9 counterintuitive job hunt tips

Shake up your usual job hunt approach to find your next great role. You might even meet a CIO who scouts for talent in her local coffee shop (see tip 8).
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When it comes time to look for a new role, seasoned IT pros may be tempted to go on autopilot. After all, it’s not your first job hunt. While tried-and-true advice certainly has a place – mine the networks, customize the resume for the role, make sure you highlight hot skills – sometimes you need to shake things up. If you conduct a job hunt the way you always have, you’ll probably get similar jobs.

Maybe you’re shooting for a different result this time.

Whether you’re having trouble finding a role to get excited about, want to break into a new function or type of company, or just seek to energize the process, these counterintuitive job hunt tips from IT talent experts and CIOs will send you in some new and interesting directions.

[ Read also: 10 common resume questions, answered and  Job hunt etiquette: How to handle 6 tricky situations. ]

1. Use a new specialty to re-invent yourself

“Don’t be afraid to add on to your IT background, especially in those areas that are considered hot fields,” says Danielle Brown, vice president and CIO at Brunswick. “Security is an example of a field where there is just not enough available talent. So why not build up on top of your existing credentials.” Brown says she looks for leaders with both breadth and depth, so expanding both increases an IT professional’s marketability. (Read also: IT certifications for security pros: Still valuable? and IT security jobs by the numbers: 12 stats.)

2. Consider business roles

Today’s IT leaders can add considerable value to business roles during this time of technology-enabled change. “Don’t underestimate your capabilities as a business analyst,” says Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of technology association CompTIA. “IT leaders are at the crux of business change and management and frequently have very good insights that go way beyond the technical.” The business experience will further strengthen any IT leader’s resume as he or she attempts to move higher in the corporate ranks. What would a stint in marketing or finance add to your skill set?

3. Avoid casting too wide a net

Are you broadcasting your potential departure?

Posting a resume to a job board may seem like a simple way to passively begin to look for a new position while you still have an old one. However, it could really be putting your organization on notice that you’re looking for a new job, warns Ryan Sutton, district president for Robert Half Technology. “Unbeknownst to many, a good corporate recruiter will be notified when someone from their organization posts their resume to a job board.” Sutton advises that IT candidates reach out to organizations and connections individually and confidentially rather than risk inadvertently advertising their potential departure.

4. Bolster and market your soft skills

Improving or highlighting soft skills and people skills like communication will get your further in your job search than technical capabilities, says Dr. Lynne Williams, professor at the School of Business and Information Technology at Purdue University Global. “Women have a reputation for being better listeners than men, and also tend to be associated with a more enhanced ability to recognize problems. Candidates possessing a lot of technical skills without any soft skills will have less chance of success than those that possess both,” Williams says. “These crucial soft skills, in addition to deep technical knowledge, are what employers are looking for.”

[ Want more advice on highlighting soft skills? Read also: 7 skills every professional IT resume needs. ]

5. Aim higher than feels comfortable

“I’ll take a bet on a hire who might add something unique to my team.”

LinkedIn recently reported that women specifically are less likely to apply for jobs, and often they are more likely to get them – but this advice can benefit any IT leader. “Apply to a job you don’t think you can get,” says Wendy Pfeiffer, CIO of Nutanix. “You never know when you’ll be uniquely qualified for an opportunity, even if you don’t perfectly fit the job description.”

Pfeiffer says she likes to hire outside the box of a job description. “I’ll take a bet on a hire who might add something unique to my team that’s not necessarily listed as a ‘must have’ in the description,” she says.

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.