Confined in a Box
When looking for the next opportunity, the details are just as important as the big pictures.
I was conducting a free consultation with a prospective client a couple of months ago. He was an extremely artistic graphics designer who initially utilized his talent in the space of visual merchandising and consumer packaged goods.
But his skills did not stop there. As he climbed up the ladder, he became more involved with operations and business development, so much so that he became the chief operations officer who prominently strengthened product brands.
Now available for his next big gig, he was looking to be a consultant for small startup-like businesses that were encountering marketing issues that stemmed from operations.
However, as I continued to inquire about his goals, I found him a bit unfocused.
When asked, “When you are reading job descriptions, what job titles are you searching for or noticing?”, he answered, “That’s just it, I don’t know because none of them really speaks to what I do.”
He rejected the thought of being pigeonholed into operations, business development, or marketing because operations affect marketing (which I totally agree).
He was one of a handful of people I have talked to who would not benefit much from a resume. An executive-level consultant like him would do so much better with a website showcasing his services because he was really selling himself as an encompassing business rather than an individual contributor.
Plus, a big-picture person like him could not connect with recruiters or just any hiring manager. He needed to actually speak with someone at the very top. Someone who understood how the different disciplines of running a business integrated together.
In the end, I believed it was of no use to him to apply to jobs online. For him, it was all about networking. Even if he did find something of interest on Indeed, it would do him much better to find out who the top dog of the company was, connect with the person, and send a business proposal instead of a resume.
The rest of us may also be big-picture thinkers. We are capable of so much more than what others may want to categorized us as. That is why we feel the need to construct more than one version of our resumes.
Nonetheless, the working world tends to somewhat confine each individual in a box. I know that is hard to hear, but I have determined there is a time to take advantage of this inclination.
When Big-Picture Thinking Hinders
Let’s pretend we are building a house.
When we need to drive a nail, we look for a hammer. I know we can use other tools, but a hammer does the job best.
Transport ourselves into the shoes of recruiters and hiring managers. They are often faced with specific issues that greatly challenge them. That’s why they hire people.
And when they search for that person, they are looking for someone who can fix those issues. I mean, would we hire a marketing manager to resolve a software development problem? At first glace, probably not.
We might be thinking, “Wait a minute. I have seen job descriptions that sound like they are trying to hire three people in one!”
To that I would say, “Even then, those roles still tend to favor one discipline versus the other two.” For instance, technical project managers can either be more technical inclined or people-management inclined depending on whom the company is looking for. It is up to us to read the fine-print carefully and ask good probing questions.
As true as that may be, we still have to be able to answer their initial question, “Can this person solve my problem for me?”
That’s what a resume needs to do.
And if the resume says something like, “I can do this. I can do that. And, oh, I can also do this third thing.” then it starts sounding fluffy, unclear, and scatterbrained, as though the candidate is going about aimlessly.
“But I don’t want to be confined in a box!” we may exclaim.
We don’t have to be. In fact, as I have claimed in previous articles, it is to our huge advantage to be diverse in our knowledge and curiosity. That said, we need to be able to address the precise issues facing recruiters and hiring managers in this initial stage when they only have a few minutes to spend on each of our resumes.
So concentrate on circumstances given in the job descriptions and pinpoint distinctive titles so that the resume summary identifies us as right people to interview.
When Big-Picture Thinking Works
The resume can show big-picture thinking as well. It just needs to be used strategically.
To invite someone to even read our resumes, we need to be specific with our titles and technical skill sets. But once we have hooked them, then we can showcase our other diverse knowledge and big-picture perspective within our accomplishments.
With anything we do, our efforts affect other people and departments. Finance affects marketing which affects sales which affects production which affects so on and so forth.
We need to know how our accomplishments and contributions mesh with the rest of an organization, which, in turn, impact customers.
This overarching sense is what provides purpose for our work. It illustrates that we are aware of the influence we have on others, that we are empathetic to problems they encounter, and that we can create solutions that benefit the community at large.
Big-picture thinking does not stop there.
The interview is where we can really connect the specific aspects that the interviewer originally target to the big-picture that upper management would eventually want delivered.
So show that we know the appropriate place and time to employ big-picture thinking to enhance the company.
There’s a Time for Everything
I am often asked whether it is better to specialize or generalize. My answer is often be both.
Relish in possessing particular passions. Relish in the ability to think big-picture.
All in all, the message is this: be specialized in introductions when we want to invite someone to want to know more about us, then be big-picture once we get his or her full attention.
This works in in-person networking. This works in interviews. This works is resumes.
And the better we are at defining when to use which, the better we are at showing that we are experts who can contribute and influence the greater good.