By Lisa Parker

It’s wise for job seekers to take the word can’t and toss it in the trash. No worries, this isn’t a post about all things being possible. I’m a realist who fully appreciates limitations. Limitations are part of the human condition. They aren’t mental fabrications. Do some people put more limitations on themselves than need be? Of course, but that’s a conversation for another day. The focus today is use of the word can’t in conversations with potential employers and networking contacts and the effect it can have.

It’s been my experience potential employers respond more favorably to positive solutions-oriented people. Job seekers who highlight what they can’t do by speaking to limitations directly are much more likely to come off as negative or problem focused. The word can’t is a repellent to those wanting to hear about possible gains from having you on board versus focusing on the compromises or sacrifices.

Some who read my post “It’s Like Asking For Directions” are probably thinking, wait a minute, you told us to be honest about our limitations. True, but you’ll notice I did so by talking more about what would work versus what wouldn’t. I’ll give some examples of what I mean. Consider your own reaction to each.

I can’t work overtime or on weekends.  vs  I am consistently available to work Monday thru Friday from 8 to 5.

I can’t take a job for less than $15/hr.  vs  I am able to consider positions at $15/hr and above.

I can’t work too far from my home.  vs  Opportunities in (name cities/areas of town) are ideal.

I can’t be on my feet all day.  vs  I’m best suited for opportunities where I am able to sit more than stand.

Do you see the difference taking the word can’t out of the equation makes in the overall tone of the message?  The information is still the same, but it is delivered in a way that speaks to what’s doable versus what is not. Presenting with a can-do attitude can be as simple as cleaning up the bad habit of approaching conversations with employers from the wrong direction.


Lisa joined the Michigan State University Alumni Association as Director of Alumni Career & Business Services on May 1, 2012. Her primary focus is to develop effective networking and resource channels for experienced alumni interested in professional development and job search strategy assistance. Additionally, Lisa works directly with corporate, education, foundation and government partners seeking to attract qualified talent, retain and develop good employees, and establish collaborative relationships in line with their established goals and objectives.

With 15+ years’ experience in third party recruiting, Lisa offers a balanced understanding of both employee and employer perspectives.

Lisa is a firm advocate of the networking process and considers it a vital element in a successful job search. In addition to helping job seekers develop and best utilize networking contacts, Lisa shares her knowledge and insight-gained aiding corporate recruiting efforts-to give Spartan job seekers an edge in terms of lead sourcing, resume presentation and interview strategy.

Among Lisa’s notable accomplishments: Prima Civitas Foundation Scholar; Michigan Works Association Volunteer of the Year; Pink Slip Mid Michigan Planning Committee; career content blogger.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Michigan State University.


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