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The Rule of Three (Mistakes) and Your Job Search

What do Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol and the Declaration of Independence have in common? Both that classic piece of literature and the founding document for the United States of America use the Rule of Three. We all remember the “Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come” as they visit Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. And we spent much of our youth learning about “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in grade school. The Rule of Three is a technique that groups three characters or events in a book, speech, comedy or any other form of writing to improve the quality of the message for the reader. Applying this rule to writing and speech improves the cadence, emphasis, and importance of the message shared by the author or speaker.

If only we could apply the Rule of Three to your job search. Let's give it a try. Over the past year working with clients on their job search, I have observed three common mistakes that can have a negative impact on the probability of securing that next job. Pitch, network and brand. Those words don’t exactly rise to the level of a literary classic. But don’t forget them because making any of these three mistakes will have severe consequences for the efficacy of your job search.

No Elevator Pitch

When I meet with a client for an initial consultation, one of the first questions I ask about their job search is if they have developed an elevator pitch. Over 75% of the time the answer is no. For the other 25%, I ask to hear the pitch, and it is a standard, often rambling, summary of their work history and experience. But no pitch or ineffective pitch, 100% of these clients are already fully engaged in the job search writing resumes, cover letters. LinkedIn profiles, networking and interviewing. And the results are predictable. Not enough call backs, not enough interviews, and no job offers. Starting your job search without an elevator pitch is like starting a road trip with no gas in the tank.

Your elevator pitch is the fundamental building block for your entire job search. It is the essence of who you are and the unique value that you can bring to an organization and a specific job. The pitch is the professional summary on your resume and LinkedIn profile. It is the middle paragraph on your cover letter. It is part of your introduction at any networking meeting. And in every interview, your elevator pitch is the answer to the standard question: “Tell me about yourself.” A 60 second, 150-word answer provided as a story in a conversational manner. Don’t start your job search without a pitch.

This article from Indeed provides a basic but solid overview of the job search elevator pitch and how to get started drafting one for your search.

No Networking

When I talk to prospects and clients about their job search network, the most common response is that they are doing a lot of networking and the quality of their network is strong. But when you peel back the onion and ask some second level questions, the reality is more nuanced. The client does not have enough contacts in their network, and their weekly networking activity is not high enough to build and sustain a professional job search network.

You need to identify somewhere between 300 to 450 potential network contacts for your job search network. These are not necessarily going to be your current connections. These targets must be people directly connected to the industries, companies, and positions that you are targeting in your job search. You then need to reach out to at least ten potential contacts each week and complete two to three networking meetings each week. And at each meeting, you need to close by asking for another three potential contacts to add to your network.

My recent article on networking and the resources it highlights is an excellent starting point for getting your networking activities back on track.

No Personal Brand

Take a few minutes and look at the headlines on 20 random LinkedIn profiles and you will see a definite trend. Most of these headlines default to LinkedIn’s standard algorithm of Current Job Title + Current Company. Financial Analyst at Company ABC. Social Media Manager at Company DEF. You get the point. Boring and easily forgettable. Your headline on your LinkedIn profile and your resume are an expression of your personal brand. You need to think of your brand as the image and the message you present online and in person to your network contacts and potential employers. Your brand is what makes you different and unique and enables you to stand out from other job seekers with a compelling value proposition for a future employer.

Your headline and the story it tells is a billboard on the job search superhighway. Recruiters and hiring managers are flying buy at 75 miles per hour. They see that headline on your LinkedIn profile or your resume for maybe 6 to 10 seconds maximum. Brands are not a laundry list of features and specifications. The best and most recognizable brands in the world tell a story and use that narrative to create a lasting and emotional connection with the buyer. If you build your personal brand correctly and with an authentic voice, your customer, the targets in your job search, will not forget about you.

This simple article from The Muse is a great place to start and get your LinkedIn headline into job search fighting shape.

So, there you have it. The Rule of Three but in reverse. Avoid these three common but critical mistakes, and you will power up your job search and get yourself on the most direct path to your next job.

If you like getting your job search advice served up with an authentic voice, a dose of humility, and some popular culture, please subscribe to my AdvantEdge blog.

Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.


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