Are you clear on the goal of your job search?

Too many job targets–or uncertainty about them–can hurt your job search.

The first question I ask anyone interested in my services is: what is your ideal next career opportunity?

The answer to that question is critical—and if you’re not entirely sure about the answer, that’s important to know, too.

Even if you’re not changing careers, let’s say you’re unsure of the exact path you want to pursue within your chosen career field.

Usually, that means you need to get more clarity before creating a resume, updating your LinkedIn profile, and beginning a job search.

You might be wondering why it’s important to narrow things down. Let me use an example to illustrate my thinking.

An example: different positions within the same career field

Let’s say a candidate is interested in all of the following types of roles:

  • Marketing leadership role (in-house)
  • Digital marketing leadership role (in-house)
  • Corporate communications leadership role (in-house)
  • VP at a PR firm
  • VP at a large ad agency

Even though all of these are in the same genre of marketing and marketing-related roles, they’re slightly different.

In fact, they’re different enough that a single resume isn’t necessarily going to work well for all of them. And even though you can have more than one resume version, you’ll only have one LinkedIn profile.

For someone going for a digital role, I’d want the resume and LinkedIn profile to emphasize their digital marketing expertise and results. I wouldn’t want to devote as much space to other work the person has done in the past, like print advertising campaigns.

Meanwhile, for a corporate communications role, I would be wanting to focus the resume on the person’s experience with crisis communications, media relations, and PR strategy—with less space spent on the person’s experience with branding, TV ad campaigns, and PPC advertising.

Side note: For resumes, two “master versions” are fine, but it becomes unwieldy when we start talking about three or more master versions. Please bear in mind that I’m not referring to minor resume tailoring for specific opportunities, which is a different topic for another day.

Clarity for networking

Being focused on a specific job target isn’t just for LinkedIn and resume writing; it also helps with your networking efforts.

Let’s say you reconnect with a former colleague. Your former colleague is willing to help with your job search, so he asks what you’re interested in. You respond by rattling off the five types of roles you’re interested in. He nods, confused.

After wrapping up your coffee meeting, your former colleague heads back to the office. After returning, do you think he can remember the five types of jobs you mentioned? How about when he hears about a job opportunity a couple months later—will he remember whether the jobs you mentioned match up with the job he’s hearing about?

Ask yourself whether you can remember a grocery shopping list with several items on it without having it written down—without forgetting any of the items. Is it easier to remember what you came to the store for when you only have one item to buy?

Some of the most valuable tools in your job search toolkit are your professional contacts—but it’s hard for them to help you if they’re not clear on what kind of jobs you want.

The point here is that even if you know the type of roles you’re interested in, it’s problematic if you’re interested in too many different types of roles.

How many job targets? How much is too much?

Ideally, I like it when a client is very clear on a single job target. That makes it easy to tailor the resume as well as the LinkedIn profile, and also makes it easier for the person’s networking conversations.

However, it’s usually reasonable if the person has two VERY similar job targets. For example, using the examples above, if someone wanted to pursue in-house corporate communications roles as well as VP roles at PR firms, those are both in the same genre. The LinkedIn profile could be on-target for both, and the person could have a resume version for each (that would be about 95% the same).

On the other hand, if someone is torn between two roles that are quite different, I would recommend choosing one before jumping into the job search. For example, an in-house marketing leadership role is distinct enough from a VP role at a PR firm that I don’t think a LinkedIn profile can adequately address the relevant points for both.

If you can’t decide…

If you’re considering more than two job targets, or if you’re torn between two job targets that are fairly distinct, I highly recommend that you give some thought to your priorities and make a choice before embarking on a job search.

I believe so strongly in this that I won’t take on a client unless the client is sufficiently clear on his or her job target. I only take on projects where I know I can hit a home run, and I know that’s going to be hard to do when a client doesn’t have enough clarity.

Here are some suggestions if you need help with getting clarity:

  • Talk to people that have the exact roles you’re considering to get their insight.
  • Think about where you want to be in several years, and evaluate what job would be the ideal bridge to get you there.
  • Consider YouMap’s assessments, book, and coaching:
If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else. – Yogi Berra