Did you hear the one about the person who applied for the advertised job, only to be told there wasn’t one? While companies may post jobs, or hire search firms like McDermott & Bull to fill them, the reality is that jobs have changed character over the last 20 years. In the past, a job meant a potential career with a company. You really evaluated that company thoroughly, spoke to the hiring manager about upward mobility after that assignment, and tried to picture yourself retiring from that company. How often does that happen anymore?

The answer: not a lot. In fact, today, you need to take a different tack if you’re looking at an opportunity. A job is no longer a potential career (that’s not an entirely accurate statement), but instead is an opportunity to solve a problem for a company. Quite possibly – no more, no less.

I recently filled a SVP Business Unit leader for a client. The main objective was for the new leader to build this unit into a powerhouse within the company and within their industry. Top line and bottom line growth were the paramount drivers. This person’s perceived ability to achieve that was the number one priority. The fact that our candidate might be able to handle other responsibilities and challenges for the company in the future was a very nice bonus, but being perceived as the best candidate to do their initial job to the company’s fullest potential was job #1. And, this is the criteria against which they ranked their initial candidates.

My advice these days to job seekers is pretty simple. Figure out what it is that you do better than just about anyone else out there. Then figure out which companies might need that type of solution. Then reach out to those companies however you can. When a job is open or posted that you’ve been contacted for, you must effectively position yourself as a solution to the problem that the company is experiencing, not a jack of all trades. If you try to be a generalist, I can almost guarantee they will find someone they like better for solving their problem, even though you might make a better long term employee for the company. Use your past experience and your stories of solving similar problems, much like a consultant would if selling their particular type of consulting, as a potential solution to a prospect’s problem. Good consultants don’t claim to be all things to all people – they talk with prospects about what problems they’re really good at solving and are not afraid to turn down the wrong opportunities.