Remember Yosser Hughes

In the early 1980s Alan Bleasdale wrote the groundbreaking “Boys from the Blackstuff”.  Doing my A levels in a climate of rising youth unemployment, it resonated with me. Amongst the many memorable characters was Yosser Hughes, brilliantly played by Bernard Hill. Watching the gradual, confused disintegration of Yosser as he struggled to find a job is painful. Eventually he resorts to the now famous phrase “I can do that, gizzajob” whenever he sees the merest hint of a suitable role – truly heartbreaking.


There’s increasing advice available online about the best way to find your next career move. Some are suggesting it is better to apply for as many roles as possible, playing the numbers game as long as there is some element of match to a role. Others suggest a more focussed approach – targeting roles where there is a strong match and suitability for the position. So what do you do?

Above all else, you must do what feels right for you, as the best advice will focus on you exercising choice and regaining control at a time when it is easy to feel disempowered and devalued.

We urge caution when considering the “spray and pray” approach – put simply, avoid the Yosser Hughes approach. There a number of very sound reasons for being more focussed and targeted when applying for a role, especially with middle management and more senior roles:

  • Applying for jobs is emotionally exhausting. Firing off a large number of half-baked applications creates a cycle of hope and disappointment that is self-defeating and saps self-confidence.
  • A “generic” application will always be less impressive than a CV and covering letter tailored to a specific role – you will not stand out from the crowd
  • It’s impossible to do the detailed research needed on a role and an employer when you are churning out a large volume of applications, so you’ll be less well prepared
  • De-skilling yourself to apply for a role will damage your career and your confidence and stop you focussing on your strengths
  • A good consultant, HR professional or manager will see through generic applications
  • In a crowded market you need to make yourself stand out; generic applications with a poor match to a role get spotted and rejected quickly
  • You will devalue your currency in the market if you apply for roles indiscriminately; you can appear desperate or confused if you apply for a wide range of very different roles
  • Your career and your application need a convincing narrative, but this is often forgotten or lost in generic or tenuous applications.

By all means do apply for the largest number of suitable jobs possible – ensuring applications are always tailored, identify your value and sell your contribution to the employer. But our advice remains clear – only go for jobs that are right for you, your skills, experience and future potential.[private]

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