It's a simple question, and you've probably answered it hundreds of times. "What do you do?" If you're like most people, you probably get the answer dead wrong.
Your standard reply is probably a factual description of your current job.
The right answer is: what you want to do.
Most job candidates get so caught up in retelling the past that they fail to paint a compelling picture of the shared future they (you) could co-create with a new employer.
Let's break down the end of that last sentence.
Paint a compelling picture: If good is the enemy of great, then boredom is the enemy of getting hired. Hiring managers have to slog through countless interviews with people who drone on and on about things that don't interest the manager. Interview 10 people and I guarantee you'll have a hard time remembering what at least six of them said.
Before you do anything else, you need to engage others. That means being interesting and memorable. Jerry Seinfeld spent over a year crafting a new stand-up comedy routine after his TV show ended; essentially, he was preparing to get a new job. If the most successful comedian in the world needs to invest that much time and effort, what makes you think that simply reciting your previous "shows" will be sufficient? Would you be satisfied if Jerry simply got up on stage and said, "I played Philadelphia on July 12, 2005. Then I played Detroit on July 15, 2005. Then . . ."?
Of the shared future: Let's consider what's actually happening when you are "job hunting." You and your potential employer have been spending 99.9999% of your time apart, pursuing separate interests and objectives. Suddenly, you will be spending half your time together. What will that look like? Can you describe it vividly and in a highly compelling manner?
Most people can't for two reasons.
The first is that you haven't done your homework. You don't know much about the organization or people with whom you are talking. Not just their sales, but also their culture, customers, habits, challenges, opportunities and quirks. Especially their quirks. So do your homework, even though it takes a ton of time.
The second reason you aren't painting a compelling story around your potential is that you are in the habit of talking about your history, rather than your destiny.
Sure, I care that you know how to code and that you worked in the oil and gas industry. But have you always dreamed about building something big, something into which you could pour your heart and soul, something so important that nothing—absolutely nothing and no one—will stand in your way? Say that.
You could co-create with a new employer: Our world is far too complicated to go it alone. This is as true for Apple as it is for you. When talented and perceptive people pursue new opportunities, they understand the true nature of what is happening: together, you are exploring what you could co-create.
Exploring co-creation is nothing like interviewing for a job. In a co-creation conversation, you move quickly past your history and excitedly start to explore possibilities. Together, you start to envision an idealized future. Together, you recognize each others' strengths and weaknesses; it dawns on all of you that together you have a brighter future than any of you do apart.
This, by the way, is why some people with basically the same qualifications earn $1 million a year while others earn $100,000.
If you want to elevate and accelerate your career, don't just interview. Co-create.
Image: Bloody Nick/Flickr
This post was part of Forbes’ Career Challenge: Get Job-Search Ready In 15 Days.