Jacks-Of-All-Trades Don’t Get Interviews Because…


As a career coach, I get a lot of emails that go something like this:

Dear J.T.,

I lost my job after working for more than ____ years at the same company. In that time, I had a variety of responsibilities. I worked in a half-dozen departments. As the company changed, I would take on new projects as needed. I was a “Jack-of-all-trades.”

I thought when I lost my job I’d find it easy to get a new one because of all I have done. I’ve got so many skills and abilities, my resume is three pages long. And yet, I can’t seem to get an interview. As I research positions on job boards, I find myself saying, “I can do that!” But, having applied to over 40 jobs, I’ve yet to get a single interview.

What am I doing wrong?

The answer is simple: When you try to look like a match for everything, you match nothing.

A Job Opening = Specific Problem To Solve

When a company has an open position, what they really have is a particular problem that needs to be solved. The person choose to hire will be the one that can solve the problem the best and is priced right. When you are marketing dozens of things about yourself, a/k/a being a Jack-of-all-trades, you overwhelm hiring managers. In fact, you distract them to the point they are unable to see you as a match. Not only do you appear overqualified, but they may also assume you are overpriced as well…resulting in your resume going in the “no” pile.(Here’s a good example of a Jack-of-all-trades who needed to revamp his LinkedIn profile in order to finally stand out to employers.)

The Solution? Become A “Swiss Army Knife” Instead

If you find yourself in the Jack-of-all-trades situation, I suggest you re-tool yourself to appear more like a Swiss Army Knife: be clear in what each of your key skills is good for and demonstrate them with precision. Here’s what to do:

Step 1: Identify the top 5 skill sets you want to leverage in your next position. You have many skills, but you need to focus hiring managers on the skills you are most passionate about using on a daily basis so you can find a job that plays to your strengths.

Step 2: Map out how those skills support an employer in solving a problem. Clarify how will you use these skills specifically to save and/or make the company money. Ask yourself, “What pain will I alleviate when I utilize these skills for an employer?”

Step 3: Quantify your track record of success in these key skills. You need to be able to back up your abilities with facts. Articulate examples of how you have used each of these skills to help an employer so you can justify the cost of hiring you.

Step 4: Optimize your career tools (i.e. resume & LinkedIn profile), so they reflect your problem solving expertise using the skill sets you chose to showcase. Simplify these documents so the text clearly supports your area of focus. Less is more. Give hiring managers enough information to confirm you can do the specific job without overwhelming them. Your career tools should say, “I can do the job you need, but you’ll need to contact me to learn more.” (Here’s an article where I explain why your resume has only 6 seconds to get a recruiter’s attention.)

Finally, Don’t Forget To…

Once you’ve gone from branding yourself as a generalist to a specialist, you need to do one more thing: start a proactive job search. Just because you revamped your professional identity to be better suited for specific jobs, doesn’t mean employers will start responding to your online applications. If you really want to get an employer’s attention, you need to increase your networking efforts so you can spread the word about your special problem solving abilities as a way to get referred into positions. (This article maps out why your resume is useless without the right networking strategy.)

What other tips can readers share to deal with the Jack-of-all-trades challenge? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

P.S. – First time reading my posts? Thanks for taking the time to stop by! Not only do I write for Linkedin, but I’m also founder of the career advice site, CAREEREALISM, and currently run the career coaching program, CareerHMO. I hope you’ll check them both out!

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Top Job Interview Tips


Interview Skills – what really makes a difference?

It’s all pressure isn’t it? Not only do we live and work in a fast paced world, but we also have to be ever adaptable in the world of work, ever-ready to adjust that CV, explore and list our transferable skills, and so on. There’s so much good free information out there these days about how to structure your CV and application forms, that I suspect this has directly impacted on the increasing levels of post-interview disappointment that I am always reading about. Why? Because we’ve become so much better at the “getting the interview” part, that candidates are often failing to then “walk the walk” during the interview. I’ll cover this point in one of the tips.
So, what can be done to improve your chances at the next job interview? I have a number of practical tips for your tool kit. Which ones you adopt will be a matter of personal choice. I advocate all of them of course!

“6 of the best” Job Interview Tips:

• Be tuned in, switched on in advance: At least 30 minutes before you even enter the building, get “in the zone”, relax, breathe, tune in, and be absolutely on your game. Don’t leave it until you walk in the building to tune in.

• “Walk the walk”:
You have ticked all of the boxes in the JD, but do you have relevant and engaging stories for the panel that demonstrate that what you put down on paper lives and breathes for you. These anecdotes should be “locked and loaded” – ready to pull out of the bag as needed during the questions

• Rehearsals!:
This relates to the above point. I’d like you to dig a bit deeper, work a bit harder, at the whole rehearsing the potential answers you might give (to key questions which you will be able to anticipate, knowing the role’s requirements). They should be rehearsed aloud, not in your head. Get used to the sound of your voice, and it’ll pay dividends in terms of confidence and credibility.

• Better company research:
A no brainer? Perhaps, but again, candidates are getting smarter at this. You can download an annual report, get tuned into the company’s vision and objectives of course, but how about connecting with a few (non panel) employees via social networking, and finding out what the key issues are in the company?

• Post interview note:
You will no doubt in the past have followed up an interview with an email note thanking the interviews for their time, and briefly reiterating why you feel you’re right for the role. But how about a hand written, hand delivered card? This can be written out before hand, and left at reception as you leave (or if you’re walked right to the door, then pop back just after!). I’ve know this gesture work many times on a number of levels. The main one is, whether you get the job or not, you will be remembered for such a personalized way of saying thank you. If that idea doesn’t work for you, then a follow up email is a must.

• It’s a business meeting:
This is all about state of mind. If you truly view the interview as a business meeting, it will change the way you approach things slightly – you’ll feel a bit more like you’re sharing the “driving seat”, and I’ve known many cases where the candidate has been successful by adopting this mind-set.

The tips I’ve proposed are assuming you’ve got all the basics locked down; good body language, using their words in the interview, etc. Who’s to say which tips, from any source, are the definitive ones? What I always try to do is add that extra few % for my clients that will make the difference.

4 Habits of Superbly Confident People

The famous beach running scene.

The famous beach running scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Français : Harold Abrahams, ici au stade Persh...

Français : Harold Abrahams, ici au stade Pershing à Paris en 1923. le film “Les chariots de feu” raconte l’histoire des deux athlètes Harold Abrahams et Eric Liddell. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eric Liddell

Eric Liddell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certificate of Excellence & Innovation for Sma...

Certificate of Excellence & Innovation for Smart Urban Technologies (Photo credit: Citymart.com)

Cover of "Chariots of Fire (Two-Disc Spec...

Cover via Amazon

4 Habits of Superbly Confident People




Having confidence, to me, is this awesome feeling that feels like you are walking on steady and solid ground, 10 feet tall.

Wanted to share with you some of my thoughts of how to have that feeling.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from the movie Chariots of Fire, where the runner Eric Liddell is running in a race by the ocean. As the wonderful music of Vangelis plays, he asks himself, “Where does the power come from, to see the race to its end?” He then hears his inner voice respond, “The power comes from within.” (If you haven’t seen the movie, give yourself an inspiring treat and watch it!)

When you are feeling confident, it’s like having that inner power propel you forward, and all parts of yourself are conspiring in your favor, cheering you on. It feels like an inner dance that has nothing to do with the externals and how we are doing with our outer achievements. (Interesting that the word confidence at the end sounds like dance!) You just feel good about yourself. That power is in the core of our beings. It holds us, walks us, breathes us, and when you find that core, you also find the confidence to do things that you never thought possible.

Rumi said it best: Life is rigged in your favor! And having that belief makes you feel confident to take action, without second-guessing or doubting yourself.

I want to share with you a specific moment in my life when my confidence was shaken, and how I regained it. It was during the time I was writing my first book, Conversations With the Goddesses. I was feeling terribly insecure and doubtful about my ability to write or think that I had anything to say.

In the middle of this uncertainty, quite unexpectedly, a friend from out of town came to stay with me for the weekend while she attended a neuroscience seminar in the city. She was rather unusual in the way asserted her authority, and had a sixth sense about things.

The night my friend arrived, I shared the doubts and difficulties of my writing with her, and to my surprise, I found that she was listening to me without offering any advice. I was a bit surprised when she knocked on my bedroom door the next morning, while it was still barely light outside, asking me to wake up.

She urgently said, I have an insight about your book and it can’t wait.

She said to me, you have everything you need to write this book. But you lack one thing: confidence. And the reason you lack confidence is that you think you are going to do it on your own. You are forgetting that you have inner support, inner allies, inner knowledge that comes from something beyond you. You are not alone. You already have the information in you and you need to trust it. If you are open to receiving this assistance, all sorts of support will come your way and you are going to write a wonderful book.

I wrote everything she said down in red marker, every word. It was a catalytic moment, and I felt so alive that to this day I have saved that paper as a reminder that confidence and strength come from the knowledge that we are never alone. It comes from that power within. She was absolutely right. Once I opened up to that knowledge, my creativity was unleashed and I was able to complete my first book.

How do we find that power within? That is the question and the inner work that each one of us has to do — to go inside and get a hold of our core. We all struggle with the issue of confidence. It leaves us when things don’t go our way. Like a negative current that tries to consume us and spiral us downward, before you know it you can sink into the quicksand. Reconnecting with that wiser part of us — that knows our value beyond our achievements or outer recognition, and has a larger perspective — is the winning strategy that changes the negative current that comes against us, and transforms it into a positive wave that pushes us forward to our next committed action.

Our negative voices, which play in our head, say to us that we are not good enough.

They lie to us, making us feel that we are less than others and deplete us from the most valuable commodity a human being can have, trusting oneself and one’s inner wisdom. The antidote is radical self-acceptance. I don’t know if you know the character that Al Franken played in a television series called Stuart Smalley, but he famously said “I am good enough, I am smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” It is a good mantra for all of us to run inside our heads.

I have learned from my mother, who had unshakable inner trust in life, that the ability to create the life you want is not based on resumes and degrees, but on giving yourself permission to be who you are; accepting yourself the way you are; trying new things; not being afraid to fail; and using this world as your playground, knowing that you are writing the script as you go along. But often in our minds and creative imaginations, we start to write scripts that have negative outcomes that undermine us. Our critical voice stops us from attempting something new and following the spark of a new idea. I think Shakespeare said it best, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

There are four principles I have discovered that help me get back to my confidence when it falters.

1. Affirm that you are not alone. What that means, is that we often abandon ourselves, and that creates a feeling of tremendous insecurity. You are the one who has got to have your back and heart. There are three factors to knowing you are not alone: you reach within and you grab hold of your core self; you reach outward and you ask for help; and you reach to others and offer help.

2. Move into radical self-acceptance. Start appreciating every little thing about you, reinforce the positive, and refrain from focusing on lack. When you are feeling insecure, tell yourself, “I can’t afford the luxury of indulging in my own insecurities.” I often play the Bruno Mars song “Just the Way You Are,” which energizes me (and I wonder if Bruno wrote it for me).

3. Don’t wait to be perfect before you take action. You are always going to be a work in progress. Don’t wait for perfect circumstances. We put conditions on our happiness and well-being that distract us from being open to the opportunities that are in front of us.

4. Your presence is required. Call your heart energy present as you are living your daily life. Bring it present in your conversations and all your interactions. Do not disconnect from your heart. It is what brings fulfillment in your day.

Let’s get into that sweet spot of really accepting and cherishing our vulnerabilities, our humanness and ourselves! Let’s embrace the whole package, the things we are good at and the things we are not so good at, because that is how we find our confidence and how we make the ground we walk on not only steady, but sacred.