Why do so many companies make it so hard for their customers to buy? They try to be all things to all people and end up confusing the hell out of everyone as to what they are, what they do, why they are good at it and what is their value. Sound familiar? I have done this rant before (Why is selling my Product or Service so hard?), but I am finding that the same rant applies to people looking for their next job.

I have had a busy stretch so have not done my normal amount of networking, that is, until the last two weeks.  A break in my schedule allowed me time to meet with a number of new people to whom I have been introduced as well as have coffee with others that I haven't connected with recently.

Among those meetings, three stood out. Two meetings were with senior executives that are looking for their next job. Both have 25+ year careers in senior roles across multiple industries in both small and larger companies. I asked each what they were looking for and got the same answer non-definitive answer from both. They told me the three or four areas within potential new companies that would be of interest to them. Neither specified the type of company, its size or the industry or sub-industry in which they wanted to specialize. They both presented themselves as smart guys, with broad experience, who were willing to consider various options. What struck me is both wanted to keep their options open so they wouldn't miss being considered for an opportunity.

So why was their answer worthless to me? Simply stated, if they are asking me to help them through my network to find their next job, then I need to "label" them. If I don't have a label, then a few days after the meeting, they will likely fall off my radar and out of my mind. I often get calls from companies in my network looking for senior talent. Without the label, I probably won't remember them and match them to the opportunity. As well, a label helps define what you are good at because it forces you through a process deciding what you are passionate about and what are your differentiated skills and experience.

Here is my label. I do "go-to-market" strategy and execution for emerging software and professional services companies in the $5,000,000 to $50,000,000 revenue range. There is no ambiguity about the type of organizations that would be interested in talking to me about my services. They are small, growing software or PS companies that are having problems with lead generation, sales, professional services or partnerships. Being specific in my label provides credibility. The implication of narrowing the focus to go-to-market, software or PS and $5-50M is that I am focused and specialized. Implicit in the pitch is that focus means I am good otherwise I would not survive only chasing such a narrow market.

Conversely, by advertising your qualifications as "smart guy with lots of experience who can do lots of things for any sized company and multiple industry segments", the implicit message is that you are a generalist. The bad news is that that there are tons of 45 to 60 year old unemployed senior executives currently flogging their wares. Until they are engaged in an interview process, they often all look alike.

As well, many jobs (especially at a senior level) are never advertised. Most candidates are either recruited directly by recruiters or are referred into the organization by a trusted advisor who is aware of the issue the company is facing and through their network introduces someone who they believe can fill the void.  If you are one of the masses keeping your options open by advertising yourself as a broad generalist, you will likely misses these opportunities

So, if you are searching for your next gig, get specific and build your label. By limiting yourself, it will force you to figure what you want to do next, what you are truly passionate about and where you add differentiatting value because without passion and differentiating value you are just one of the bunch.

It will also help guys like me to help guys like you.

And, the third meeting that stood out that I mentioned above,  is the topic for my next Blog.

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