Four hundred and four.

The number stares back at me from the screen, its audacity fit for the Neon Sign Museum. How does someone who has spent over 10,000 hours pouring over resumes, interviewing candidates, and hiring people apply for 404 jobs and not land a single one? By most measures, I would be considered an expert. I know what recruiters look for. In any other industry, my level of insider knowledge would put me on a fraud watch-list. I should have an advantage so overwhelming that Floyd Mayweather would be jealous.

So why can’t I find employment? I don’t stand out.

See, I only have an advantage over non-industry people. I’m competing against hundreds of people just like me. Hundreds of people with thousands of hours of experience doing the exact same work as I have done. I’m not special. I do not stand out. If someone put four burgers in front of you, which one would you pick? They came from different places, but all have the same ingredients—all the ones you like, and none of the ones you don’t. Which one do you pick? Or do you pick one at all?

A seemingly recent tactic of employers is something I call the ghost and repost. The employer abruptly ends all communication with those within the recruitment process and then reposts the job. It’s frustrating to see the same role you haven’t heard back from be posted again. While it’s something I would never do as an HR professional, I have a theory: they are waiting for someone who stands out.

With the recent economic downturn, many people are looking for work. The skills and abilities of people in each profession of each industry is a bell curve. Some, quite frankly, suck. Some are exceptional. But most of us are in the middle—and boy, is it crowded!

If you are reading this and are struggling to find work, you are probably waiting for me to impart some life-changing advice to help you stand out from the crowd, and here it is: I can’t answer that. Whatever it is that you do must be authentic or recruiters will sniff you out as a fake. My advice? Spend an obscene amount of time building your own self-awareness. What are you really good at? What is something you do that feels effortless, but makes other people stand up and take notice? If you don’t know, ask people.

These answers may not align with your current career path and that’s OK, but you have to act on it. Get out of your own way. I’m painfully aware self-discovery does not put food on the table. Every rational bone in your body is going to fight it. But I firmly believe there is no such thing as a lack of resources, only a lack of resourcefulness. Things may feel awful right now, but with some tough choices, it will get better.

Featured Image: It’s crucial to find the thing that makes you stand out as a candidate. | Pixabay