Can’t Find a Job? You May Be Too Ambitious to Get Hired

Source: iStock
Source: iStock

You have your resume printed on high-quality card-stock, your suit is pressed and crisp, and you’ve been practicing answers to those tricky interview questions for the past three days — you’re set to kick some serious ass at your job interview. You may be the rosiest, and the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and have fine-tuned your resume and cover letter with every keyword the description threw at you; hell, you might be a dream candidate.

But that still doesn’t mean you’re going to land the job —  in fact, you may be hurting yourself with too much enthusiasm. Though you’re loaded with positive attributes, there’s still one big problem: you’re too ambitious to get hired.

You may have, at some point in your life, heard the words “you’re overqualified” when applying for a job. Now, just what does that mean? It’s basically a way for hiring managers to let you know that you’re a good fit for a position, but might be threatening to those higher in the pecking-order. That’s traditional thinking, anyway.

But there are those who disagree, and say using the ‘overqualified’ card is more akin to letting you down easily because they actually don’t think you’re a good candidate. It’s a semantic minefield.

Being too ambitious is similar — these companies, or more specifically, existing employees, want an asset to their workplace. Not another threat. And with the job market becoming evermore like an episode of Survivor, there’s not much incentive for an existing employee to hire someone who might come in and make everyone else look bad with their unfledged enthusiasm, and obnoxious can-do attitude.

It’s only natural to be eager to please, especially in a new role. But what’s becoming obvious is that you may need to crank the ambition knob down from eleven.

Toning down your ambition and enthusiasm may not just help you on the job-hunting trail, it could also have some positive benefits for your health, and even more so, your level of happiness. There is mounting evidence the most ambitious among us generally have issues with attaining and holding on to happiness. Life satisfaction, it turns out, may be more closely associated with our personal relationships and private lives than with achieving a high status.

Not only that, but by embracing your ambition and throwing caution to the wind, you can actually hurt your relationships, making things even worse. Short-term ambitions may satisfy our more primal instincts, but balancing those goals with our long-term investments — be it in personal relationships or otherwise — is of the utmost importance.

Also, by tapping into your personal and professional networks too aggressively can irritate people, and turn them off from wanting to help you. So, as with anything, balance is key.

In an article for Science Magazine published earlier this year, author David G. Jensen encapsulates this notion rather elegantly. “Achieving your goal will require hard work and a long-term commitment. Very few can achieve something difficult without desire,” Jensen writes. “Desire, though, is like gasoline; it can burn too hot. It’s also like a lubricant; it can grease the gears, but if you have too much, things get slippery and hard to hold on to. It also doesn’t show very well, or not always.”

And that takes us back to our main thesis — temper your ambition and enthusiasm. Though it’s typically lauded as a positive trait, and one that is valuable for job-seekers or those looking to make some big career jumps, it also has its pitfalls. Particularly if you’re young, or fresh out of school, you’ll want to tread lightly. Overconfidence can bite you in the ass, and workplace veterans may not find your attitude as infectious or inspiring as you had hoped.

Also, by finding a solid balance, you shield yourself from the inevitable letdown. At least a little bit.

So soldier on, and tackle each new challenge with an aggressive, upbeat attitude. Just make sure you’re going at it with a sense of parity.

Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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