Why You Need to Stop Keeping Your Options Open

Whenever I meet a job seeker, the first question I ask is always the same: “What kind of work are you looking for?” At least half the people give me one of the following responses—all of which are a bad omen for their job search…

“I’m keeping my options open.”

“I’m willing to do anything.”

“I don’t know.”

All three responses represent a general lack of focus or concrete goals in a job search. And when it comes to looking for work, focus is an absolute necessity.

I understand the thinking behind “keeping your options open” and the “I’ll do anything” approach to job hunting. Being flexible can seem like a sensible approach. This is especially true when you have bills to pay and you need to find a job as soon as possible. (I’ve been there… I know the feeling!)

However, approaching a job search without focus isn’t a winning strategy. In fact, it is downright counterproductive to finding a job—or at least one that you’re likely to enjoy.

Here are five reasons why a lack of focus is so detriment for a job search:

1. Organizations want people with specific skills and abilities.

When it comes to hiring, the jack-of-all-trades is often seen as the master of none. Sure, every organization wants employees who will help out wherever needed, but when companies hire, they look for people who can solve specific problems.

2. Employers want candidates who demonstrate passion.

Passion is the x-factor in many hiring decisions. Candidates with demonstrable passion—about the job, the organization, the mission or the products and services being delivered—will always have a leg-up. It’s hard to evince genuine passion in an unfocused job search.

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3. A lack of focus makes it difficult for others to help you.

The best job seekers use their networks to help them find work. But it’s impossible for other people to give you targeted assistance if you aren’t clear on what you’re looking for. How can someone refer you to possible jobs or employers if you have no concrete goals?

4. You end up chasing every job lead.

The “I’ll do anything” approach spurs many people to turn their job search into a numbers game, applying for positions regardless of their qualifications or sincere interest. This takes a lot of time and energy, and it mostly results in a whole lot of rejection.

5. You’re not being true to yourself.

Despite claims otherwise, I’ve never met anyone who was truly indifferent to how they make a living. We all want a job that resonates with our interests, skills, values, and needs. Exploring work opportunities outside these areas will, at best, result in a job that you hate.

As you can see, “keeping your options open” does not actually create any additional real opportunities in your job search.

So, before you begin your active job search, take some time to think about the kind of work you really want to do. Make the process easier for yourself and for the people who want to help. Get clear about your goals right from the start!

You don’t need to have only one goal. It’s okay to explore two or three different possibilities. But you have to narrow your search to a short list of goals most important to you.

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It seems counterintuitive, by it is 100% true: a narrowly focused job search almost always ends up being faster, less stressful and more rewarding. You concentrate your time and energy around opportunities that you are actually excited about. You stop wasting time on bad leads. And you make new professional contacts who can really help you with your search.

And the biggest benefit of all? You’re much more likely to land a job that you actually enjoy!