Want To Be Memorable? Be Specific.

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Posted by The Editors on August 26, 2011
Want To Be Memorable? Be Specific.

I want to tell you about Details (that’s a capital “D”). No, not the men’s magazine—the small stuff, the place where, according to the axiom, the devil is. All the little things that happen in everyday interaction.

While reading a collection of essays by David Foster Wallace during a recent trip, I was impressed by the power of details and the author’s ability to recall them. It made me think about how a good memory and the ability to observe are invaluable tools in the job search. As you make contacts and apply for jobs, you want to be memorable, and recalling details can help you make an impression and tell a convincing story to the organization you want to work for.

Remembering the details is critically important in making contacts during your career search. You don’t have to have a photographic memory for this. For example, at a career fair, carrying a notebook and pen can furnish the kind of details you’ll need for your follow up email. After each discussion, take note: What did you talk about? It wasn’t just “a job,” or even “a marketing job”; it was about your skills and interests and how they might fit with a role at the company.

Including something specific about the company’s different departments or about a new product or initiative is a strong, business-minded move. However, any topic that might have strayed from the regular conversation or added depth to what you were already discussing—whether it was professional sports, the weather in the city where the company’s headquartered, or a nearby, must-see landmark—can be equally effective in helping you stand out.

You’ll face a similar pressure to deliver on the details when you send a LinkedIn request to add a recruiter, the supervisor for your internship, or any kind of new professional contact to your network. (Wait, don’t tell me you just use the default message! “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”—really?) If you’re adding a contact within days (or even hours) of a conversation you had, you simply must include some tidbit from or reference to the discussion you shared: something that you just couldn’t get off your mind, or something that spurred you to do some additional research.

The ability to observe and to be aware of others links up nicely with your ability to know yourself and craft your story. If you can notice the questions people ask, the things they like, and the topics they return to again and again, you’ll know just how to appeal to them with the story you tell about yourself. To the company you want to work for, that story should tell who you are, what you do, how you can help them, and why they should care. That’s how you can line up your story line up with the employer's story, tailor your strengths to match theirs or, if you’ve really observed carefully, how your strengths can address their weaknesses.

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