Find Your “Why”

July 30, 2013

After churning out several cover letters, traveling hundreds of miles, racking up credit card totals, and living a seemingly double life– I have successfully ended my job search (a dual search, but more on that later). I sent out 5 applications, had 5 phone and on-campus interviews, and received two offers. Considering my selectivity, those are pretty good odds. I am not sharing this to brag, but to show you how I pulled it off. I gotta tell you, this career coach has still got it.

Find your “why.” Maybe you just graduated, maybe your boss is a psycho, or perhaps you’re like me and you were looking to relocate closer to family. Whatever the reason, you need to figure out your motivation. When I was deep into, The Why helped me dig into other questions: where? how? with/for whom? how much? when? “Why” helped me to focus and personalize my search.

Get personal. You need to be a stand out, and you do this by making people feel special. Generic application materials are boring and insulting. YES, the recipient can tell that you sent the same awful cover letter to 100 different people. If you are too lazy to learn a little bit about your potential employer, you’re admitting that you’ll be lazy on the job. There are so many tools at your disposal– check out the institution’s website, creep on your future coworker’s LinkedIn profiles, comb through Google to see if anyone has been published. It’s not hard, it just takes time. And it makes things easier for you in the long run.

Connect the why to “the how.” After you research, figure out how your talents will be an asset to the company. You need to make these connections for them– make them curious about your superpowers. Show your potential employer how your skills will help them (but don’t teach them how to do it without you).

Don’t be a robot, be yourself (unless you’re actually a robot.) This part is tricky. Of course we’re going to hide our flaws and vulnerability during an interview. The key is to be open and honest about your values, intentions, and abilities. For example, I didn’t hide my wedding rings and I shared the desire to move closer to family. My honesty helped my partner and I to find gigs at the same university in a very serendipitous way. Sometimes it seems natural to keep your cards close to your chest– but quite often it pays to share little pieces of yourself.


These are just some quick “off the cuff-link” tips. I’ll be back to chat more about the dual higher ed search, job search privilege, disclosure, negotiation, LinkedIn, search debt and more! What do you want to know? What tips do you have to share?

July 30, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

You are speaking to my heart with the section about the How and the Why. Those are my twin lanterns for the work I’m doing. Without a good answer to either of those, we’re nowhere. And a really good answer to both of those is bringing you to New York :) Safe travels and best luck with the rest of the move!!

    July 31, 2013 @ 8:25 am

    Thanks, Amma! I always appreciate your perspective (because I feel like we process very similarly). If you can find the real motivation (the why), the rest will somehow fall into place. Can’t wait to be six hours closer to meeting you in person!

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