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You don't play the cards, you play the opponent.
Welcome to Not Pretty, Not Rich, a newsletter for the world’s underdogs. If you were forwarded this email and would like to subscribe, you can do so here. You can also unsubscribe at any time. Past issues can be found here.
This week: You don’t play the cards, you play the opponent.
There’s a saying among poker players: You don't play the cards, you play the opponent. It means that the cards you’re dealt don’t necessarily make a difference as to who will win the hand. You may have been dealt a bad hand, but win regardless.
That applies in other areas, too. You can get a job without being the best candidate, you just need to convince the person doing the hiring that they should give you the job (hopefully not by being a deceitful jerk, of course). Or, you may not have the best product or service on the market, but that won’t necessarily stop you from making the sale.
So, how do you do it? How do you get the job if you’re a weak candidate? How do you make the sale with the inferior product? Not by focusing on the hand you’ve been dealt — instead, focus on the person across from you.
By shapeshifting — morphing how you play the game depending on your opponent — you may find more success than you were before.
How has this worked in the wild? Look no further than the reigning NFL champions.
1. How Bill Belichick always wins
2. Putting the Belichickian strategy to work for job seekers
1. How Bill Belichick always wins
Bill Belichick is the head coach of the NFL’s New England Patriots. He’s been the coach there since 2000, and over the past 19 years, has won six Super Bowls, nine conference championships, and 31 playoff wins — if you don’t follow sports, he’s pretty much solidified himself as perhaps the greatest coach of all time.
But how does he do it? How does he keep winning year-in and year-out? Having Tom Brady helps, but so does the way Belichick prepares for games. In short, he tailors each game plan to each specific opponent — as opposed to developing an overall strategy or philosophy, and sticking to it. In other words, Belichick’s teams morph and change each week. It’s meticulous and time-consuming. But it works.
Here’s what former quarterback Matt Cassel, who played four years in New England, writes of the Patriots’ planning:
“In New England, no situation is that overwhelming, because somehow, some way, it's something that we’ve covered at some point. So, when things come up in the game, you don't need to have this elaborate discussion on the sideline. It’s an understanding that everybody has already repped and gone through this.
That's what separates this group from the rest of the league.”
The takeaway: Preparation — specific, directed preparation — has paid off big time on the gridiron. And if you put in the same type of effort and focus, you’d probably see similar success.
2. Put it into practice
You’re not preparing for an NFL game, but you may be getting ready to look for a new job, or try to squeeze more out of your current one. That offers up an opportunity to put some Belichickian strategizing to work.
Start with your resume, if you’re looking for a job. Your resume tells your professional story, and stories have editors — that means you can tailor it for the right audience. While you don’t want to lie or embellish, almost any career expert will tell you that you should be tailoring your resume for the specific job your applying for. That includes adding focused keywords, watching your page-length, and omitting things that aren’t applicable.
I, for example, used to make pizzas. But I don’t put it on my resume when I’m looking for a writing job, because it doesn’t apply — why would an editor care?
There are an innumerable number of ways that you can configure your resume, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’ll depend on your particular circumstances. And yes, it’ll require some time and effort. But it should pay off.
The takeaway: It may be a pain, but take the time to tailor your resume to the individual job for which you are applying. A resume is a marketing document, and you want to make sure it resonates with your audience.
What I’ve been writing about:
My colleague David Fang and I talked to a venture capitalist — and ate some veggie burgers — to make a fun video about the differences between public and private companies.
I interviewed my coworker, Ian, about the winter he worked as an elf at a mall in New Jersey.
If you want to check those articles out and share them, I’d appreciate it.
That’s all for now. Keep fighting the good fight.
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