Simon Gray en Social Marketing Solutions, Directors and Executives, Networking Ambassador • beBee 22/11/2016 · 3 min de lectura · 2,1K

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.

Why focus always trumps flexibility!

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.

Mohammed A. Jawad 23/11/2016 · #9

Yes, it's got to be focus and not flexibility when you desire to initiate anything important. Focus on right things at the right time allows you to manage time and achieve results whereas there's a risk of deviations and delay when you take up things with flexible approach.

+2 +2
Simon Gray 23/11/2016 · #8

#1 Thanks for your comment Robert and interesting discussion with Kevin. I work with a fair few millennials and it's a tough world they face. Balancing being a generalist with a specialism can be difficult, as by definition they are mutually exclusive. At the end of the day it's how we all choose to communicate our story – as an entrepreneur running my own business I have to know about lots of things, but my specialism when it comes to my offer to clients is career management and executive job search. Thanks again for taking the time to read. Best wishes, Simon

+1 +1
Simon Gray 23/11/2016 · #7

#4 Agreed Kevin, getting specific and how specific to get can be a challenge. Thanks for your comment, it's much appreciated. Best wishes, Simon

+1 +1
Simon Gray 23/11/2016 · #6

#5 Thank you Franci, really pleased to hear you found it useful. Best wishes, Simon


Good post, Simon. My experiences with positions and candidates in the insurance industry showed a trend of job seekers boasting they could wear many hats. While this may have been beneficial in some cases, it was determined that the candidate that was proficient in one segment was a better selection. The candidate's drive and focus were more important to the position than a candidate that knew a little about all segments but not an expert in one. For example, an insurance underwriter that underwrites property/casualty/auto/inland marine/workers comp/umbrella is usually not an expert in any one segment. Of course, there are exceptions.

+3 +3
Kevin Pashuk 22/11/2016 · #4

#3 Perhaps the challenge is defining the specialty? For example... if I say I'm a painter, or a writer, what does that really mean? If I look at my title (Chief Information Officer) it is as broad as heck, but if you ask me what I do, I would say my specialty is building high performing technology teams to support strategic change in organizations... but the HR systems don't have a category for that.

+3 +3
Robert Cormack 22/11/2016 · #3

Yes, I've heard that "T-shaped people" mentioned before. Having had IBM as a client, this doesn't surprise me at all. Essentially it's saying "We want you to be qualified at all things, but especially good at one thing." In other words, be a generalist and a specialist at the same time. Again, it's a Swiss Army Knife. You fill offices with people who are capable but never outstanding. I don't think I've ever met a truly passionate generalist, except that they passionate about being generalists (sort of like multitaskers)#2

+4 +4
Kevin Pashuk 22/11/2016 · #2

#1 Enjoyed the post Simon. It's important to know the value you bring to an organization. Being a generalist doesn't necessarily make you good at anything. It's like a Swiss Army Knife. It does a lot of things, but none of them well.

Since this is a reply to your comment Robert, it is tough for millennials. Many of them will be working in jobs that we old fogies can't even dream of. Some of them don't even exist now... so how do you counsel young folk if not to be a generalist and flexible? Perhaps the behemoth IBM had it right a few years back when they talked about wanting 'T-shaped' people - those with a broad range of capability (albeit fairly shallow), and a deep area of expertise.

+3 +3