resume or networking is going to get you in there without having that. You might need to have experience with a certain piece of software (video editors need to know FinalCut Pro or AVID; accountants need to know Microsoft Excel, sales people need to know Salesforce) in order to do their jobs. Every field has its own must have skills, knowledge and experience, and you will need to be able to demonstrate to your audience that you have got them, and explain it in a way that they understand.

This information is available to everyone, but it’s not always the easiest to find, and the information changes all the time.  New job titles change with technical innovations, and regulations can change entire industry outlooks overnight. You will need to do your own research to find out what is current by not only searching the internet in your pajamas, but also getting out and talking to people.

The best way to be seen as a member of a secret club is to talk with someone who is in the club, convince them you are one of them, and have them vouch for you with other members of the club. After that, you are in.

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