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Years ago, I saw a cartoon depicting a group of explorers deep in the heart of a jungle, using
machetes to hack their way through heavy brush and vines. The caption of the cartoon had one
individual saying to another, “I don’t know where we are going, but we are making lots of

This visual resonates with many aspects of our lives—we often mistake activity for progress.
In the recruiting world, I frequently encounter candidates furiously working on resume rewrites
and online applications, going nowhere faster than ever! Like the cartoon, it begs the question:
‘Do they know where they are going?’

Part of the underlying issue here lies in the fact that many candidates haven’t invested adequate
time in understanding their ideal work environment as well as the compromises they’re willing to
make if their optimal solution isn’t readily available. In my initial conversations with candidates, I
typically ask, “What problems are we looking to solve from your current environment that will
improve your career situation?” Rarely do I hear well-thought-out responses to this question.
The responses I tend to hear are universal truths in recruiting – I want to make more money, I
want more growth potential, I want a better work/life balance, I want a better culture, or I want a
nicer boss. I appreciate that these are all legitimate reasons. But the problem lies in individuals
struggling to go deeper and describe what a better scenario looks like and what they are willing
to trade-off in order to achieve it.

For instance, ears will perk up if I describe a high-growth opportunity that provides a legitimate
40%-50% increase to earnings. However, those same ears will go droopy-dog when I further
explain that the role is based in the middle of Wisconsin. Nothing against cheese curds,
snowmobiles and Packers-themed bars, but most people are not open to that type of
opportunity. The situation devolves into the candidate saying “I’ll know the right opportunity
when I see it”, which is code for “I’ll keep chopping until I find a path”.

The best discussions I have with candidates are those where they know their current skill set,
they have a strong idea of the types of skills they will be building and leveraging in 3-5 years,
and the type of opportunity where they will be making a significant impact. In other words, they
have really thought about their career. This isn’t to state that priorities won’t change during the
interview cycle – the key item is that the prepared individual will be refining a strategy throughout
vs. hoping that they land on the right path.

Lastly, I’m not marginalizing any item here – there are many people at all levels who are grossly
underpaid, working excessive hours or dealing with dysfunctional bosses. In such cases, just
consider those items as one of many factors that impact your career. We all know that you can
solve one problem while creating a dozen more.

Hire Thought – Be intentional about thinking through the career items you want to solve before
starting to look for a new opportunity. A best-practice is to develop a recruiting scorecard where
you list your priorities and assign a weighting to each item. This way you will have a basis for
evaluating new opportunities against your objectives. Honest reflection should help get you on
the right track and help you answer “Do I know where I am going?”

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