The $64,000 Job-Search Question

One of the reoccurring questions you (should) get while you are looking or work is, “So tell me what you are looking to do?”

I would bet my house that a good 90% of the job-search population answers that question in one of three ways:

  • “I don’t know”
  • “I’m open to doing anything”
  • “I can do _____, _____, or _____”

All three of those responses will kill a job-search conversation quicker than bare foot jack rabbit on a hot greasy griddle in the middle of August (love me some SpongeBob Squarepants).


Without the ability to ‘categorize’ you they will have no idea how to help you because they cannot wrap their minds around which direction to point you, what to think about your background, and where you want to end up.

Think about it in these terms. If you go to (insert your favorite fast food restaurant), go up to the cashier and when he asks what you would like to have you answer with, “I don’t know” or “I’m open to anything” or “I’ll take  _____, _____, or _____.”

You and the cashier are not going to get anywhere because you are not able to articulate what you want and he is not able to complete the transaction.

Job-search is very similar in that if you cannot help the person you are speaking to ‘complete the transaction’ then they won’t.

So if you find yourself in a place where you really have NO clue as to what you want to do what do you do? Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Read (and do the exercises in) Bill Karlson’s Get Top $$ in a Job You Love and Rick Bolles What Color Is Your Parachute.
  • Ask those that know you best what they see you being best at and investigate those functions. In many cases those that know you will have some ideas that you have never considered.
  • Make a list of the things from your work, volunteer, and personal life that you love to do and that you are great at. Type those things into Monster or CareerBuilder and make a list of the jobs that come up and see what the themes are and investigate those that come up most.
  • Do 10 random FREE (do not pay for it) career assessments on the Internet and see what the common themes are and investigate those that come up most.

If I were in a situation where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do I would initially concentrate more on figuring out a pie piece shape of related opportunities (human resources) than a singular opportunity (recruiting) and as you do more research and talk to people narrow down to the functions you would be happiest with and have the most impact in.

No one has ever said that figuring out what you want to do is easy but it is a necessary part of job-search. Once you get it figured out you it is much easier to market yourself and to really make it happen.

Until next time – good hunting and good luck!


3 responses to “The $64,000 Job-Search Question

  1. Right on. That preaches, brother.

  2. Matt – wonderful blog. As an Employment Specialist i try to work with people and encourage them to KNOW what they want to do – not just hope for a job. As a hiring manager, I have often been amazed at the lack of actual intent people have in their job search – they will apply for anything, even if they really dont want to do the actual responsibilities of the job!

  3. I love this post!

    What do you want to do?
    I’ll do anything.
    I know a dairy farmer who needs barns cleaned.
    Okay, anything but clean barns.

    The most important nugget I gleaned from this was: FREE assessments. DUH, how many have I done? And forgot to pass on the info.

    Cindy B.

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