There’s nothing that will derail an otherwise stellar career trajectory than a new job that isn’t the right fit. Suddenly, the choice becomes whether to accept unhappiness and continue down what you know is a dead-end road, or deal with having a short stint to explain to your network, on your resume, and during interviews.
One way to avoid accepting a wrong-fit opportunity is to avoid being offered one to begin with.
It may sound great to have a slew of job offers to turn down, but this amounts to, at best, a waste of time (both yours and the prospective employers) and at worst, extreme temptation to make the wrong move.
Your goal should be to receive attention only for right-fit opportunities—even if that attention comes much less frequently. Right-fit opportunities should be:
- The precise roles and organizational challenge you want;
- Within the industries or types of companies you wish to work in;
- In a type of environment you will flourish in; and;
- Ones that will answer your own personal “Why?” for work.
If your resume is an effective career marketing tool, it should automatically repel opportunities that don’t fit with the above criteria, just as it should attract the ones that do.
The first step in developing an effective resume is to carefully define your executive brand—your strengths as they intersect with your goal. While this always requires careful reflection, it can be a simpler task for some; for others, it can require some heavy rebranding (e.g., if everyone sees you as the go-to accounting expert and that type of work makes you miserable, it is high time to overhaul your messaging).
Once you have clarified your executive brand, you must be able to transfer that branding to your career marketing tools. Take, for instance, the following two resume-summary examples as guidance on what makes for a muddled brand and what makes for a crystal-clear one. The first is vague in its positioning, with the potential to attract wrong-fit opportunities—while the latter relays the precise role, industry, and specific business challenges the candidate wishes to take on next:
Results-oriented executive with strong team management capabilities, seeking a dynamic leadership position. Highly motivated and committed to the success of an organization. Excellent communication and relationship-building skills. Strong time-management capabilities and ability to work under pressure.
Chief Executive Officer – Airline Industry
Airline turnaround strategist recognized for transforming market underperformers into industry trailblazers that eclipse competitors. Reverses downward trends in profit and revenue by driving engagement and fostering cultures of customer service, innovation, and collaboration.
The first resume summary will attract either no opportunities, or worse, wrong-fit opportunities that the candidate may feel pressured to accept and thus veer his or her career off track.
The latter leaves no room for ambiguity. It will attract only interview offers for CEO positions within the airline industry, particularly those opportunities where a turnaround is necessary—precisely what this candidate loves to do.
If you want to avoid taking a wrong turn, don’t position yourself vaguely or leave your resume open to interpretation. Have the courage to be clear in who you are and the precise business challenges you are an expert at resolving—but only as they align with what you truly want. Doing so will help you to avoid career dead-ends and awkward U-turns.