The other day, Rob Dromgoole, an excellent recruiter, posted a quotation from Colin Powell on Facebook. It read: "Optimism is a force multiplier".
That was one of of Powell's rules for leadership. He also said this:
"I am talking about a gung-ho attitude that says, "We can change things here, we can achieve awesome goals... Give me the unrealistic aspirations of the optimist any day".
This struck a positive chord with me but I think that it can be misleading.
When it came to taking military action, Powell was very cautious. The so-called Powell Doctrine demanded that a lot of conditions to be met before you did anything.
- Is a vital national security interest threatened?
- Do we have a clear attainable objective?
- Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
- Have all non-violent means been fully exhausted?
- Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid entanglement?
- Have the consequences been fully considered?
- Is the action supported by the American people?
- Do we have broad international support?
This makes him sound like a real "pick your battles" kind of guy who shared a lot of concerns with the "grim realists" he denigrated. In a job hunting context, it would mean "Don't apply for anything and everything".
Michael G. Cox, another smart recruiter, quipped that Wayne Gretzky, the hockey player, ruined job search when he said "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take".
What did he mean by that? Gretzky's optimistic maxim encourages people to act on the basis of their unrealistic aspirations so they apply for a lot of jobs that they are clearly not qualified for.
As a result, recruiters are overwhelmed with useless resumes. And they resent it. They have no respect at all for people who apply for anything and everything. Doing that just makes you look stupid.
So, rather than taking Gretzky's optimistic advice or Powell's, stick with the more sober Powell Doctrine. Don't apply for a job unless you meet most of the qualifications and have a realistic chance of being able to do it from day one.