Lack of Focus

ViewPoint

Recruiters universally agree that the number one mistake executive job seekers make is pursuing a search objective that is too broad. They talk about too many skills, areas of functional expertise, and industry targets. Although recruiters fully understand the strong temptation for executives to widen their net so that no stone is left unturned in this very difficult job market, they advise that it detracts rather than enhances their search, and actually reduces the executive’s chances to land in a reasonable time.

Executives with job objectives that are too broad leave an impression that they are far less confident, decisive, and pragmatic than those with sharply defined goals. Unfortunately, these are the very traits ascribed to leadership, the most important characteristic companies and recruiters seek in a senior level executive. Decisive leaders make the difficult choices under uncertainty that determine future direction and the best course to get there for their companies. Recruiter and companies instinctively associate job search indecision with corporate indecision, and routinely reject those exhibiting this perceived weakness.

The Problem

Executives with job objectives that are too broad leave an impression that they are far less confident, decisive, and pragmatic than those with sharply defined goals. Unfortunately, these are the very traits ascribed to leadership, the most important characteristic companies and recruiters seek in a senior level executive. Decisive leaders make the difficult choices under uncertainty that determine future direction and the best course to get there for their companies. Recruiter and companies instinctively associate job search indecision with corporate indecision, and routinely reject those exhibiting this perceived weakness.

Further, no one believes that an individual is equally skilled in a broad list of functional disciplines. The old saying, “jack of all trades, master of none” applies.

Wastes valuable time and money

Networking meetings with colleagues, friends, or new contacts that ether work in companies or may know executives in companies that are a not a close fit with your skills and experience invariably lead to a dead on. Our experience is that most executive job seekers waste a minimum of four months pursuing companies and sectors where there is an extremely low probability of success. We have heard from several that they believe they wasted nearly a year. The cost in income loss can be substantial. Further, the opportunity cost of missing out on a tight fit situation they failed to uncover because of lower probability distractions can be even greater.

Contacts don’t know how to help you

One of our clients told us during our first meeting that his goal was to become a Vice President of Sales and or Marketing for a small, mid-size, or large, domestic or international consumer products or services company requiring his skills in operations, sales, marketing, the Internet, retail distribution expansion, purchasing, and finance. How could any network contact or recruiter help this individual? Where would one begin? We began by convincing him to determine his top three skills that could add significant value to a more specific target. A target example: Vice President of Sales & Marketing for a small to mid-size consumer products company with global reach. Much more focused and easier for contacts to assist.

The Solution

First, ask yourself, trusted friends, and colleagues the most important question in job search. “ Who truly wants and needs me at this point in my career? You must be brutally honest with yourself, as must your advisors. In order to answer the question properly, factors such as age, average job tenure during the past ten years, hiring status of industry concentration, and skill set should be considered. When you have reached a consensus, go with that focus, and only that focus, for 6 months. Stick with it, and do not move off of it until and unless a great off target opportunity comes to you or the path uncovers little interest. Then review, go through the same process, and modify to the second alternative path.

Develop a job objective that answers the question you are so often asked,” So tell me Bob/Anne, what do you want to do?” Your answer should be only one sentence long and include the title, type of company, key skills you offer, and need you can fulfill. Once developed, present it to your advisors for comment. Modify as necessary. This takes some time. Distilling your objective down to this tight focus takes courage and discipline. It is very difficult to resist the temptation to broaden the net in a challenging job market and let go of secondary skills and potentially interested companies that are not in your primary target. However, you must do it or risk delaying your search by four to six months, or more.

With a focused job objective you will now research, network to, contact, and interview with only those companies and recruiters that have the highest probability of being interested in you as a job candidate. You will not waste the time of friends, business colleagues, recruiters, and companies chasing opportunities that simply do not offer a good fit. More importantly, you will not waste your own time. This will free up more time for you to research those companies in your target in greater depth, providing you with an edge over competing executives in transition who have a broader objective. You will land faster, and save money.