Look in the mirrorThe first in a series of posts that will keep you from killing your career

Let’s start off with some movie-trivia, shall we? What do the films Sirens, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain, Notting Hill and Love Actually have in common? Give up? Each stars Hugh Grant as a stumbling fish-out-of-water—the character that has forever fixed him in our brains—and in film history—as the befuddled Englishman. Limited by his early repertoire, it took a significant effort by Hugh and his agent to get him “un-typecast” and into the role of slacker Will Freeman in About a Boy.

Why am I bringing this to your attention? Because I want you to be aware of the pitfalls that could await you if you also take up a job situation that does not do you personal justice. In other words, you don’t have to be a Hollywood movie actor to be miscast.

The overriding mistake that many job seekers make when applying to a job, or being interviewed for one, is misrepresenting their true interests and/or professional objectives. Most of us seem to fear the consequences that honesty would yield. We’d rather bespeak what we assume a “typical” employer wants to hear. As thus:


Instead of saying:

“I want to manage a staff. As the company grows and recruits additional people I can direct their efforts and plan and oversee the budgetary constraints we would work under.”

You say:

“As the company staffs up it would be nice if I could be considered as someone to help lead it. Of course, if such an event doesn’t come to pass, rest assured I’ll be content to continue doing what I am already doing.” (Why the lie: You don’t want the employer to think you’ll be unhappy if they don’t place you in a management position.)


And instead of saying:

“I don’t want to climb the corporate ladder. I see myself remaining in the role for which I’m currently being considered.”

You say:

“Oh yes, I am certainly interested in opportunities for career development. I believe that one should always grab hold of such opportunities!” (Why the lie: Even though you may perform best in a steady work environment and prefer not to climb up ladder rungs, you’re concerned that admitting as much will be viewed as a lack of ambition or, even worse, laziness.)


And finally, instead of saying:

“I want the flexibility to work from home 50% of the time.”

You say:

“If the opportunity to telecommute arises, great; but if not, I’ll be perfectly comfortable arriving at the office on a daily basis.” (Why the lie: Though you need to drop your child off twice a week at day care, you think it’s important to appear adaptable no matter what.)


Such pandering to disingenuous expectations in your cover letter and/or during job interviews may well result in the following outcomes:

  • Two months into the job, the fissure between what you really wanted and what you said you wanted becomes a ravine… and then a bottomless abyss…with no rope of escape.
  • You’ve set your employer and fellow workers up for false expectations of who you are. As your dissatisfaction grows it may bring about even greater frustration, hopelessness, perhaps even anger, from all concerned.
  • Life is short: doing things not suited to you or your talents is a waste of something precious.


When an interviewer inquires whether you’d like to telecommute, manage a team, travel, etc., you might assume that he or she is sincerely trying to become acquainted with your true inclinations in order to help you and the company you’ll both work for be most productive. Long-term career success is achieved most readily through honesty—with your employer as well as yourself. Besides, unless you’ve done extensive research into your target employer, you probably don’t really know what he or she wants to hear!

So do yourself and everyone associated with you business-, personal- and family-wise the best favor and live up to the old adage: To thine own self, BE TRUE!

Being untrue can be a true career killer.