Do Women Have An Edge In The Job Search?

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Gail Belsky career changeLately, I've been thinking about the issue of gender stereotyping when it comes to job hunting. It's totally un-PC to say that women are better at making personal connections than men, but that's exactly what Sam Pease, a vice president at the Boston career-coaching and job search firm, New Directions, told me when I asked him about it. And I totally agree.
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"Men tend to be less open about needing things. Women, generally speaking, are better at it," says Pease. "They're more honest about what they're looking for, and about what they're good at. Men want to put it in a box; they don't want to think about it from an emotional standpoint."

In fact, it dawned on me that almost all of the comments and messages I've received in response to this blog have come from women. It took me a while to notice because, frankly, I'm used to talking to women about all sorts of things -- both professional and personal. For my book The List: 100 Ways to Shake Up Your Life, I interviewed 89 women about their mid-life adventures. Each interview was like an "Oprah" show.

That's what women do. We talk. In many ways, that makes us natural networkers. It's not that women are necessarily big schmoozers, but rather that we're fairly open about ourselves-more so than most men.

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Female career-changers definitely benefit from their openness and authenticity, according to Pease, which is good news for me. I thrive on building genuine connections to the people I work with. But there's another stereotypical trait that I unfortunately lack ... and it's a big one.
"Women are better with the meeting and greeting process, with getting out there, and selling themselves," says Pease. "Trying to get a man to sell himself is a little harder."

I'm terrible at selling myself. (Judging by the comments I've received on Linkedin -- and on AOL -- I know other women feel the same way about their self-promotion skills.) And I'm not great at the meet and greet, either. I get nervous in job interviews, and even though I'm a big talker, I'm fundamentally shy.

I worry that my insecurity, or discomfort, or whatever it is, will impede my job search, because once I finish with all the "paperwork" of reinvention-the new resume, new Linkedin profile, the new website (whenever I get around to fixing that one) -- I have to get out there and sell myself in person.

More:How Do You Land A Job In A Dried-Up Market?

One of the messages I got last week was from a former work contact -- a man that has made a career out of selling things, including himself. He reminded me that selling is all about spin, and sending the right message to the right audience.

So we're back to the person-as-product thing -- a metaphor that's really beginning to make sense to me. If the starting point of career reinvention is to develop a personal brand, the next step has to be a full-out marketing campaign.

One of the tools of a new-product campaign is a sell sheet used in presentations: a one-page document that gives not just a description of the product, but that also lists its specifications, and its most attractive features and benefits. Maybe creating a personal sell-sheet will make my own presentations easier -- whether I literally give it out in interviews or send it as an introduction to prospective employers.

I already have the other attributes of the positive stereotype: I am open about what I need. I'm honest about what I'm good at. And I'm working hard to figure out exactly what I'm looking for. Once I get the selling part down, I should be good to go.

What about you? What do you think are your strengths -- and weaknesses?

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