Many years ago our Real Estate agent taught me a phrase used in their industry and it has stuck with me ever since. It is:
"Buyers are liars."
This phrase describes the behavior of buyers who make long lists of things they MUST HAVE in a home, yet they fall in love with a property without their MUST HAVES, but with other property features never mentioned as possibilities to their Real Estate agent.
I think this is typical human behavior that comes from not thinking about things deeply enough—not reflecting on a current situation or future situation long enough to consider or even acknowledge all possibilities. It's a symptom of not knowing what you don't know.
Working with executives and professionals in the development of career management plans, in facilitating career exploration, and in creating resumes and cover letters, I have experienced this "buyers are liars" behavior frequently. It's not that my clients are purposely lying, but they are inadvertently deceiving themselves, me, and potential employers by not taking the time to learn what they don't know. They don't take the time—or have the trust—to learn from the professional career coach or resume writer they hired to help them.
It happens at multiple stages throughout the career coaching and resume writing process. Many times it starts from the first contact. This isn't lying exactly, but it is bravado, which is a form of lying. This is the client that knows exactly what he needs, asks how much it costs, then asks when he can have it. This client typically thinks he "only needs a resume" or "only needs a resume update." He doesn't ask my opinion, doesn't ask for insight into the most effective method or presentation, and doesn't want to take the time to learn what the best resume development and presentation strategy would be to secure his target position, for a client at his level, in his function, and in his industry.
The next area it typically happens is in the information-gathering stage. Far too often, resume writers and career coaches are met with reticent—or, possibly, just plain lazy—clients who respond to pertinent questioning with "see resume" or "Why do you need to know that? That's not important!" Again, this is not quite lying, but avoidance.
With these clients I often consider how my doctor would respond if I responded "Why do you need to know that?" or "That's not important!" ... when she asks questions like, "How much exercise do you do each week?" Or does it hurt when I push here?"
It's for the best to admit that you don't know and that you're willing to take the time to learn. And if you are not willing to invest the time in your own career management, it will show in your career marketing. Garbage in = Garbage out. We are coaches, writers, and marketers. We are not mind readers. Help us know what makes you tick, what makes you special, what makes you the PERFECT person for the job!
Whether I am working with a client in career transition, one seeking the next step in her career, or a client looking for a new position after losing a job, I have them identify their top 5 target positions. Sometimes we work together to identify target positions after we've completed career management strength assessments and coaching, and sometimes as a part of resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn development services.
One of the worst ways that clients lie is when we are working together to identify target positions and the client starts to email me position description after position description that is only a minimal match to their skills and experience. It doesn't take me long to read through a job posting to find the "Must have" or "Minimum Education and Experience" or "Will have" or "Position Requirements" sections ... as the clips below indicate.
Too many times in working with clients, I will respond to the posts they email me and say, "Did you read that a Bachelor's Degree in Applied Mathematics is required?" Or "Did you see that you need 3+ years experience in fundraising or equivalent attorney, CPA, or CFP" experience?" And too many times, clients will answer with, "I didn't see that" or "I could do that" or "What I do know is a lot like that."
I am a huge cheerleader for my clients. I believe that a successful career coach needs to motivate first, then educate. And I would never say "YOU CAN'T", but I also refuse to ignore the reality of my client's situation.
"I could do that" is not a good answer. I bet you could. And I could fly a plane or design a building, given the time and the right training, but when a posting says "must" or "requirements" or "the candidate WILL have", they are not talking about your desire or potential abilities, but the education and experience you actually have.
When a posting says "desired experience" or "desired education" that IS optional and I say go for it, even IF you don't have what they desire.
Dear clients: Help us help you. Together, let's spend the time to learn what we don't know, let's listen to each other, take advice, and focus on the reality in front of us. We will get done faster, have more fun, and the result will be MUCH more successful!
I was intrigued from the first moment I read the bold claim accredited to Socrates that "the unexamined life is not worth living" and it has been a touchstone throughout my life. And, through the power of hindsight, I see its influence powering many of my career choices and life activities.