Apply for people, not roles

You’ve been lied to since you were in college.

Ok. That is an understatement and probably something that you’ve already come to accept, so I’ll clarify.

You’ve been lied to about how to find a job, about what you should be considering and about what is important. It’s a lie of omission, but it’s one that could seriously be holding you back and keeping you in jobs that make you spend your time daydreaming while scrolling LinkedIn.

The advice they give is to consider the size of the company, the role and your interest in it, and how well you match the qualifications, blend all that up and you can use it as a tool to score the jobs and prioritize.

Maybe, MAYBE, you have an advisor who tells you to apply to jobs that you don’t totally qualify for and that you are hoping to win them over with your passion and go-getter-ness.

All of that is well and good I suppose (though I fervently disagree with some of it, and you’ll see why in a bit), but it leaves out the key thing to consider in what will ultimately decide how successful your search was.

Here’s what’s coming your way. We’re going to talk about what you need to think about in your job search so you can:
- Enjoy your day to day more
- Learn more and learn faster
- Get promoted faster
- Spend your time in the role that truly inspires you

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Ah, such a timeless truism. For someone like me, that’s always been a bummer to think about because I do not enjoy networking, I am awful at keeping in touch with people, and well… what if I don’t know the right people?

My point isn’t that you need to network to get the right jobs (which I will begrudgingly admit you do).

My point is that we’ve known for a long time that the personal aspect is what matters more. So why don’t we think about that more when we look for jobs?

Without a doubt, the biggest factor into whether I enjoyed myself, was successful, grew personally and/or professionally, and ultimately whether or not I was successful, across every job I’ve ever had, was who I worked for.

Your boss is the unconsidered X factor

Your boss is the person that will (or will not) throw last minute work your way.

Your boss is the one that will evaluate you. Coach you. Mentor you. Yell at you. Build you up. Pick your projects. Give you advice. Be a reference in future jobs. Connect you to people.

That list could go on for so long.

I’ve been blessed to work for some of the most incredible individuals. I’ve also worked for some that I truly disagreed with and disliked. But far and away, I’ve worked for amazing people who put me and the organization before themselves, who truly took an interest in my development and growth, and who recognized the value of their people.

A good boss understands that people are the Golden Ticket to success, for them (unless you work for the CEO, your boss has a boss and you doing well likely means that your boss does well) and for the organization.

They will look for ways to help you grow, as an individual and as a professional.

Our society has pretty well accepted now that motivation is critical to success. And the wisest among us have realized that motivation and professional interest grows more from skill & success than it does from passion for a topic.

A great boss will focus on your development, recognizing that the better you get the more passionate you’ll get about your work.

They’ll also look at what your skill set is and try to figure out how to lean into that. Again, talent begets success and success begets more success.

What this means for you

The biggest criterion you should be evaluating when searching for jobs and when considering which to take isn’t the role, it isn’t the salary, it isn’t whether it's a promotion or not…

The most important factor to consider is your boss.

Focusing on this one role is a short term outlook.

Picking based on your boss is a long term, forward thinking one.

It is an investment in yourself.

You’re choosing quality of life at work. You’re choosing to be built up rather than worn down. You’re deliberately choosing to grow. Instead of picking a bigger salary now with an unknown future, you’re willing to get paid less now in recognition of the fact that you will get so much better, promotions will come your way, pay raises will be yours, and ultimately you won’t just get more money, you will deserve and earn higher salaries.

So spend some time talking to potential co-workers about your would-be boss. Follow them on Twitter. Try to have a real conversation with them. Watch how they interact with people in the office (I recognize this may no longer be an option with remote work, but if it is for you, then do it).

Here’s the hard truth: it may require you to apply for a job that you are overqualified for. It may require you to apply to a job that pays less. It may require you to take a tiny step “backwards” in your career trajectory. It may require you to apply for a job that you don’t really want.

Again, all those concerns are short term.

You’re thinking long term. You’re using this as a chance to learn and develop under the right person. Then, rather than waiting for them to take interest, you start having conversations with them.

Look for ways to improve the company...then bring it up with your boss. Maybe you’re right, maybe you lack some context...but they can teach you. They’ll see your potential and value. And now you’re in business.

Invest in yourself. Think long term. Prioritize what will have a bigger impact. Apply to jobs based on people, not roles.

This post is dedicated to the incredible people I've been fortunate enough to work for. I know you are unlikely to ever see this post, but thank you for all that you've done for me. Thank you for investing your time, energy, reputation and knowledge in me.

BGS, RT, JG, PK.