If you are clamoring for a promotion or trying to get your first job, just remember that you are competing against thousands who, like you, have a master degree, or at a very minimum an undergraduate degree, some even a PhD. So how do you break in? Prove you can do the job better than your competitors can.

Or, a job similar to the one you are applying for. Bring your proof to the interview and outline your proof in your resume. And, make your proof stand out so the Human Resource Department that sorts through incoming resumes has a clue to put yours in the pile of “Consider” candidates.

Most HR departments know so little of what makes for a successful applicant for the job being applied for that they will simply assemble a fat list of resumes and send that on to the person who is hiring to fill a position. That person may receive over a thousand resumes. Think about what that person is looking for. The obvious lazy resumes will be deleted or dropped in the garbage can, those with smudges, silly graphics, terrible grammar, and so on. The rest will be examined only for a few seconds, quite literally, in the hopes of something RELEVANT TO THE JOB popping off the page.

What pops off a page? Your successes.

If you are applying for a job, think of situations in which you have proven you can actually do THAT  job and make them stand out on your resume. For example, if you are applying for a position as a stock trader, then show a list of all your trades, your ability to handle short sales, bond trading, intra-day trading and long and short selling. If applying for a sales job, extroverts are wanted and so are those who have experience leading groups, persuading others, and so on. You’ll have to use your imagination if you are not already coming from an exact same job. Or if you are trying to leverage your existing job to go up a notch or two on the corporate ladder, you’ll need to show proof that you faced situations in your current job that will emulate situations you’ll encounter on the next job up the ladder.

When I was market researcher, I did a great deal of extra work, on personal time, to try to find needs of the division to which I was conducting research and creating research reports. Most people would stop at that, but I went one better. I used the extra information I discovered on my own to invent products that may appeal to the divisions and provide the divisions with a new income stream. I scored a direct hit with one such innovation and subsequently won full exposure to all the decision makers in that division as we unravelled a production and sales plan. I then applied for a management position in that division and won my first management job.

When I was running major divisions inside of a very large company and doing the hiring, one hiring experience stands out in my mind. One applicant for the sales position separated himself from the hundreds of other who applied for that same position. He had invested his personal time to meet with several of our field representatives and our distributors to learn enough about our product to land several tentative orders. The discussion switched to how he had gone about that. No one else had done that.  Would you hire such a person? I did. And it worked out very well for our company.

Maybe your volunteer activities show attributes that may parallel those on the job to which you are applying? You may have to stretch your imagination. But if you dig deeply enough you ought to be able to uncover some successes that can be used to show how you can do the job you desire, and do it better than the equally, academically-qualified, candidates you are competing against.