It’s not how good you are, but who you are competing with

My job is confidential….

key takeaways:
– Maximise your opportunities by preparing yourself well;
– The key to get a new position/job is to become the best candidate you can be;
– You get the job not because you are the best in the world, but because you are the best among applicants;
– It’s all about who you are competing with and not entirely how good you are.

My academic coaching client is a rising star. He has spent a few years in the industry after his PhD and now is finishing his post-doc research contract soon. So, he has started looking for an opportunity in the academia recently.

However, things are not as rosy as it looks and he sounded a bit frustrated during our last coaching session.

According to him, the requirements for some positions seem too difficult to meet especially for good universities. And, it seems not difficult to get a position from a second-tier university. This is the real struggle: good jobs seem too difficult to come by while okay ones are not satisfactory. Then, he asked: which job should I go for?

I told him that he should pay attention to himself and do a round of good self-assessment. If he reckons he has a chance to be considered for a position, then he should apply for such a position and don’t ‘mind’ certain requirements, especially those he couldn’t meet. I told him that what matters is not how good his is (but of course, you need to be good enough!), but who you are competing with for that position!

I have been in selection committees for many times when our School was hiring academics. We always have ‘high requirements’ that describe our ‘ideal’ candidates. Is it easy to find the ideal candidate? No, because our School also competes with other universities. For some cases in the past, we ended up hiring young guns who had potential but not entirely having a proven track record.

So, the best advise I could give my client was that applying for a job is all about risk assessment. It’s not about how good you are, but about who you are competing with. The reality is that you don’t know who you are going to compete with, so the best thing you can do is to get yourself well prepared for any opportunity to come. And, you go on and apply for the jobs you like. Don’t worry too much how you can’t meet all requirements! If you can’t, then the chance is that others can’t either.

The bottom line is that if you don’t apply for such a position, then you don’t even have an opportunity. So, give yourself a chance. Meanwhile, wish you luck. ^_<

Dr. C. Richard Wu @
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