How can students and graduates make sense of the vast amount of job and career advice being fired at them and avoid all sounding the same when they apply for jobs? Being a disciplined maverick helps.

If you are seeking a job today, you are besieged with ‘how to’ lists, secret formulas for success, what to follow or avoid, why you should or mustn’t do this or that. You have advice coming out of your ears, sometimes consistent and other times contradictory. It can be disorienting and contribute to procrastinating about taking action.

It can also lead to conformity, following the path of so many other people that it works against the very thing you need to achieve – differentiate yourself from the competition.Different path

Without doubt, complying with employers’ recruitment processes is important even if they can at times be hugely time-consuming, irritating and cumbersome. Planning your job application and interviews require necessary discipline and attention to detail. Don’t rule yourself out before you get a chance to rule yourself in.

Express yourself

Being disciplined matters, but only up to a point. Employers and recruiters commonly say too many graduates perform poorly at job interviews. Too many provide formulaic, robotic and predictable responses to standard interview questions.

Have those advising, guiding and supporting graduates inadvertently bred too much uniformity and consistency? Or is it a fear factor caused by huge competition and a lack of jobs? That if you go outside what is perceived to be the ‘right’ answer, you immediately lessen your job chances? Bring your personality with you.

Cantona quoteThe aim is to score

I was reminded recently of the dangers of overplaying strengths by a post-match interview from Crystal Palace football manager, Alan Pardew. He suggested his team had become so disciplined they had forgotten how to express themselves. Playing too safe had resulted in not scoring enough goals and a long, winless run.

After going a goal down in his first home game, he introduced a couple of substitutes and asked them to be more maverick – by which he meant unorthodox, more adventurous, prepared to try something different and to take more risks in the attacking end of the field where it mattered. Vindication of this approach came two goals later and a first victory in 9 games.

Being a maverick in business can pay dividends too as CEO, Ricardo Semler, proved at the tail end of the last century. A man ahead of his time, Semler was the founder of hugely successful Brazilian company, Semco, who turned accepted wisdom on its head when he created a genuine democracy in his workplace. Employees were truly empowered and even decided the salaries of their bosses. Read his great story in Maverick!

Bring out your inner maverick

There is no right point of view – Paul Arden

Being a maverick can sometimes be construed as a troublemaker or someone who won’t comply with the rules. So be careful to present yourself in a positive light – more of a free spirit who brings vitality, a different perspective and a healthy questioning of the status quo in order to improve the business, achieve change and enthuse people around you.

Here’s what that kind of maverick might look like as a jobseeker:

  • Got an interesting outside interest? Don’t tell. Show. I was coaching a graduate going for an interview for a teaching role at a school and discovered she had learned sign language. She was able to stand out and demonstrate a range of skills and abilities by teaching the interview panel how to do some basic signs.
  • Got an opinion on the employer’s industry or sector? Stick your neck out and say what you would change for the better and how. Show your values and how they align with the employer’s values. Then link this to the role you are applying for and what only you would bring if they took you on.
  • Got strong views on the workplace? If you get a standard interview question like ‘tell me about a time when you have worked as part of a team’, start with your ‘why’ and say what you believe in about team working (“What’s important about team working for me is stepping in to support your colleagues when the going gets tough. Here’s how I’ve done that before and the impact it had… So you’ll be able to count on me here and I’ll be great for morale”).
  • Got disillusioned with sending off CVs and hearing nothing back or searching job boards for hours? Do what most jobseekers are reluctant to do and speak directly to the hiring managers. Go to events where they hang out, engage with them about their issues and build a series of face-to-face conversations so you can tap into opportunities that are not advertised or even create one as a result. People warm to real people being real, not faceless, two-dimensional names on a screen or a piece of paper.
  • Got a job in mind you really want but don’t know how to get on someone’s radar? Show up, hang around and be a healthy nuisance. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Be an advocate. Be a volunteer. Be a customer. Get them to know you. Make them want you.

What does the idea of being a disciplined maverick prompt for you? How can you be unconventional and independent-minded to help you get the job you want?