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Do Anything

I Can Do Anything

From Career Tips, 2024 Volume 3, March 2024


Man Facing Choice Of Paths In Forest
Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

From the very talented Sadie Pepitone’s original song, “Cigarette Smoke”:


“There was no rule book for me, no answer key, no one to tell me what I could be.”


This is so true. We weren’t born with an answer key that would tell us what direction we should follow in life and career.


This is both empowering, and a challenge. With a wide-open field of possibilities, how do we choose?


Let’s first look at implications for how you conduct a career search, and later we’ll look at issues (and opportunities) for your longer-term career prospects.


If you feel like you could do anything (or at least, have many options), this can lead to two issues:


  1. Your messaging can become unfocused.
  2. You may decide to pursue multiple options at the same time, creating an inefficient search.




It’s great to approach life and job interviews with an ‘I can do anything’ attitude. That can build confidence, which is particularly powerful in interviews. However, when that creeps into your messaging, it can hold you back.


Telling a hiring manager or networking colleague something that smacks of ‘I can do anything’ provides no useful information as to what you are really good at or specialize in. This is similar to issues with ‘transferable skills’ I wrote about last month.


For example, very early in my job search strategy practice I realized that the concepts, techniques, strategy and psychology I taught my career search clients translated very well into how to prevent and deal with career stumbling blocks, and how to build a consulting practice.


I thought: “I should adjust my messaging to cover all three areas.”


Then I realized that this was a trap. If I presented the three possible directions, it would raise these questions in the minds of prospects and networking contacts:


  • Can he really help equally with all three?
  • How can he be that good at all of them?
  • Which is his specialty?
  • Does he have a true passion for each direction?
  • Is he just trying to cast a wide net to see what he can catch?


These questions would reduce the likelihood of them wanting to talk to me or refer me to others for any of them.


I concluded that my best approach was to stick with messaging primarily around career search, plus what to do when you land, and let opportunities in the other areas develop tactically from 1-on-1 discussions. When the discussion moves in one of those directions, I can then shift gears and show directly what I can do for that. That has led to coaching a number of clients on a variety of career issues, and with defining and building successful consulting practices. That comes from the organic discussion when someone presents as having challenges with those, rather than from directly marketing them in my messaging.


In a career search, you want to come across as laser-focused on solving certain types of problems. You want others to hear consistently about a specific direction in which you are headed. That will give you the most engagement and best equip networking contacts.


Sure, there are many other problems you could solve and many variations on the direction in which you could head. But as soon as you try to keep yourself open for those in your messaging, your message loses focus and engagement. The time to bring those up is after you’ve generated the engagement, when someone makes observations about other issues, or asks what else you can do.


Next time we'll talk about the inefficient search that the "I can do anything" psychology can lead to.


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