How To Focus Your Job Search: Less “What,” More “Why”


I’ve had several friends approach me saying that they are struggling with their job searches.

Their skills and experience, and in turn, their resumes, lack focus; they’re casting a very wide job search net in every field from marketing to PR to graphic design to finance.

I believe, that as much as their skills or experience lack focus, their passion, drive, desire or “why” also lacks that focus – and employers notice.

If we started thinking less about what day-to-day tasks we wanted to do while at work (the ‘what’) and reflected more on the things we wanted to achieve, accomplish or bring about (the ‘why’), we’d have a much easier time determining which field/industry we want to enter, companies we’d like to work for and jobs we’d like to apply for.

Before applying for my current position, I’m not certain I would tell you that I’d like to answer countless phone calls, write an annual report, manage the development of creative materials or tweet all day (OK, I knew I would like to do the latter).

What I did know, however, was that I wanted to help kids. I wanted to give ALL kids the opportunity to play sports and I wanted to help families in need. This isn’t just why I wanted a job; these were a few of the principles I want to centre my entire life around.

At the end of the day, you will be more successful in finding jobs that interest you, become a more eligible job candidate and, ultimately, gain greater job satisfaction if your job search is focused less on what you’re doing and more on why you’re doing it.

By this I mean, you should seek to answer the following questions:

  • Why do I want to work?
  • Why do I want to wake up in the morning?
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • What drives me?

Your answer might be: to help others, to become famous, to make money, to help others make money, to find a cure, to make your community “green.”

No answer is right or wrong; what matters is determining what is significant to you. The more intrinsic your “why” the better.

If these questions are driving your job search and your career is centred on the answers to these questions, you will be far more successful then someone who says “I want to crunch numbers,” “I want to write press releases” or “I want to draw blueprints.”

Why do you want to crunch numbers, write press releases or draw blueprints? Those actions in and of themselves will likely not give you much personal satisfaction. Instead, these daily, job-related tasks should be a means to accomplishing your greater career goal. It is the outcomes of these actions that will make going into work each day fulfilling.

So, if you are in the middle of a job hunt, or are unsatisfied with your current place of employment, start considering:

  • What do I want my life to look like?
  • How I want to be impacting my community, city, country?
  • Where does my happiness or satisfaction come from?

Photo credit: Michael Dales