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The paradox of "keeping your options open" in your job search

imageAs with most paradoxes… "keeping your options open" when looking for a job, doesn't work. The reality is that being too 'open', keeps you from gaining leads at all and you have fewer options to choose from.

Zig Ziglar, the well known motivational speaker, often says:

"You cannot make it as a wandering generality. You must become a meaningful specific!"

Zig is right!

When you are networking, giving your Elevator speech, doing informational interviews, talking to recruiters, writing your resume, or doing most any aspect of your job search, it's critical for you to articulate a specific type of job you are pursuing.

Saying you are "open" is a 'lead limiting' strategy! Sounds counter intuitive, doesn't it?

At first blush, it would be reasonable to think that being "open" would give you more opportunities to consider, not less. The reality, however, is that when you don't give people something specific to focus on, they typically are far less likely to give meaningful help. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • The request is too broad, and they don't know what would be most applicable for you.

  • It creates an impression that you're less serious about your career, since you are fishing for anything.

  • It diminishes their perception of you as a credible candidate for any specific career.

  • They are less willing to introduce you to their best contacts if they perceive you will present yourself as a 'wandering generality'.

  • When they feel confused and awkward when they don't know how to help, they will be less willing to put their friends and business contacts in the same position. So they won't offer any referrals to you.

These concerns and objections are rarely verbalized. They generally will simply nod, be polite, and let you know that they will reconnect if they think of anything. However, those reconnections never come.

In contrast, when you are able to articulate a specific career objective, titles of jobs you are seeking, target companies you are pursuing, and types of contacts you are asking for, it helps them help you! They can then more easily focus, searching through their mental file cabinets to come up with ideas, leads, and referrals.

They will more likely perceive you as more credible, more driven, and probably more professional. They will feel more comfortable about referring you to others they know because you are able to communicate specific things about your search rather than leave things vague and 'mushy'. They will have greater confidence that you will add to their own credibility with the person they refer to you, rather than diminish it.

"Keeping your options open" when trying to network effectively in your job search generally hinders your actual results. Become a 'meaningful specific', and there's a much greater likelihood you will find more actual options to pursue!


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