Career Tips

Wanting A Job Vs Wanting THE Job

Last week my blogging partner (the amazing Jessica Colombo) was away at South by Southwest. I realized that I was not going to have time to write a post this week, so I decided it would be a perfect time to give another round of viewing to this one by Becky Johns (who is an incredibly talented Spartan, and happened to be Jessica’s roommate during the SxSW conference last week. Becky shares thoughts and images from SxSW here.)

There is a whole lot of wisdom here, and there is no way I could have said it better! Enjoy!

Sincerely, Dave Isbell (the MSU Alumni Career Service Coordinator and normally the author/editor of this here little blog for and about Spartans.)

Wanting A Job Vs Wanting THE Job

By Becky Johns

(Originally Posted on January 24, 2011 at I highly suggest that you check out Becky’s blog/site. She has some amazing work there!)

Most of you know I recently relocated to Chicago and began a new gig, working in Agency PR for Cramer-Krasselt. I’ve had a lot of discussions with friends and contacts about this transition, how I found the company, what the interview process was like and how I knew if it was the right fit for the professional transition I knew I was ready to make.

Several of those discussions are with folks that are in a similar situation I was: employed, making decent money, comfortable in a job, but with a feeling deep in the gut that it was time for a change. But, many of the conversations are with friends who are college students or young professionals, seeking internships or entry level positions in the communications, PR or marketing industries. And one theme keeps popping up in our conversations. Many of them want A new job, but aren’t sure how to identify what THE right new job really is.

Here’s the problem with that: a new employer doesn’t want to give you A job. They want to hire the right person for THE position open at the company. Subtle difference on paper. Huge difference in reality.

When job seekers are in the mindset of wanting A job, it becomes easy to get sloppy and make common mistakes that will turn off employers interviewing to find the perfect candidate. Some common issues:

  • Casting too wide a net with job applications
  • Getting lazy about researching the company, its business, its clients and its employees
  • Failing to truly personalize cover letters and resumes to display relevant information and background
  • Settling for salaries, benefits or locations that don’t match up to what you feel you’re worth
  • Getting into the mindset of running away from something
  • Appearing desperate to employers
  • Not asking questions that get at the heart of the culture, expectations and other important factors that will determine how you’d perform in the new position
  • Putting yourself in a position to be a job hopper instead of taking the time to find the right fit

When you’re applying for any job remotely related to your skill set, you’re not really focusing on becoming employed doing what you’re best at. Employers will be able to tell this and you’re less likely to get hired if you appear to be someone that’s willing to do just about anything to get a job. That particular employer isn’t important to you in that scenario. How do you expect the employer to feel? No applicant wants to be viewed as “just another so-and-so”, but guess what, no employer does, either.

Instead, focus on finding THE job you want. Think about where you want to live, where you want to work, how much you want to make, which benefits are important to you, which types of tasks you’re best at, the type of boss you work best with, the type of environment in which you thrive and the types of values that are important to you in an employer or a client. THEN start looking. It’s a lot better to be picky and specific up front and widen your criteria later than it is to just take whatever you can get.

When job seekers are in the mindset of wanting THE job, there is a much higher likelihood that both sides of the equation will find the right fit.

  • You’ll go into your interview able to speak more intelligently about your experience and specifically how you can contribute to the projects
  • You’ll be a lot more excited about doing thorough research on the company, who’s interviewing you and the type of people that work at the company
  • You’ll already know you can do the job duties and it’ll be easier to ask questions about all the other things that will affect your performance (culture, leadership style, deadlines, etc)
  • The employer will be more interested if you truly convey why that particular job at that particular company is the right one
  • If you don’t get the job, you’ll be even more motivated to improve your resume, interview skills or understanding of what you’re good at the next time around.

I know it’s still tough out there for job seekers, so I understand that not every scenario is going to be perfect. But, in any application or interview situation, apply for THE job, not just A job and it will make a big difference. I’m no expert, but I’ve been through the process recently, did quite a few interviews and really saw how big of a difference those factors make.

I knew I wanted to live in a big city. I knew I wanted it to be either Chicago or New York. I knew I wanted to be on the agency side of the PR business rather than the client side. I knew I wanted to work with a firm that works with consumer brands. I knew my strengths were writing, networking, media relations and social media. I knew I wanted to be in a creative environment. I was pretty sure I wanted to work for an independent agency. I really narrowed down, and it paid off.

When the opportunity at C-K came my way, I did my research and dug into a real understanding of the company. I interviewed with several people and asked a lot of questions about culture, expectations, priorities, what successes looked like, how long people stuck around and what made people leave. I had the opportunity to interview with the CEO and asked him about his vision for the future of the agency, what he wanted the agency PR team to accomplish and how he envisioned someone with my experience making the best contribution toward his goals. I was thrilled to receive the offer because I knew I wanted THE job. Only two weeks in, I’m 100% confident I made the right decision.

Anyone else felt like this subtle difference in mindset makes a difference? Any strategies or tips you can share for job seekers? For employers as they’re wading through an over-crowded pool of applicants? Stories you can share to shine light on related issues?


Becky Johns is a public relations professional, blogger, photographer, Spartan, and recent transplant from Lansing to Chicago. You can find her all over the web, but the best place to start is at and she is also fun to tweet with: @beckyjohns.


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