When your job search sounds off key — finding the right pitch for you

You know when you’re singing out of your natural vocal range.  Maybe there’s a crack from straining to reach a high note or a grunt from landing too low.  It’s the same with searching for a job.  You know when you’re off key — and probably others pick up on it as well.

Job searching off key means singing so far out of your natural range that you hear it from the very first note.  But how to reconcile this twinge of recognition with the seemingly one-size-fits-all advice coming from every direction? Without meaning to belabor the metaphor, a simple sound check is a good place to start.  Start with the tactics you probably use  most often — your finely honed “elevator speech,” your LinkedIn profile and the resume you painstakingly crafted before customizing it for specific roles.

Let’s take the elevator speech, your opportunity to wow anyone in front of you in 30 seconds or less.  The challenge is, unless you are a pitching an investment opportunity on the reality show “Shark Tank,” many of these can sound too canned and ramped up for most listening ears.  Try describing something that sets you apart from the crowd in a couple of sentences and talk in your most natural voice, cadence, pitch and all. If your natural speaking style is fast and animated, great. If it’s thoughtful and a bit lower key, bravo as well.  Your goal is to deliver a message that gets attention — but also one that you can stand behind and reinforce without sounding strained or phony.

Ditto for your resume.  Does yours sound like an endless string of “keywords” but devoid of soul —  words that describe you and not a thousand interchangeable others? While you want to use appropriately chosen key words reflective of both your field and the roles you are targeting, your own voice has to chime in as well.  Try this  simple test:  read your resume intro aloud.  If you find yourself tripping over the words, or worse, eyes glazing over from a jargon-laden monotone, you’ve likely lost the reader as well.

As a recruiter specializing in the communication field, I’ve probably seen some of the most eloquently written resumes out there.  And yet, even the former journalists and poets who have channeled their talents into corporate communication roles can easily fall prey to using indistinguishable resume-speak rather than the crisp, compelling language that made them successful in the first place.  In this case, if your role as a communicator is to translate jargon into readable and actionable language for diverse audiences,  the resume presents a golden opportunity to illustrate your ability to do just that.

Finally, your LinkedIn profile offers an unparalleled opportunity to put your real voice out there. Here you can actually talk about yourself in the first person, and there are no time or space limitations.

Bottom line:  the key to finding the just-right pitch — in every sense of the word — is to make your job search an extension of your most comfortable self. Consider the alternative: if you sell yourself to a prospective employer in someone else’s voice, what happens when you’re on the job and they ask you to sing?