Firstly, competition is so tight that you’re going to struggle just as much to get a bad job as you would to get a job you want. One way you can give yourself an advantage over the competition is to specialize. Focus on the job you want and prove you’re perfect for it. That’s better than the please-hire-me grape shot.
Odds are, your skills and your passion fall into the same area. After all, why would you spend all that time developing skills for something you don’t really want to do? You perform best when you’re in your element, and therefore, going for your dream job means you have a better chance of succeeding than if you apply for any random job offer you come across.
There’s also the issue that jobs tend to be divided into what I glibly refer to as “real jobs” and “mall jobs.*” Unless you’re in serious gonna-get-evicted-if-I-miss-another-payment kind of trouble, then you’re better off avoiding the “mall job.” Mall jobs pay almost nothing, don’t require any special skills (and are therefore dead weight on a resume), and give you absolutely zip in terms of contacts and opportunities to move up. If you’re hired part time, you STILL won’t be making enough money to get by. If you’re hired full time and convince your boss to give you extra hours on top of that, you may be able to pay the bills, but you’ll never have any time for self improvement** and so your temporary solution can trap you for life.*** You’re actually better off not having the mall job and instead you can put those hours towards education, training, and networking.
If you’re expending all that energy to look for a job, you might as well be looking for the job you want. If for no other reason, it makes the application process much easier. Your passion will motivate you. You will also have an easier time writing the cover letter. I know I can talk about how media and social issues mean a lot to me, but it’s hard for me to come up with convincing words about passion for serving hamburgers. What’s more, let’s say you get called to an interview. You will likely be asked “why do you want this job?” or “what makes you a good fit for this job?” or something along those lines. It’s easy to answer when you’re speaking from the heart. It’s not so easy when you’re grasping at straws about “providing excellent customer service,” and trying to sound sincere.
Finally, in all seriousness, there are some jobs that could put you in danger. Even if you’re out of work, it’s okay to be picky. The it’s-not-a-perfect-world sentiment that tells you to lower your expectations is founded on the very reason that you need to be careful. There are some job boards out there on which anyone can post. I won’t name them, but you know which ones they are. Please be very careful when applying for jobs there. Actually, I would recommend forgetting these boards even exist and you stick to networking and applying to traditional established businesses or maybe starting your own company. I have, in my moments of desperation, taken jobs offered by strangers randomly out there on the Internet, and none of them ended well. In most scenarios, I did the job but didn’t get paid and then the person disappeared. In a more unfortunate situation, the alleged company didn’t really exist and I was stuck out in the middle of nowhere with some creepy dude who had a bunch of my personal information because I had given him my resume and contact info.**** Please, please, please, be picky when applying to jobs. Settling for whatever opportunity comes along can seriously hurt you. Just because you don’t have an income, it doesn’t mean you don’t have value. Take care of yourself, obey your safety instincts, and trust yourself. That’s how you learn confidence, and sometimes it’s confidence that gets you the job you want.
*Mall jobs also include service jobs, retail jobs, waiting tables, and anything else where you let strangers yell at you for money.
**or even catching your breath
***or until they downsize and let you go
****By the way, if someone tries to record you or take your picture without your permission, you have every right to tell them to stop. Don’t make my mistake of letting their weird behavior slide because you need the job. No payment is forthcoming anyway. Just leave ASAP.