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Why Smart People Make Dumb Career Moves

I love helping people land their dream jobs, but even smart people can make dumb career moves. They do this for two reasons: not having a career strategy and not putting enough time into the job search. For those unfamiliar with the idea of a career strategy, it’s a written document that states what your career wishes are, the three paths you are considering and the actions you’ll take to make this a reality. And for those wondering how much time is needed to find their dream job, I believe a half day per week for six months will give you a 90% chance of landing whatever position you wish.
Does this sound far-fetched? Perhaps at first it could, but let me give you some examples. I recently spoke with a few business leaders about their job search and how it was coming along. I think you may benefit from hearing their stories.
I first talked with the CEO of a fashion designer brand who felt ready for his next gig but seemed unsure about which direction to take. He did not have a career strategy and spent virtually no time hunting for his dream job.
We discussed the positives and negatives of various paths until he settled on his No. 1 path of “finding a mid-size private company to own, run and grow” in a specific industry niche. The more specific his career strategy became – and the clearer the criteria for what he was looking for – the easier it became for us to think of key people he should meet. We identified 20 people to contact, and he committed to contacting them within a couple of months. The more specific you can be in searching for your dream job, the easier it is to generate more opportunities.
Another leader I had a chance to talk with was a senior executive who ran a government agency. She knew her job would end after an election and she needed to find something new, but she had no career strategy because she put absolutely no time into her job search. She said she felt guilty doing a job search while in her current position. She eventually had a job opportunity fall into her lap, but she didn’t feel too excited about it. After I talked with her, she decided against it and instead chose to devote more time to searching for the perfect role and creating a career strategy.

The challenge of finding your dream job is to do the hard work to make a career strategy, then invest a half day per week for six months. Once you do, you will put yourself in a leadership role in which you can amplify your positive impact on the world, be successful and have fun in this next stage of your career.

Dr. Geoff Smart is the chairman and founder of ghSMART, a leadership consulting firm that exists to help leaders amplify their positive impact on the world. Dr. Smart and his firm have published multiple New York Times bestsellers. He stays active in his community and has advised many government officials.

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