A common belief about the job search is that keeping your “options open” gives you more opportunities; or conversely, that being very specific about what you want to do will limit you.
Believing that if we present ourselves as job chameleons who can fit in almost anywhere, we hope that employers will consider us for more jobs–maybe even jobs we have not thought of ourselves.
The “I’m-open-to-options” belief persists, especially when the job market is tough. This thinking goes beyond the resume and permeates the whole job search; and it can make finding a good job difficult. Here are four reasons why it is important to have a focused approach.
1. Passion Gets Noticed.
There is great power in knowing what you want and going for it. Unfocused people cannot convey passion. True, your pool of possible jobs is smaller when you’re focused, but you greatly improve your chances of being hired for the ones you genuinely want.
Imagine that you are the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Would you find “Jones” or “Molina” more interesting?
Jones approaches you saying that he’s played basketball, baseball, soccer, football, and tennis. Jones is keeping his options open, hoping that he can find a job in one of those sports. Although Molina has played other sports, he’s focused his approach on his skills and passion for baseball.
Not surprisingly, you will find Molina more compelling. You may even wonder is baseball is Jones’ first choice. Maybe he really wants to play for the Rams and will bolt as soon as he gets a chance. You might decide to sign Molina, even if he has a bit less experience than Jones, simply because of his (Molina’s) passion.
2. Don’t Make the Employer Your Career Counselor.
When you don’t have a focus, employers may believe that you are confused and unclear about your career future. They don’t like functioning as applicants’ career counselors.
Think about why employers hire. They have problems to solve. Perhaps the accounting system is a mess, the network is sluggish, sales are down, or customers aren’t happy with the company’s service. The boss’s–and company’s–future earnings and stability depend on how well these problems get solved.
Put yourself in the boss’s shoes. If your future were on the line, would you be interested in hiring someone who is unclear about what s/he wants to do? Not likely.
3. Communicating Your Strengths Gets the Job Done
The presentation of an unfocused job seeker cannot be strong. If you try to show ALL of the things you can do, you are likely to include information that isn’t relevant to the job.
For example, after years as an Air Force mechanic, Maria was transitioning to civilian life. She couldn’t resist filling her resume and conversation with a list of all of the kinds of combat jets she had worked on. In another case, Jeremy was fluent in Italian. Unless Maria applies to an aviation company or Jeremy to a business with an international component, this is non-essential information for an employer.
4. Focus on the Employer’s Problems.
On the surface, the chameleon stance makes sense. However, just the opposite is true. The key to getting hired is your ability to help employers solve problems. Be clear about the kind of problems (technical, social, financial, etc.) you can help solve. Emphasize your motivation. You’ll be far more persuasive–and successful–than “keeping your options open.”
– – – – –
Martin Arteaga is now working as Lutheran Senior Services’s (IT) System Administrator.
Casse Ward recently began the Veterinary Technician program at Hickey College. This is a shift in direction for Casse so that she can pursue her goal of working in the equine industry.
– – – – –
What I’ve Been Reading.
How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.
This classic, originally published in the mid-1930’s–in the midst of the great depression, is worth (re-)reading. Though some of the examples are dated, the principles Carnegie advocates apply for professional and personal relationships, even in this 21st century.
Whether you buy it, check it out of the library, or listen to the audio book, you’ll find it full of worthwhile advice.
– – – – –
StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution, by Marcus Buckingham.
“The StandOut assessment unveils your two key strength roles and shows you how to find your edge and win at work.
“Where other assessments stop at description, StandOut takes the next step and provides practical advice on what to do to make the most of the strengths you have. Each of the nine possible strength roles is fully delineated in the book, with a wealth of detail, including:
–Where you will be at your most powerful,
–How you can make an immediate impact
–How you can win as a leader, manager, salesperson, or individual contributor.”
It’s well worth a look!
– – – – –
Consider a Career Action Planning (CAP) Session
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results
In this 90-120 minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it.
For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the comment form on my website.