If you’re eager to land a job, it’s tempting to try to be all things to all people. You see a job description and think “I could do that” or “That’s a little like what I did before.” While versatility is good, applying to anything and everything can be problematic.
- Forcing competencies in one area to match only vaguely related needs in another denigrates your true area of expertise
- A scattershot approach wastes your energy on applying for jobs you are not truly qualified for and are not likely to get
- Portraying yourself as an expert in a wide variety of areas can confuse your network. They want to help you, but may be unclear about your true qualifications and your job search goals
- You may come across as false, desperate, or as someone who has not clearly defined their brand and objectives
- A hiring manager may perceive you as having shallow experience in lots of areas, but lacking deep experience in any area
- Your depth in one area may be lost if you paint yourself as a versatile generalist
- You may find yourself pursuing or even taking a job that isn’t really right for you
For a more focused approach, begin by being very clear about your past successes and areas where you can truly claim competency or expertise. Create a concrete list including quantifiable achievements. As you consider various opportunities, look for a very clear connection from your past to the current opportunity. This more selective approach will bring many benefits.
- Your energy will be spent on jobs you have a much greater chance of getting
- You will present yourself with greater confidence because the connection between your past and a company or hiring manager’s current needs is very clear
- Your network will have be able to support you because they know what you are looking for
- It will be much easier for you and for your network to recognize good opportunities
- You are much more likely to end up in a job that is truly a fit
It’s certainly good to stretch and to consider jobs that go beyond what you’ve done in the past, or take your skills in a new direction. Do not feel you should be unreasonably narrow in your job search.
- Pursue “stretch” positions that take existing skills and use them in new ways
- Make very clear how your past experience relates directly to the new position. For example, a recent college graduate had experience managing a school team. He related past experience managing inventory, maintaining equipment and setting schedules to the job description for an office manager. He was successful because he “connected the dots” and made the transition feel natural.
- Network with others who have similar backgrounds and have moved in new directions and find out how they made the connection. For example, a job seeker with a background in direct sales sought out contacts with a similar background who had transitioned into customer service. He learned how abilities like understanding and meeting a customer’s needs, customizing products and services and timely follow up were useful in both fields.
- Demonstrate versatility and flexibility by sharing stories of how you’ve used your skills in a variety of settings and created success. In the example above, a sales person applying for a customer service job might share specific stories of times he jumped in to exceed a customer’s expectations and keep a customer satisfied even after a sale.
While presenting yourself as flexible and multifaceted, beware of casting too wide a net or portraying yourself as a jack-of-all-trades who will do anything for a paycheck. Letting your true expertise show is a faster path to success.