When you want to get better at something, what do you do? Do you take a class, talk to someone who’s done it, maybe listen to podcasts? Usually, when I want to improve a skill, I read a book.

But when I was a career counselor, it was my job to help people get better at getting hired. It seemed like all the books I read told me the same things. I was passing what I learned on to my students, but they weren’t getting results. You see, the job search wisdom of that time all revolved around four strategies, which you’ve probably heard before:

  1. Apply More – it takes about 2-3 interviews to get an offer, and 6-10 applications to get an interview, apply accordingly
  2. Use Your Network – someone you know knows something about a job for you
  3. Hack Your Resume – online applications use software to scan your resume for the right keywords, use these and you’re in
  4. Volunteer – working for free shows you’re serious and convinces them they can’t get by without you

The trouble was, I was telling my students these things, and most people were trying in vain to make them work. What was missing was a lesson on natural learning styles.

Let me tell you how I got 10x better at fencing, then show you how the same concept works when it comes to getting hired.

I’d always wanted to try fencing, so when I was in college, I decided to go for it. There were no teams or leagues in my town, so I had to drive 70 miles to the next town to take a class. It was for beginners, and I was one of the oldest students there – most were children  between 10 and 13 years old.

Six weeks into the eight week class, I was still getting whipped by those little dudes! Once a week my cohort sparred with the more advanced group, which included some kids who were part of the junior competitive team. Week after week I could barely keep up with them. To put it bluntly, I got my butt kicked over and over.

I was frustrated. Training hard, practicing at home, asking all the questions I could think of, and I still couldn’t manage to score even one touch against them! My coach said I was doing everything right: my form was good, and I was learning quickly.

That was nice to hear, but I felt like I was still stuck in square one.

I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. I didn’t just want good form, I wanted to score touches on the advanced group! So I picked up a copy of a fencing textbook – yeah, actually a thing – and read it cover to cover before my next class.

The whole way I was driving, I was going over the material in my mind. I felt like I’d learned a lot from the book, but was prepared to get whipped once again. After all, how could you get better at a sport by reading a book?

When I got to class, I was pumped. We were sparring against the same group that had been wiping the floor with us for weeks. This time, I got paired up with one of top junior competitors, one of the best in the game.

Then, something amazing happened.

We practiced for maybe a dozen rounds, and I couldn’t believe it – I was scoring!

After we were done, he told me how much I’d improved, and said three words I’ll never forget, “Really good fencing!”

Sure, he was probably taking it easy on me, but STILL! I had 10xed my game, virtually overnight, just by figuring out my natural learning style – reading.

The same thing applies to your job search. When you figure out how you naturally learn best, you can 10x your game as well.

Finding a job is a tough process that most applicants describe as one of the most stressful times in their life. Why make it more stressful than it already is by following advice that’s not geared to your natural style?

If your style is making connections with people, but you’ve always been told to hack your resume, it won’t work as well for you. It was like me at the fencing class – I hadn’t been learning in my natural way.

If you haven’t taken my quiz to discover your style yet, click here to take it now.

It was the same for my career counseling students. I was passing on the latest and greatest job search wisdom, but it still wasn’t working for them because it was not their natural style. It was only when I sat down with the ones who were getting hired and asked them what they were doing differently that I truly understood what was happening.

The frustrated ones were taking my advice, and choosing a strategy that I mentioned above – they were doing it “right,” but it wasn’t working, and they felt stuck.

The successful ones were tapping into their natural style and doing something I hadn’t even thought of at that point – taking matters into their own hands. Starting by contacting companies they actually wanted to work with – even if they weren’t “taking applications.” They did what I did in my class – the equivalent of me picking up that book. And they were getting the results they wanted.

The Four Job Search Styles and What They Mean

I’ve identified four main styles based on how we most naturally look for jobs. We all use a little of each style, but mostly, all of us will fit more into one style than the others.

If you’ve taken my quiz, you’ll know of at least one of the types: The Grinder, The Hacker, The Inventor, and The Networker. Each one inhabits a particular realm and connects things in different ways. Here’s a graphical representation of the four styles.

Job Stlyes Matrix 2

Notice how there are two axes and each is a continuum – Things vs People, and Ideas vs Data. Your style depends on how you most naturally relate to these concepts and use them in your life. Notice also that each style bridges the gap between two concepts and connects one to the other in a unique way.

Each style has two complimentary styles – the ones beside it (vertical and sideways) on the graphic.

Complimentary styles tend to work together nicely since they’re both on the same side of one continuum. For instance, Networkers and Inventors  (vertical) are similar in how they relate to people, but different in how they relate to data or ideas. They both want to share, but they share different things in different ways. Another example is Hackers and Inventors (sideways). They both love ideas, but one works better with things and the other works better with people. They’re both likely to be excited by new ways of improving their job search, but the Hacker may focus on improving her resume, while the Inventor may focus on his interview.

Each style also has an opposite – the one diagonal from it on the graphic.

Opposite styles are often the ones criticizing the other’s strategies for getting hired.  Hackers might say, “There’s too many variables when you try to network – you never know if people actually pass on your information. It’s better to make changes you can control like making sure you have the right keywords on your application.”

Or an Inventor might think, “I don’t have time to be methodical and fill out a ton of apps. I’d rather share a great idea I have to get in the door – it’s all about the interview, anyway.”

Beside each is a phrase that embodies that style. You’ll probably think “yeah!, that’s me!” if you identify with the phrase for that style, and be turned off by the sentiment of your opposite style.

Let’s unpack each one and see what they’re all about.

The Grinder

You’re the grinder if you love to roll up your sleeves, identify the problem, and jump in and get it done.

You inhabit the realm of logic where you see the linear connections between input and output. Your strategy when getting a job is more in, more out, so you scale your efforts to produce the results you want. You know that if you submit more applications, you have a better chance of one of them being a home run. You love checking items off your list and pride yourself on being pragmatic and straightforward.

Your opposite is the Inventor – he’s too busy making Twitter resumes to get any real work done.

Your compliments are the Hacker – she knows how to apply new ideas to the tools you love working with; and the Networker – he’s able to work more naturally with people, but you both see how things get done.

Your friends would likely say that you’re “organized” and “tenacious.” That translates into your job search being a marathon of applications, and you’ve probably set an ambitious goal of so many apps per day. You know it works – it’s math.

You are encouraged by the job search adage that more apps equal more interviews and more interviews equal more job offers. The Grinder is amazing at setting a goal and taking measurable actions to achieve that goal, never giving up until the goal is reached – you’re hired.

The Hacker

You’re the Hacker if you love to step back and see what the most expedient way to your goal is, analyze your path, and take low-risk, high-reward actions.

You inhabit the realm of systems where you see the hidden connections between cause and effect.  You know that the companies you want to work for use software to scan for specific words, and applicants that use those words will get a callback for an interview. You know how to find these words and systematically build your applications so they get past the gatekeepers and into the hands of the people doing the hiring. You’re a designer by nature, always seeking a new way to automate your tedious and repetitive work so you can focus on the work you really love.

Your opposite is the Networker – he’s too busy talking to make the specific changes to his applications that will get him noticed.

Your compliments are the Grinder – you both know it takes directed effort to get things done, but you focus on applying specific effort to where is has the biggest effect; and the Inventor – he’s looking for a better way to do things too, but instead of focusing on the personal side of job search, you relish the intricacies of the system.

Your friends might describe you as “scientific” or “detail-oriented.” That means you spend the most time up front, identifying the most promising openings, and discovering the hottest keywords before ever drawing up an application.

You are empowered by advice about modifying your applications and resumes to be laser-focused. The Hacker is great at designing specific documents that get noticed by machines and people. And getting noticed gets you hired.

The Inventor

You’re the Inventor if you love sharing your latest and greatest ideas with companies you want to work with. People are always asking you for advice on the best way to do things.

You inhabit the realm of innovation where you see new connections that may not have been tried before. You can look at a problem and see many different solutions, applying seemingly unrelated knowledge and experience to solve it. You know that companies are on the lookout for talented people that can fix their problems, and you want to share your solutions with someone who can hire you.

Your opposite is the Grinder – you have great ideas that can’t be communicated on an application. You’d rather focus on finding people to help than some impersonal document anyway.

Your compliments are the Hacker – you both want to find a new path to you goal, but you have a way with people, and she is skilled with strategy; and the Networker – also amazing with people, but he talks about measurable problems, and you love to talk about conceptual solutions.

Your friends might say you’re “creative,” or possibly “entrepreneurial,” and your strategy is to find as many problems you can solve as possible. The Inventor is terrific at seeing a need and knowing how to fill it.

You’re excited by advice to volunteer and show companies that you can help them out and that could turn into a job offer. You’ve never met a puzzle you didn’t like, and once you’ve arranged all the pieces, you’re hired.

The Networker

You’re the Networker if you love to find people who have specialized knowledge or experience, and add them to your circle.

You inhabit the realm of teamwork where you enjoy identifying people’s strengths and connecting them with a solution. A natural-born leader, you’re often the first to speak in a group, and you can strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone. You know companies need people who can see who’s good at what and how to motivate them to accomplish a task.

Your opposite is the Hacker – she’s so caught up in the details, she doesn’t take the time to  build a team to help reach her goal.

Your compliments are the Inventor – he knows how to talk to people too, but you focus on motivating others by keeping your feet on the ground; and the Grinder – he’s also very practical, but focuses on the task while you savor building relationships.

Your friends might describe you as “outgoing,” or even “charismatic.” That means your job search strategy is to make inside connections to companies you admire and ask them to pass along your qualifications to upper management. The Networker excels at identifying and engaging people to get things done.

You get fired up about advice to tap into your (extensive) personal network in order to secure a position you really want. You know that all it takes is getting the right introduction to get hired.

What’s Next

Using your natural style can dramatically improve your results – in hobbies or in job search – because you’re working WITH your mind’s internal cues instead of AGAINST them.

When you know your natural style, you can start taking actions that you feel good about that also get you closer to your goal. I had to discover that I learned best by reading about different ways of doing things before I could connect all the pieces and improve.

You might discover that you’ve been listening to advice that goes against your natural style, leading to frustration, even if you’re “doing it right.”

After reading this, did you discover your job search style? What will you do next to generate results? I’d love to hear about your journey. Let me know in the comments

Until Next Time,
Do Brave Deeds and Endure!
– Ben

Before you jump right in and start Grinding, Hacking, Inventing, or Networking, take a minute to check out my advice for all styles: taking maters into your own hands. Remember? It was the thing that my successful students were doing. I’ve created a quick report on the new way to get hired, and I’d love to share it with you. Click the button below to get your copy now.

While you’re at it, set yourself up for a successful, low-stress job search by investing in your financial future. In 2016, the Federal Reserve Board found that almost half of Americans would be devastated by a $400 emergency. You don’t need that kind of stress in your life as you work on nailing your next career move. Get ahead of that stress by checking out my personal financial coaching service. We’ll work together to destroy your debts, organize your money, and save up a nest egg to get you through any career transition. I look forward to accomplishing something amazing together!