Reinvent Your Job Search the Jobs Way

Steve Jobs’ 5 principles of job success

As I was researching the material for my new book, ” The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs ” (McGraw-Hill), I realized that many of the principles responsible for Jobs’ breakthrough success at Apple apply equally to the management of one’s job search career. If you are searching for a new job in your field or pursuing a change in the type of work you do, here are five principles to jump-start your career.

1. Put a dent in the universe.

Jobs never underestimated the power of vision to move a brand forward. Vision inspires new ideas and attracts evangelists. In 1976, Steve Wozniak was captivated by Jobs’ vision to “put a computer in the hands of everyday people.” Wozniak was the engineering genius behind the Apple I and the Apple II, but it was Jobs’ vision that inspired Wozniak to focus his skills on building a computer for the masses. Jobs’ vision was intoxicating because it had four components that all inspiring visions share: It was bold, specific, concise and consistently communicated.

Just as Jobs had a vision for his brand, you must have a vision for the most important brand of all — yourself. What vision do you have for your career? When I was a journalist for CNN, I knew that I wanted to start my own company. My vision for my brand could be summarized in one sentence: the communications coach for the world’s most admired brands. I began adding that statement on my business cards before I even had a client I could call a “most admired brand.” Today my clients touch your life every day. Yes, you need to follow your passion, but while passion gives you energy, vision ultimately points you in the right direction. It will be easier to succeed in your next job, if it is one you are passionate about.

2. Kick-start your brain.

Jobs’ creative ideas have transformed not one industry, but four — personal computers, music, entertainment and telecommunications. Innovation requires creativity and creativity demands that you think differently about…the way you think. Scientists who study the way the brain works have discovered that innovators like Jobs employ a technique available to all of us — they seek out “diverse experiences.”

Jobs creates new ideas precisely because he has spent a lifetime exploring new and unrelated things — seeking out diverse experiences. Jobs left the comfortable suburbs of Los Altos, California, to attend a liberal arts college in Oregon; he studied the art of calligraphy in college (a study that found its way into the first Macintosh); meditated in an Indian ashram; studied the fine details of a Mercedes-Benz and evaluated the Four Seasons hotel chain as he developed the customer service model for the Apple Stores. If your approach to the job search isn’t yielding results, seek out diverse experiences – attend meetings you wouldn’t otherwise attend, network with people in other fields and explore new business ideas.

3. Look outside your industry for career inspiration.

In his insightful book, “Iconoclast,” Gregory Berns could have been writing about Jobs when he said, “To see things differently than other people, the most effective solution is to bombard the brain with things it has never encountered before. Novelty releases the perceptual process from the shackles of past experiences and forces the brain to make new judgments.” Bombard the brain with new experiences outside your comfort zone.

4. Say no to 1,000 things.

Jobs once said the secret to innovation comes from “saying no to 1,000 things.” Jobs is as proud of what Apple chooses not to do as he is about what Apple chooses to focus on. The lesson — don’t spread yourself too thin. Find the job that intersects your passion, skill and the ability to make money doing it. Once you find it, focus on it, work at it and dedicate yourself to excellence in that area.

5. Master presentation skills.

Jobs is considered one of the greatest corporate storytellers in the world. His presentations inform, educate and entertain. By giving extraordinary presentations, Jobs stands out as a leader.

On the job search you are being judged to a large degree on your ability to communicate what you do. The big difference between great presenters and the average presenter is that great presenters use tools like PowerPoint to complement the message. The speaker is the storyteller; PowerPoint slides serve as a backdrop to the story. That means you must learn to avoid bullet points and to think visually about bringing a story to life. When Jobs (who uses Apple Keynote software to design presentations) unveiled the MacBook Air in January 2008, instead of showing a slide with text and bullet points, he showed a slide of an interoffice manila envelope. He said the computer was so slim it would fit inside. That’s memorable and different. If your career requires excellent presentation skills, improve those skills by reading books such as “The Presentation Secrets of Jobs,” “Slide:ology” and “Presentation Zen”. You won’t want to bring a slide projector into job interviews, but consider the language that you use and visuals you create when telling your story to others.

Don’t let bozos get you down.

Many people around you think they know what’s best for you. Only you can be true to your own heart and intuition. Jobs chose to drop out of college so he could “drop in” to the classes that really interested him, like calligraphy. The classes had no obvious practical application at the time but would eventually lead to world-changing products.

Jobs knew that he had the skills to build a computer that would be simple enough for the average person to enjoy. Few others shared his vision. Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment, once told Jobs, “There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home.” Thank goodness Jobs didn’t listen. If he had, millions of people would not be enjoying Macs, iPods, iPads and iPhones, which popularized touch-screen technology.

Perhaps the greatest lesson Jobs teaches us is that risk-taking requires courage. Believe in yourself and your vision and be prepared to constantly defend those beliefs. Only then will innovation flourish and only then will you be able to find an “insanely great” job.