The Chameleon Job Seeker


Adaptation: The ability to change oneself to fit in with one’s surroundings.

Okay so you’ve seen a chameleon on television or perhaps live at a zoo at the very least I hope. You know, that lizard that can change the colour of its skin and blend in with its surroundings so it can avoid detection by enemies and sneak up on prey to increase its chances of making a kill and eating to live another day.

There is a lesson here for those who are looking for employment and that is the principle of adapting to best position yourself to take advantage of your own surroundings. When preparing for an interview, it’s always good advice to do your homework and find out about a company’s values, their beliefs, the everyday culture and atmosphere. Further good advice is to see how people dress, be it formal, semi-formal, business casual, or casual. What business speak do they use? Do they talk their own language of acronyms and abbreviations? Is this a language you can learn in advance? What problems are they facing? What acquisitions are they considering?

The more you know about a company PRIOR to the interview, the better you are able to position yourself as, ‘one of us’, and on an emotionally level, get the interviewer or panel to see you as one of them already; someone who will be a good fit with the chemistry and direction the company is moving in. If change is required, you can also position yourself to appeal to their sense of new direction, a fresh face with a new vision.

This is where someone with a diverse background of employment and education can score high on the adaptation scale. Rather than feeling insecure because you haven’t got 30 years in a single field, you go on the offensive and intentionally stress all the varied experiences you’ve had, pointing out your array of acquired skills, and most importantly how you have succeeded in the past. Selling yourself this way forces them to walk your career journey with you, seeing the transitions you’ve made, the skills you’ve picked up, the contacts you’ve established, and how your value has increased.

When you fail to do your homework in this regard, you may feel ill at ease during the interview wondering how you should present yourself. Should you share everything you know, what to stress in your past, what to omit, how to best come across as a good fit. One of the quickest ways to fail in this regard is to come see the interviewing panel as you step in a room and note how you don’t physically resemble them. They may be all three-piece suits, business formal, and you’ve got on your khaki’s and a blazer complete with elbow patches. Bang! Round one is a direct score for insecurity right between your eyes, and your off to a poor start.

Suppose it’s a sales job you’re interviewing for. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll know whether it’s an assertive or aggressive person they are after. This information alone can tell you how you should best deliver your words and the tone of voice. Should you sit forward almost in a challenging position with both hands firmly planted on the desk between you and them, or should you sit back, legs and hands crossed, looking confident but less aggressive?

Now don’t dismiss this as being something you aren’t and trying to get a job and then shortly thereafter be exposed as a fraud. No, that would be ill advice I agree. You shouldn’t try to be something you aren’t. However, it’s very possible and desirable to present yourself as close to what the company is looking for as you can possibly do while staying true to who you are. Wearing clothing which mirrors the employees of the company shouldn’t betray your ego too much I wouldn’t think. If your wardrobe is light on options that accomplish this, one of your early goals if hired may be to allocate some of your earnings to revamping your clothes closet.

And if you’re an assertive salesperson and the company is really after an aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach, you may not even be interested if you can’t live with yourself while at work. Best you do your homework and avoid that atmosphere all together! This is also valuable information because you should be seeking out an environment where you can best blend in – ie. the Chameleon again.

Here’s how I break down Chameleon: cha = change, me = myself, l = looks like I, eon = an element of time. So, Change Myself in their I’s over Time.

Unlike reinventing yourself, which is something more significant requiring both an end and a beginning, changing akin a chameleon approach is about understanding the environment (accomplished through observation and research), and make subtle changes in how you brand yourself, what you stress and communicate through words and body language.

And hey, not a bad answer if you get asked that question, “So if you were an animal what would you be and why?”

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