For many years, I’ve asked a very simple question while conducting every interview. The question: What is your career utopia?”

Sure I’ve had to define the term for a candidate here and there. But, more importantly, I’ve tried to encourage candidates to think about their careers a little differently. We get caught up in minutia. We become cogs in wheels. Too often though, we don’t take the time to really focus upon what brings us joy in our careers. So I wonder, at the current stage of one’s career, what is the perfect opportunity for that individual, as defined by the person him/herself?


Once the decision has been made to identify new options, whatever the reason, candidates quickly shift into a “find a job” mode. Desperation drives action and often, that action refines into a very narrow focus for candidates seeking new opportunities. Change, especially unexpected change, is never easy, so it becomes instinctive to search for options most like what you are accustomed to doing.


If you’re a Chef, you seek out other Chef opportunities. If you’re an Executive…you seek out Executive opportunities. You get the idea.


But, where does the joy come in? Just because something seems right doesn’t always make it so.


Too often, candidates get out and explore options by searching for the opportunities that are posted. They go through impersonal online applications. They fill out paperwork and participate in multi-phased interview processes. Candidates have little to no control over the interview process, so they participate with great flexibility every step of the way. (Note: This is another reason to develop a relationship with a great Recruiter. A Recruiter can guide, advise, introduce, strategize, manage and expedite the process.)


Ideally, candidates should seek out multiple opportunities, prepare and impress at every stage of the process. Candidates interviewing should work hard to present themselves as completely dedicated to their profession and should call out the impact they believe they can make on the specific company. The goal is to make every company believe that not extending an offer is the wrong decision.


The fact is that a candidate interviews for an offer, not a job. Once an offer is extended, it is only then that candidates have any leverage deciding the outcome of the process. Getting an offer feels great. It provides a sense of value and it’s nice to be wanted. However, without having another offer for comparison, candidates may never know if they are accepting the best opportunity, or just the best opportunity available.


So, before you jump into the world of interviewing, take some time to figure out what makes you most happy. There is a correlation between success and happiness. Identify what makes you most happy and you can increase your likelihood of finding success.


That’s career utopia.


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Tags: career, employment, interview, job, utopia, workforce, yellowdogrecruiting

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Comment by Michael Biesemeyer on April 26, 2010 at 11:37am
I worked with a life coach for 9 months about a year ago while I was transitioning out of a business partnership. He introduced me to something called 'mind-mapping.' Basically, it's a way of visualizing your dreams and goals on paper using a blend of art and writing.


I found that when I expressed myself on paper, and really mapped out what I wanted, I began to see the steps towards manifesting those goals more clearly. David, I think that most people are unable to imagine that they can "custom build" a dream career. The more you encourage your clients to dream big like this, especially in the early stages of a job search, I think the more you will help them find opportunities that are fulfilling.

Great post!
Comment by Michael Minichello on April 26, 2010 at 7:12am
What a candidate always wants isn't always what reality is. Sometimes we have to help them figure out their utopia and then help them make it a reality. The challenge out there is having the leadership that can guide the Candidate towards what is best for them not trying just to fill an open job req. If you can stay true to helping others you will always in turn help yourself. Great post, thanks for sharing.

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