Articulating What You Want Is the First Step to Getting It

When looking for a job, especially if you've been unemployed for a long stretch of time, you may start feeling like "I would take any job right now!"

The problem is that this kind of thinking actually makes it more difficult to land a job. Don't believe me? Let's look at two examples.

Example 1:

A new college graduate is attending a family party. He is talking with a cousin who is an experienced professional.

"So, what kind of work are you looking to do?" she asks.

"I don't know," he says. "I have a lot of writing experience from my journalism classes, and it would be cool to work at a newspaper or magazine. But I probably wouldn't get hired there right away. Maybe I'll try freelancing for a while. I don't know. There's a lot of things I could do."

"Well, good luck to you," she says.

Later in the evening, the new grad is talking with an uncle who is also an experienced professional. This time, he tries a different approach.

"I'd like to write for an online technology website," he says. "I know a lot about technology and read technology sites all the time, and I already did that kind of writing a lot while in school."

"You know, I actually know someone who worked at a company that did technology reviews, or something like that, before he came to work at my company," his uncle says. "Let me see if I can get you in touch with him."

Example 2:

A hiring manager is looking over two different applications for an administrative assistant opening. Both applicants have equivalent job experience and education.

Person A's cover letter talks about how he has many, many different skills. His resume includes every job he's ever had with a long list of all the things he was responsible for at each job.

Person B's cover letter highlights the main skills she has that she thinks are key to being a good administrative assistant and explains why she's interested in working at this particular company. For each job on her resume she's included a few bullet points of accomplishments and responsibilities that illustrate her skills needed for the kind of work she'd do in this new role.

Who is going to stand out, after the hiring manager has gone through a stack of 50 or 100 resumes — the person who could do any job, or the person who seems born to be an administrative assistant?

When you can articulate exactly what you want and why it's a good fit for you, you both improve the ability of your network to help you find jobs and stand out more when applying for jobs.