When the Competition Becomes Fierce

Happy New Year! I think 2014 has a much better ring to it than 2013, don’t you? I am going to start the new year off with a post on one of my favorite careers: music. Yes, that huge American competition, the Grammys, is coming up at the end of this month. The category, Best Classical Vocal Solo is dominated by four of my favorite performers: Joyce DiDonato, Cecilia Bartoli, Dawn Upshaw and Jonas Kaufman. All possess completely different voices, especially among the mezzo sopranos, yet all recordings up for this award are wonderful. What to do, what to do? I am glad I am not a Grammys judge because I would be hard-pressed to decide.

This dilemma is similar to what hiring managers face when confronted with many excellent candidates and too few jobs to fill. And if you are a job seeker in this new year, you will also be dealing with fierce competition. I was once told in my academic career that my fiercest competitor should be – me. This advice held me in good stead all through college, keeping test and deadline stress at bay. It also helps in developing your own career. However, when you are writing a resume and interviewing for a new job, you cannot just ignore the competition. You should be benchmarking yourself against those other candidates.

One of the best ways to know how you stack up against the competition is to pay careful attention to the job description for the position that you want. Are you using the same words on your resume that are listed in the description? Do you have the knowledge and skills for which the employer is asking? How about certifications and licenses — do you have them or are you willing to get them? Make sure you let the employer know this. Put them on your resume or indicate in your cover letter that your are willing to go the extra mile and obtain anything you need for the job.

You may not know who else is applying for that coveted job, but you DO know yourself — your strengths and what makes you stand out from your competitors. So don’t just repeat buzzwords from the job description on your resume. Ask yourself, “How am I a maverick in this field? How is that going to help my next employer?” Be careful. This takes a bit more finesse, more research into the culture of the company. Will having some unique qualifications help you or hurt you? For example, will it help you to have experience in several related fields for one specific job? Find out by networking. Tap into your family and friends, their contacts and forums on the Internet. Going into the interview armed with this information may very well put you ahead of the competition. Good Luck!

As for who will win Best Classical Vocal Solo at the Grammys this year? I cannot even begin to guess. Everyone who is nominated has put forward their best work. This means that while I am at a loss as to know whom to choose, the ultimate winner is sure to be a stellar musician with an excellent album.


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