I’ve been making this exact mistake for the vast majority of my life. Reading the job description, coming to an interview, listening to what the interviewer wants, and then carefully reciting the story about their dream candidate – me, that is – in a way that makes them feel like I really am the manifestation of the perfect candidate on Earth. I’m Plato’s Form of the dream employee.
You want someone to do project management? I LOVE PROJECT MANAGEMENT! I’m anal retentive!! You want someone who’ll be a visionary?? I’m the most creative technologist ever! And of course I’m also detail-oriented, because I’m a special kind of creative guy that isn’t like all the other fluffy creative dudes. Ha.
It’s such an easy temptation – and a fight that’s so easy to win and lose at the same time. It goes approximately like this in my head: “You can force yourself to be anything! Just get the damned job and then you’ll think about whether you want it!..”
What a pile of crap. A typical example of a short-term win (yay! got a job!) leading to medium-term disasters (hate every moment at the job and work performance is terrible as a result).
My dear friend and mentor once gave me an amazing advice: “Wear your heart on your sleeve… People that you want to associate with will immediately be attracted to the true you… People that you don’t want to be around will be repelled by your true self – and that’s a good thing.” There is just not enough time in life to waste a moment of your life on doing something that you deep down inside don’t enjoy.
Instead, I lately go with a radically opposite approach. You know what? I’m not perfect. I passionately hate project management. I’m a technologist and an efficiency junkie. I hate process for the sake of process. I love passionate people and can’t stand mindless, political drones. Note how truth is polarizing: some will be repelled; others will say “wow, this guy is actually authentic and is in touch with his true self.” And those are the people that I want to connect with.
Let me take that thought even further: don’t fight to get any job. Yes, times are tough, this might not be the time to be picky. But if you’re like me, and are a fan of looking for a job when you already have a job, then be extremely picky in your search and don’t fake a single breath. Once you find an opportunity that looks good, watch for the reaction from the other side: if this is meant to be – and you’ll be happy at the job – the hiring managers will be ECSTATIC about you joining in. They’ll be blind to any of your faults. They’ll fight tooth and nail to get you the last dollar you asked for. They’ll tell you how perfect you truly are for this job – and you know what, you probably are. Because you were your true self when you were applying.