Pick up any fashion magazine today and you’ll quickly notice that all the male (and even some of the female) models, in addition to being in obviously excellent physical condition, sport impressive “six-pack” abs—regardless of the product they are modeling, e.g., shirts, blue jeans, underwear, etc., and the manufacturers are trying to sell.
In the fashion industry “six-pack” abdominal muscles (abs) are referred to as the “moneymaker muscles,” and there is a very good reason for that: Slim, trim models who are obviously in excellent physical condition, as indicated in part by their well-developed abs, simply sell products. I mean, when is the last time you saw a successful fashion model with a “beer belly” hanging out of an open shirt a manufacturer was marketing? Like never, right?!
“Moneymaker muscles” of the business world
In many ways, like fashion models, job seekers who are professionally “slim and trim,” and in obviously excellent “shape,” have a distinct advantage over those who are not. I’ll explain this in more detail below, but first, let me ask you a question: Have you ever wondered how fashion models manage to get, and then maintain, such finely toned bodies? What is the secret to “six-pack” abs, for example?
Actually, there are six secrets to getting (and keeping!) “six-pack” abs:
- Stay lean (little or no body fat!)
- Maintain a steady metabolism
- Work out regularly and correctly with weights
- View the abs as being an integral component of a “core” group of related muscles, e.g., lower back, buttocks, etc.
- Maintain repetition in an exercise regimen
- Maintain variety in a regular exercise program
Now, let’s look at each of these six secrets and see how they apply to both fashion models and job seekers.
One of the best-kept secrets in developing “six-pack” (“washboard”) abs is the fact that you must first ensure that your total body fat is maintained at about 10%. No matter how many sit-ups, leg lifts or stomach crunches you do, if there’s too much fat overlaying the muscles the abs will never be seen no matter how developed they become.
The same goes for you when it comes to landing a new job. Everything—and I do mean everything—you present today must be lean. Why? In part, because we live in a texting and Twitter world. Powerful messages that carry a lot of impact must be delivered in 140 characters or less! So, no matter how powerfully developed your skills are, if they are covered with a “layer of fat,” they will never be seen, heard or read!
Here is how to start making sure your job-hunting efforts are lean:
- “Slim down” your résumé, your cover letter and the answers to interview questions. No matter how good you are, no one is going to read a two-page résumé filled with paragraph after paragraph of text. Create a clean résumé with plenty of effective white space and “Twitter”-like bullet points that carry impact, in order to expose the “six-pack” abs of your career to the reader.
- The same goes for an interview. Tone down your rhetoric and make sure your answers to question are brief, concise and very much to the point. Why? Because if you don’t it can derail you on the spot!
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about here. Recently I had a hiring manager with a $5 billion company make this comment about a candidate she interviewed: “I would ask him a question and he would wax on poetically forever with his answer. It got to the point where my eyes were glazing over.” (Surprise! The candidate wasn’t selected for the job.)
Maintain a steady metabolism
People who sport “six-pack” abs generally keep their metabolism steady and even. They accomplish this by eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. As a job hunter you should take the basic same approach, and here is how:
Maintain a steady pace. For example, if you are launching a direct mail campaign, send out, say, just three letters a day. Doesn’t sound like many, but at the end of the week, that’s 15 companies you will have reached out to and by the end of the month, 60 companies. When you follow up with each company 10 days after you have sent the letter, you are able to find relevant information on each company and have three effective follow-ups. (There is much truth in the biblical proverb, “steady plodding brings much progress.”)
Work out regularly and correctly with weights
Abdominal and cardiovascular exercise, alone, will not develop impressive “six-pack” abs. An appropriate, effective weight-lifting routine needs to be weaved into the entire process. Weightlifting develops power and bulks the muscles, which of course include the abs.
When it comes to job-hunting, you “bulk up” your “career muscles” by having quantifiable accomplishments and achievements.
What have you done to make a company money, or to save a company money, or both? How can this be expressed in terms of dollars, numbers and percentages?
As I said above, “six-pack” abs-sporting models develop their entire core group of muscles, not just their abs. Likewise, the core of an effective job-hunting campaign consists of all aspects of your marketing approach and materials. For example, I have seen candidates spend days on their résumés just to blow an opportunity by using an ineffective, lame Thank-You letter/note, or being ill-prepared for an interview, or by leaving bland, boring, lame voice mail messages!
Just as 10 sit-ups a day won’t develop a “six-pack,” neither will just one connection with a company spark an interview. These days hiring managers are frazzled, sometimes beyond belief. To say that some are stretched very thin is to engage in gross understatement, and responding to your communication usually is not on their list of “top 100” things to do that day. It takes repetition to break through the clutter, to gain “mindshare” of the hiring manager and to help him/her understand why he/she should speak with you. (This process of repetition in marketing, by the way, is referred to as a “touch plan,” and it is crucial that every “touch” deliver maximum value to the recipient of that “touch,” e.g., a hiring manager.)
Doing sit-ups alone will not develop the abs into the “money making muscle” for models, and today, one job-hunting technique will seldom land you the “money making” job.
In a powerful and effective career search, you must utilize all channels to market, which include, among other things, a direct mail campaign (which is working the best right now), picking up the telephone, effective networking, selectively applying for positions online, etc. (The major problem with applying online for jobs is that, for many job seekers, it tends to become the principal job-hunting activity, not just an integral part of an overall job-hunting strategy/approach. That’s similar to a model just doing sit-ups and expecting to develop “washboard” abs!)
Clearly, becoming—and staying!—a top, successful fashion model is certainly not easy. As we’ve seen, it takes a lot of hard work and an unflagging dedication/devotion to establishing and maintaining a strict regimen of oftentimes repetitive exercises and key tasks. Believe me when I tell you that the same general approach and principles apply to becoming and staying a top, successful job seeker in today’s extremely challenging job market.
If you’re not now adhering to (and practicing) the six principles (or secrets) outlined in this blog that will brand you as a top candidate, then your next move is obvious, isn’t it? And who knows, maybe now that you know the secrets of developing physical “six-pack” abs, you might also decide to start working on those for yourself!
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.