By Jude Odika
In the last few months I have received requests from friends and acquaintances asking me to assist them in their search for a job. Most of them presume that I know someone directly or someone working/affiliated to a company somewhere that can employ them. Their presumption may or may not be correct, but that’s not the point. The point is that whenever I get such requests, the first question I usually ask is: “What type of job do you want?” And the answer I typically get is: “Anything, just anything to get my foot in the door”.
I have been thinking about this a lot, and I think it is very sad that this is the reality of a lot of unemployed graduates, and even some working professionals. Now, I can go on and on about why it should be just as much being intentional about the type of door you choose to get in, as it is with actually getting in, but that would be a discussion for another day. Right now, I seek to help graduates who are in the job-seeking phase realize that, and hopefully understand why, asking for recommendations or job hunting generally without having a clear picture of their career path, or at the very least some sense of direction, is a bad idea and a very poor strategy. If you already have a job please read on, there might be a thing or two in it for you too.
Reaching out to a potential employer or some other person you know, and asking for a job opportunity without being clear on the career path you want to pursue is a very long shot; and the odds of landing a job that way, are largely not in your favour. A little caveat here though – you might start out in your career and then realize down the line that you need to switch; that is totally fine, as long as your decision gets you closer to your long-term goal. The point I am trying to make here is that you cannot afford to start out thinking that anything would do just fine.
Anything is nothing in this context, and even if you do get and accept ‘anything’ you just might be setting yourself up on a path of constant frustration in your career. If you already got and accepted ‘anything’, please do something about it fast and align yourself to something greater than just having a job. I believe that doing this will serve you well in your career journey. Here are some of the reasons why I think asking for ‘anything’ is a bad idea.
First, it does not speak well of your ability to prioritize and focus – key qualities that employers look out for when making hiring decisions. If you engage an employer from the context of ‘anything’, it immediately casts some doubt on your ability to add value to their organization by prioritizing and focusing on high-value tasks. And with that doubt, no matter how little, lingering in their minds, you would very likely not get their attention.
Second, it makes it difficult for people to assist you in your job search. I find that most people are usually happy to assist in this area, but only if you make it easy for them. People already have a lot going on in their professional and personal lives, so if you reach out to them looking for ‘anything’, they are most likely to be at a loss for how to assist you. But if you declare a specific area of interest and even the role level you are looking to get in from, it immediately makes it easier for them to effectively channel whatever energy they can spare towards helping you achieve your goal.
Third, you would most likely get lesser compensation than the industry rate. This is true because, asking for ‘anything’ inevitably sends a signal that you are desperate; and some opportunistic employers could leverage on that to acquire cheap labour.
The last and probably the most important reason is that, it is not healthy for your professional self-esteem. When you get and accept ‘anything’, you would most likely be asked to work on tasks that you do not particularly enjoy, or at least are not enthusiastic enough to learn. This lack of excitement can affect your performance in a negative way; and if you are not performing well, you could hardly get promoted. And if the promotion is not coming, that means slow or no career growth for you. Hence, you would probably go through your career journey as an average employee at best, or a frustrated one with a battered self-esteem at the worst.
For the working professionals, I do not think it is wise to accept ‘anything’ in the form of a promotion or a new job offer. Before you accept that promotion or switch jobs, you need to seriously consider the content of the role you are being promoted or switching to, and clearly outline how it aligns to your long-term goals. Yes, you would get additional compensation, but will it be worth it when you look back and see how you have derailed from your career path? If you are lucky that you come to the realization on time, you could immediately realign yourself; and if not, you could get carried away in the ocean of activities and tasks that do not help your cause, therefore resulting in the inevitable end of a stunted career growth.
I maintain that it is a lot smarter and useful to be very intentional and specific about your career journey from the onset. I very well understand that figuring out your career path and coming up with a plan can be very difficult – trust me, I have been there done that. But in the end, I know that the process would turn out to be very much worth it; because if you do it well, it will take you through depths of self-discovery and uncover areas you did not know of or have forgotten. And the things you would discover would not only help you come up with a good career plan, but it will also make up an arsenal that you can rely on to ace any interview, and get that job or promotion that helps your cause.
If you haven’t already, please start the process of figuring out your career journey today. Ask for help when and where necessary; a lot of professionals have gone through the same exact phase you are going through now. Seek them out on LinkedIn or whatever professional network you have access to. And when you get their advice, don’t just get it, use it!
Here’s to your success.