What if I am good at everything…?

Recently I’ve spoken to a few candidates with the same problem: They are good at a lot of different skills and they have an amazingly diverse background. Our careers are much less linear than those of our parents, so it’s not uncommon for candidates to have experience in various functions.

But sometimes these are the very candidates who struggle most with finding jobs. Employers perceive them as having an “unorganized” resume or being “hard to read.” Below is a question I received recently and my response.

Question:

I am a former non-profit executive – turned real estate rock-star – turned freelance copy-writer and editor. I’m also currently working around London as an assistant, anywhere that makes sense to my resume and getting Google AdWords and SEO (basic) certified. A resume writer just described my work history as a “mixed bag” and as such, I’ve been quite often insecure and worried about what this means to my up and coming job search. I’m writing to get your thoughts on my situation and well, heck, anything else you have the generosity to give across.- J. 

Response:

Dear J, 

That is quite a mixed bag! But a good one. 

Mostly I think you need to decide on a cohesive story and stick to it. Many candidates are tempted to say “I’d be a great marketer at your company. or admin. Or sales person. But hey I can also be a copywriter!” This is not a good strategy. It makes the employer think you’re not great at any of those things (even if you are) or that you haven’t figured out quite what you want to do (even if you have). 

Much better to say “I am a fantastic SEO marketer and here’s all the stuff I’ve done.” Cognitively it’s much easier for an employer now because they can stick you into the SEO candidate bucket and really consider you with ease. Remember that if something is too hard for an employer to think through (like “what is this person’s background really?”) then they get lazy and move on. -Elli
Being good at many things is a great advantage. But if you’re like J. and are having trouble getting your story across, remember that a simpler story might be better. It may feel crazy to undersell the many things you’re great at, but after seeing thousands of candidates I’ve realized that even I am bad at really trying to understand what an applicant is good at unless their message is very linear and clear.
Good luck to all you superstars! Once they hire you, they’ll realize you’re good for many roles.

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