One way to get someone’s attention is to be different. Being different is so easy in a world where most people want to fit in, look like everyone else, sound like everyone else, be like everyone else.

Social psychology research shows that as humans we want to conform to our group, or our “tribe.” Simply said, everything in our wiring is screaming “Don’t stand out!”

Stand Out By Being Different

When you look at people who have achieved professional success you see people who follow their own internal voice and often ignore social convention. These people are successful and get attention precisely because they are willing to stand out. I’ll bet Tony Robbins doesn’t give one hoot what you think about him. Elon Musk doesn’t care if people think he’s crazy to plan a Mars voyage. Lady Gaga is playing strictly for her “Monsters” and by doing so has found herself.

Does it seem like a stretch to compare standing out in a job search to the bold behaviors of creative geniuses? It isn’t. The effort is exactly the same. The only difference is this: People who are willing to stand out to achieve their goals experience the same reluctance you do – but at that moment of hesitation we all feel, they decide to act anyway.

Taking Action Exposes Opportunity

When you take action, when you step out of your comfort zone, you will inevitably and always expose opportunity.

When your behavior is predictable, others will react predictably. When your behavior catches others by surprise, you can alter their behavior patterns and have an opportunity to create opportunity.

Is it important to follow the rules? Yes, certainly, and especially so in professional situations. What I’m suggesting is to do what’s expected, and more.

Here are a few ideas for to get positive attention in a job search:
  1. Make a personal connection. Research people who are working in jobs you want, or companies you are considering. Use LinkedIn to find mutual connections and request an introduction.
  2. Use the employee referral program. Many organizations offer a bonus to employees who refer someone who is later hired. So, when you have a personal connection, ask if they’d like you to mention their name in your application.
  3. Send an email or personal note to the hiring manager after you’ve applied. “I understand you are hiring someone to test your jungle gyms. I’m an experienced climber and have submitted my application on-line. I’d welcome the chance to speak with you personally, learn more about the job and discuss how I can make a contribution to your efforts.
  4. Send an article to the hiring manager that’s relevant to the job or their professional interests.
  5. Demonstrate your research by personalizing your cover letter with the names of people on the search committee
  6. Include relevant information about the company from the news or social media in your cover letter. “I noticed that you were just honored by the State for your investment in green energy. As someone who cares about our carbon footprint, that’s very meaningful and I would be proud to be a part of your efforts.”
  7. Join related professional associations where you can meet people in your field. Does it cost money? Yes, it does. And it’s worth every penny to meet someone in a position to hire you for your next job. When you join a local chapter of a national association it is often significantly less expensive.

The only downside to this approach is that it may make you uncomfortable. So, are you going to let a little discomfort stand between you and the job you want?