Why focus always trumps flexibility!
Let me tell you a story about the most difficult candidate I ever had to try and place.
For over 10 years I worked in the recruitment industry and met candidates at all levels and from all backgrounds. Many people I met would try and paint a picture of flexibility in the belief that this would open up more opportunities and significantly increase the chances of them landing a new position anytime soon. However, despite this commonly held belief, nothing could be further from the truth.
I remember interviewing John (not his real name, but poetic licence to protect this person's identity) who told me that he was a great candidate and that if I got him an interview – essentially any interview at his level – that I wasn't to worry because he'd get offered the position. Despite this bold claim and what on the face of it could have looked like a golden opportunity to make a recruitment fee, I never placed this candidate in a job.
In September 2008 I jointly founded my own recruitment company. Timing was not the best and with the collapse of Lehman Brothers sparking the worst financial crisis in living memory the temptation was to take any business, because let's be honest as a start-up business we were desperate to generate revenue and to do it fast. The temptation was to take on any vacancy and to try and fill it, but this would have been a major mistake. In business you have to be known for something, not everything.
As I've spoken about before using an analogy from the medical world – if you want to be successful in business think specialist, not general practitioner. It's exactly the same when it comes to successful job search.
Focus in business and in job search is essential – unless you know who you are, what you stand for and therefore where to position yourself, the chances of finding success is significantly diminished.
Getting back to John, why didn't I place him – after all he was a great candidate who would do anything? Well I didn't find him a position because he had no idea where he was headed or what he stood for. This made it extremely difficult for me to position him in front of my clients and come up with a valid reason why they should meet him. Professing to be great is not a reason, because it begs a follow-up question and more specific detail as to why, particularly in relation to the problem my client was looking to resolve or the opportunity they were trying to capitalise on as part of their decision to hire.
In business and in job search it's important to get focused at the outset – before you get going and before you're in the heat of battle. Once you're in business or engaged in the cut and thrust of finding your next career move, you are emotionally invested. Emotion is a natural human trait, but if left unchecked, our ability to make the right decisions can be left considerably impaired.
One of the first things I do with my 'Jump Start' and 'Executive Edge' clients is to clarify what I call their destination. This is a formal exercise that results in the creation of their 'destination statement'. The destination statement then informs all of their activity in the job market – it's their Sat Nav, their direction of travel and something they focus on throughout their job search process.
In defining their destination at the outset my advice is to forget what the job market currently offers. This process is not about fitting in with what's currently visible and on offer; it's about getting clear on what they really want. In the job market 'believing is seeing' and this is how to identify and uncover opportunities in the 'hidden market', the place where high probability opportunities exist before ever being advertised on job boards or placed with professional recruiters.
If you're active in the job market you should be in proactive control of your job search strategy every step of the way. This starts with focus and not flexibility, which informs what you do, how you do it and ultimately the results you get.
In the last couple of weeks, two of my 'Executive Edge' clients have been in touch. Both have used the Career Codex methodology to uncover new executive opportunities and with two offers on the table each, both faced difficult decisions as to which to accept. With discussions over remuneration / compensation packages and other factors it's easy to become confused about the right decision to make. In both instances I referred my client back to the focus exercise they did at the very start – the exercise to define their destination statement, which they made without the emotional distraction of offers on the table.
So for me, in business and when it comes to successful job search, which is a business in itself – focus always trumps flexibility.
While flexibility might appear the door to more opportunity, it's a door you might just find shut. Until you're clear and focused on what you really want it's difficult to know where you're headed or to enlist the help of others to help you get there.