Starting a job hunt? You already know that it’s essential to polish your resume and fine-tune your LinkedIn profile. Beyond that, though, it can be challenging to find ways to personalize your approach to job searching.
How can you be memorable to recruiters when you’re limited to PDF resumes and fill-in-the-blank applications?
Enter blue sky thinking! With a refreshing and inventive approach, the idea behind blue sky thinking is limitless brainstorming that allows you to gain a creative edge in your job search tasks.
When you dare to explore creative solutions, you can leverage fun and innovative new strategies for your job search and career in general.
What Is Blue Sky Thinking? How It Works
So, what exactly is blue sky thinking? It’s a creative brainstorming strategy that requires you to let go of the negative limitations you might generally hold yourself to.
IDEO U, an online growth-mindset school, puts it this way: “We can’t get to new places by only doing what’s worked in the past.” And Collins English Dictionary defines it as “the activity of trying to find completely new ideas.”
In the context of a job search, blue sky thinking means letting go of self-doubt and limiting beliefs. Instead, embrace creative elements in your brainstorming, which will allow you to think outside the box.
Have you ever heard of job seekers who put an ad on a billboard? Adam Pacitti was one of those desperate job seekers who was willing to try something different.
Hopefully, you won’t need to bankrupt your savings for a billboard ad to land your dream job, but that’s a great example of blue sky thinking: creative ideation to find a new approach to an existing problem.
And that’s something that every job seeker can use to be a memorable candidate.
How Blue Sky Thinking Differs From Brainstorming
Most of us spent time in school brainstorming during team projects. You probably sat around a table and worked with your classmates to create as many ideas as possible during a limited time frame.
While blue sky thinking is similar, it focuses on an open-ended approach. The goal is to intentionally bust through your constraints. You might think of blue sky thinking as brainstorming with a runaway imagination.
Basically, ask yourself what you would do or create if you didn’t have any limitations. Then, give yourself permission to further explore what you’ve imagined.
Using Blue Sky Thinking in Your Job Search
Are you wondering how to apply this to your job search? You can let creativity take flight in almost every aspect of your job search and career.
Where you need it the most can vary based on your personal circumstances. To get your creative juices flowing, we’ve gathered a few examples of how you can apply blue sky thinking to your job search.
Brainstorm Your Ideal Company
Instead of responding to a job posting, try reverse-engineering your job search. Create a list of attributes you’d love in a company versus a job. That might include flexible schedules and a comprehensive benefits package.
Then, allow yourself to dive a bit deeper. What could a company offer that you would find irresistible?
Your list might include more personal things, like supporting a cause you’re passionate about or a clear career path. You might prioritize learning opportunities and a dynamic company culture that encourages growth.
Once you have your list, start exploring companies until you find a few dream companies to pursue that align with your desires. Now, use blue sky thinking to visualize how you might fit in with your dream company. What problems could you solve? How does your unique skill set set you up to be the ideal fit?
Connect with a manager you’d love to work with to introduce yourself and highlight how your skills would be a great fit for the team. They might not take you up on the offer, but your unique approach could be what gets their attention. If they have another opening that’s in your wheelhouse, you’ll already be a step ahead of your competition.
Create a Vision Board
Are you a visual learner? Consider creating a vision board for your job search. According to research, a vision board might be the exact tool you need to help you reach your goals.
When you gather all of that positive energy, you create clarity, support personal growth, and encourage momentum.
Let your imagination fly as you clip magazines, quotes, and other visual elements representing your career aspirations. Create a physical board or a free Pinterest account to gather digital imagery.
Afterward, take a bit of time to reflect on why a specific quote appeals to you, or gain better focus when you analyze an image that speaks to you. For example, does that photo of a bright, airy room indicate the kind of home office environment you’d thrive in?
Use those visual clues to streamline your job search. When you feel yourself getting off track, check in with your vision board to help you get refocused.
Develop a Unique Personal Brand
Before you update your resume, brainstorm a dynamic personal brand you feel excited about. This brainstorming shouldn’t be about the data-driven bullet points on your resume. Instead, dive deep into what makes you uniquely you.
Your brand should look beyond the details of where you got your education or which job you held last. Share why you do what you do and what motivates you. Use storytelling to fully communicate your passions, interests, and career dreams.
Once you’ve allowed yourself to dream big, build on that dream by envisioning it as reality. What would your marketing look like if you were in your dream career? Remember, when embracing blue sky thinking, nothing is off-limits.
Maybe you’d love a unique and polished portfolio website with quirky business cards? Perhaps you want to start a Facebook group supporting other job seekers who also happen to be avid mountain bikers? Would you love to launch a side hustle that donates a portion of the profits to a dalmatian rescue organization? Welcome all of the possibilities.
Once you’re done, start mapping out a personal brand strategy that includes your creative elements. Maybe launching a business isn’t in your immediate future, but that creative thought process could lead you to volunteer your services with a National Dalmatian Rescue group.
Highlight that on your resume or portfolio, and you might catch the eye of a hiring manager who shares the same interests or highly values altruism. Being true to yourself can be powerful and attract many positive things.
Imagine Your Dream Job
Now that you’ve imagined your dream company, invest time in visualizing your dream job. Let your imagination wander to a day in the life of your dream job, and then investigate the nuances of that role.
When you’re daydreaming, you might discover your dream job taking place in your home office. You envision looking over the dazzling waters of the Mediterranean, a gentle breeze moving through your curtains while you work. You’re hard at work managing social media for a European-based company you adore. How lovely!
At this point, you might be tempted to pull yourself back to reality. You don’t manage social media accounts, nor do you have a home overlooking the Mediterranean. But those limiting beliefs are the opposite of blue sky thinking.
Instead, an open-minded approach requires you to build on that brainstorm and poke around a bit until you understand what it represents.
You might acknowledge that you’ve been focusing on traditional roles when you’re really longing for the freedom of a flexible job that enables you to travel and work from anywhere in the world. Giving yourself room to daydream can help you create big, audacious ideas for your career that excite you.
Launch Your Blue Sky Thinking Session
When you’re looking to use blue sky thinking in your job search, the following guidelines can help you launch your creative thinking:
- Embrace wild ideas.
- Don’t judge yourself — everything is an option.
- Allow rabbit trails that build on one another.
- Don’t wander off-topic — redirect your thoughts as needed.
- Embrace scribbling, doodling, and other visual forms of brainstorming.
- Set a time limit and challenge yourself for maximum output.
Once you have your guidelines laid out, you’re almost ready to launch a blue sky thinking session.
But first, make sure that you’re clear on what you need to brainstorm. Detail the job search component you’re tackling. Be specific in what you need to address, and then let your ideas soar.
Creatively Tackling Your Job Search
There are a few best practices that hold true in any job search. You want to be professional, tailor your application materials to the job you’re applying for, clean up your social media profiles, and arrive on time and prepared for interviews.
Beyond the basics, however, permit yourself to get creative in your approach to job hunting. Rather than convincing yourself that it won’t work, embrace out-of-the-box thinking and see what your imagination brings.