The 4th Leg of the 3-Legged Career Search Stool
From Career Tips, 2009 Volume 2, February
I often tell people about the 3-legged stool of Career Search - where the 1st leg is your Passions, the 2nd is your Skills, and the 3rd is your Life/Compensation Goals.
The mistake I see people making all the time is to start their search by focusing on the 3rd leg, instead of the 1st.
Passion is critical - it provides the energy required for success, to sustain you through the hard work and frustrations of any career search, to give you the drive to work on any skills (the 2nd leg) you may need to develop to be successful, and to open your mind up to possibilities you had never before considered that let you achieve your life/compensation goals (the 3rd leg) while doing something you are really excited about.
There is a 4th leg that is critical to a successful search, and is a natural outgrowth of that focus on the 1st leg: Confidence.
If you don't project confidence in yourself, why should I believe in you? I'm seeking someone who can help me achieve goals that are really important to me (or my company), and who will produce critical results. If you struggle to present those confidently, or even just to express results clearly, then I'm not going to take a chance by entrusting such vital issues to you.
Confidence is closely related to the 1st leg of the stool. The more passionate you are about an issue, the more you naturally tend to project confidence when you speak about it.
On the other hand, even if you are confident in your abilities to produce in a certain role, if you have become blasé, if you're yawning while you present yourself, or if you seem bored, I'm going to take a pass. You may be great at it when you apply yourself, but I'm going to wonder if you really will put in the level of effort I need.
Confidence is a funny thing, though. Sometimes just acting confident re-stocks our supply. I learned this in elementary school. I found that if I was in a bad mood, I could either act that way, or choose to act as if I was in a good mood. If I started to 'pretend,' pretty soon I felt better and then was no longer pretending.
The same can happen with confidence. You can wallow in a lack of self-confidence, and let it feed upon itself, or you can choose to act decisively. The more you act like you have confidence, the more you will project it, and the more you will see positive reactions that create a feedback loop, helping you to feel more confident.
This is much more difficult to do, however, if it's an area in which you lack passion. People can sense that you are just going through the motions, and then you don't get the positive reaction you seek.
So what do you do if your passion is for something in which you have little experience or formal education? Unearth the commonalities between what you've done or studied and that passion. Make the strongest case you can for why you would be a good candidate, and let your passion show. People are much more willing to listen if you seem excited. And when they listen, and brainstorm with you about something you are really passionate about, they are likely to give you ideas you haven't even thought of as to how to achieve at least a substantial part of what you want to do.
Also listen carefully to the feedback you are receiving, but don't just accept it at face value. Seek critical input to see how you can make a stronger message, what gaps you might need to fill in around your background and accomplishment stories to be more believable, and whether there are alternate approaches that might make the path a bit easier.
Just don't give up! Keep pressing to get to a role you are passionate about, even if it means temporarily choosing Plan B, so as to fill in some of the critical gaps that enable you to pursue Plan A in another year or two.