Stop Digging Up Bones! Less Is More In The Job Search.

You Can Do It!

When you were a kid, were you told that you could grow up to be anything?

That person was a liar.

The truth is, you can grow up to be a finite number of things, and if you don’t focus and dive deep into those areas, you will never find the success you’re looking for.

The American Dream might be inspiring, but it is paralyzing.

This, That, or The Other Thing?

The number one issue I see when working with clients isn’t a lack of opportunity, but rather an inability to focus long enough in order to find the “right” opportunity.

We’re so scattered in our approach to finding jobs that we either take the first thing that comes our way, or we throw darts blindly, hoping we hit the target.

Let’s talk about Sue.

Sue is a skilled writer. She was offered a good job and jumped at the opportunity. But, although the job was great on paper, the culture didn’t align with her ambitious work-ethic.

She wanted to move on, but was paralyzed by the number of options available to her.

Should she…

  1. Stay and make the best of it?
  2. Quit and find a better fit somewhere else?
  3. Quit and freelance full-time?
  4. Stay and freelance on the side?

To complicate this even further, each above option was followed by a slew of sub-options. If she were to quit and find another job…

  1. What industry should she work in?
  2. What job title should she take?
  3. How much will she earn?

The list goes on!

Toothbrush Anxiety

We see this everywhere in our lives.

I’ve been using the same toothbrush for about 4 months now and it is starting to gross me out.  I need a new toothbrush!

When I realized this, I went online to look for brushes and was immediately overcome with anxiety!

There are SO MANY different options to choose from. How am I going to decide which one to buy?!

  • Electric or Manual?
  • Soft or Hard Bristled?
  • Organic or Futuristic?
  • Sonic or Hedgehog?

This is a big decision! I have to use this bristly-stick to keep my pearly whites shining for another 4 months. But, with so many choices, I’m paralyzed.

I have to find a way to narrow my options.

More is Less

The sad fact is that the more options we have, the tougher it is to make a decision.

This is an idea in psychology known as The Paradox of Choice, and when it comes to choosing a career path, it is the key reason we get stuck in our search.

Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.

— quoted from Ch.5, The Paradox of Choice, 2004

Less is More

In 2004, the American psychologist Barry Schwarz wrote the book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less and argues the eliminating choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers.

I like Barry. He’s a real ally for my bristly toothbrush issues.

Choosing Fewer Choices

So, when Sue came to me, we focused on eliminating her choices. We asked questions quickly and deleted options as soon as we felt a hesitation in the answer.

  • Was she in a place financially to quit (yes/no)?
    • CHOOSE & CUT!
  • Does she prefer working alone, or within a company structure?
    • CHOOSE & CUT!
  • Does she prefer working in this industry, or that industry?
    • CHOOSE & CUT!

It is tough, and felt scary to take so many options off the table. But, we whittled down her options to the point where she could focus and move forward.

Going Deep Not Wide

Eliminating options helps us focus on the nuances between similar options, rather than getting overwhelmed by the differences between high-level categories.

Let’s go back to the toothbrush example. If I know I want a Manual Brush and not an Electric Brush, I’ve just eliminated an entire category of potential stress and can ignore every toothbrush with a current running through it. Think about it…

What is easier to compare?




The GUM Summit Plus Compact 505 Soft Toothbrush (vs) the Bamboo Charcoal Infused Toothbrush is clearly easier to compare because they are similar. All I have to choose between is plastic vs. wood, and charcoal vs. regular.

But, how can I compare the GUM brush to the Water Flosser? They might as well be from different planets!

The goal is to eliminate options and relieve yourself of unnecessary stress.

Using This In Your Job Search

Now that we’ve established that eliminating choices improves your job search, what are the filters you can apply?

  • Location
  • Industry
  • Job Title
  • Company
  • Salary
  • Experience

Basically, the filters provided to you in the LinkedIn “Jobs” search tool.

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 3.44.58 PM.png

And would you look at that, you can save your search!

Overcoming Filter Fears

The scary thing about going deep, not wide, is the lingering doubt of…

“What if I chose the wrong filter?”

Well, if it helps at all, this will often resolve itself quickly when you start networking and applying for the jobs you’ve filtered into your list.

In my own job search, I started with 2 job titles and 2 industries.

  1. Content Marketing roles at Marketing Companies
  2. Career Counseling roles at Educational Institutions

As soon as I started interviewing, about 2 weeks and 4 interviews in, I realized that I was far more excited and interested in the Career Counseling roles at Education Institutions and eliminated #1 from the list.

My search is more focused and I’m no longer playing ping-pong between two competing options.

Now, all I have to do is go deep, and all I have to worry about is company culture, location, and compensation.

What Will You Cut?

Knowing that elimination will improve your job search, what are you going to take off the table?

Leave a note in the comments and share this post with someone you know who feels overwhelmed in their search 🙂

Much Woof,