UPDATED ON 12/29/2021
Big-picture thinkers do not have to feel imprisoned by offices that clearly compartmentalize their workforce. Just be smart about it.
During a free consultation with a prospective client a couple of months ago, I spoke with an extremely artistic graphics designer whose visual talents boosted his unique angle in operations and business development. He soon became a prominent chief operations officer who strengthened product brands.
Now available for his next big gig, he targeted small startup-like businesses that were encountering marketing issues that stemmed from operations.
However, when asked, “When you read job descriptions, what job titles catches your eye?” He answered, “That’s just it, I don’t know because none of them really speaks to me.”
I don’t blame him. Titles can often silo us into one discipline, which presents an identity issue for multi-disciplinary people like us. He felt pigeonholed.
He and a handful of clients would not benefit from a resume. An executive-level consultant like him would do so much better with a website showcasing his services because he was really selling himself as an encompassing business rather than an individual contributor.
Plus, a big-picture person like him could not intellectually connect with recruiters or just any hiring manager. He needed to actually speak with someone who understood his view.
In the end, it was completely about networking. Even if something on Indeed did intrigue him, he would do better by fishing out the top dog of the company, connect with that person, and send a business proposal instead of a resume.
For the rest of us, we are all capable of so much more than what others may want to categorize us to be. That is why we feel the need to construct more than one version of our resumes.
Nonetheless, the working world does tend to confine each individual in a box, and believe it or not, there is a time and place for it.
When Big-Picture Thinking Hinders
Let’s pretend to build a house.
To drive a nail, we use a hammer. We can use other tools, but a hammer is best.
Now step into the shoes of recruiters and hiring managers. They are faced with specific issues that greatly challenge them. That’s why they hire people.
And when they search for that person, they want someone who can fix those issues. I mean, would we hire a marketing manager to resolve a software development problem? Probably not.
We might be thinking, “Wait, I have seen job descriptions that sound like they are trying to hire three people in one!”
To that I would say, “Well, those roles still tend to favor one role more than the other two.” For instance, technical project managers can either be more technical inclined or people-management inclined depending on whom the company is looking for. It is up to us to read the fine-print carefully and ask good probing questions.
Even so, we must still answer their initial question, “Can this person solve my problems?”
That’s what the resume needs to express.
If the resume says, “I can do this. I can do that. And, oh, I can also do this third thing.” then it sounds fluffy, unclear, and scatterbrained, as though the candidate is clueless.
“But I don’t want to be confined in a box!” we may exclaim.
We don’t have to be. In fact, it is to our huge advantage to be diverse in our knowledge and curiosity. That said, we must still address the precise issues facing recruiters and hiring managers in initial stages when they only have a piece of paper to consider.
Hence, concentrate on circumstances given in job descriptions and pinpoint distinctive titles so that the resume summary identifies us as the right people to interview.
When Big-Picture Thinking Works
Conversely, resumes do not have to be laser focused. It can show big-picture thinking as well. It just needs to be conveyed strategically.
To invite someone to even read our resumes, we need to be specific with our titles and technical skill sets. But once we have hooked them, then we can showcase our diverse knowledge and big-picture perspective within our accomplishments.
With anything we do, our efforts affect other people and departments. Finance affects marketing which affects sales which affects production which affects so on and so forth.
We need to know how our accomplishments and contributions mesh with the rest of an organization, which, in turn, impact customers. The bottom line is always the customers.
This overarching sense is what provides purpose for our work. It illustrates that we are aware of the influence we have on others, that we are empathetic to problems they encounter, and that we can create solutions that benefit the community at large.
Big-picture thinking does not stop there.
The interview is where we can really connect the specific aspects that the interviewer originally target in the job descriptions to the big-picture that upper management would eventually want delivered.
So show that we know the appropriate situations to employ big-picture thinking to enhance the company.
There’s a Time for Everything
I am often asked whether it is better to specialize or generalize. My answer is often be both.
Relish in possessing a particular passion. Relish in the ability to value multiple.
All in all, the message is this: be specialized in introductions when we want to invite someone to want to know more about us, then be big-picture once we get his or her full attention.
This works in in-person networking. This works in interviews. This works is resumes.
And the better we are at defining when to use which, the better we are at showing that we are experts who can contribute and influence the greater good.
Need to figure out when to express your big-picture thinking and when to focus? I might be able to tell you.