This past May, my friend Cassidy and I vacationed in Disney World, a place we both love despite being in our mid-20s. One of our favorite attractions during the week was the Dinosaurs ride, so afterward, we decided to get a picture outside. We dutifully stood in line, waiting as other riders all took smiling family photos with the large dinosaur statue outside. Right before it was our turn, a five-year-old got his picture taken solo - and instead of his mom yelling, “Smile, honey!” like every other parent, she told him to make his best dinosaur face.

And we shamelessly decided to copy him in our own photo, which you can see above.

The result? When people thumb through my pictures of the vacation, they always stop on that one and laugh. It’s hands-down my favorite picture from the week, and I know it’s one of Cassidy’s favorites as well. After a vacation, most families have dozens or even hundreds of photos - and that’s nice…but are any of them actually interesting and memorable?

I bring up this picture because the same thing happens with resumes and cover letters. I know people who have literally sent out hundreds of cover letter over the last year and have yet to find a job. The problem doesn’t lie with lack of experience or education in most cases. Simply put, they don’t stand out. Could they do the job? Probably. Could they do it better than the person hired? Maybe. But if you’re not memorable, none of that matters. You fall in the 98% of applications - decent, but nothing special.

Of course you don’t want to be in the 1% of bad applications, but without at least trying something interesting, there’s a good chance that you’ll never make it to the 1% of awesome applications that actually get a call back. Not every employer responds to someone who breaks the mold a bit. Some are looking for that traditional resume and super-professional cover letter, and they’re willing to shift through the 98% to find the right person.

But I think it’s much better to approach job hunting with a balls to the wall attitude. Show some personality in your cover letter. Write a resume that rocks. Be professional, but consider something non-traditional. In my own experiences, when I’ve gone traditional, I’ve been offered interviews maybe 1/3 of the time. Non-traditional? Nine times out of ten I get the call back.

Of course, all of this does depend on your industry. If you’re interested in medical school, non-traditional may bite you in the ass. Looking for a graphic design job? In that case, non-traditional could land you a pretty sweet gig.

At least give it some thought, though. If what you’re doing today isn’t working, perhaps it’s time to stop smiling at the camera and start making dinosaur faces.

If you aren’t yet on my mailing list to receive Career Oomph!, you may want to sign up in the box below - not only will you get my free career motivation newsletter, but I’ll soon be offering a free cover letter clinic to job hunters interested in a non-traditional approach, but not sure where to start!

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