09/28/2015 06:33 pm ET Updated Sep 28, 2016

Availability Is Not a Skill

Choosing up sides in playground games can be a cruel experience.

As each player gets picked and there are fewer and fewer standing, the awkwardness grows. Finally, everyone goes out on the field to play. No doubt, there is some humiliation among those not chosen. Those left on the sideline will hang around for the next game with the hope to be chosen and it may or may not happen. I know this first hand from playground basketball since I was generally in the group not picked. Being able to dribble with the left hand is a skill. My availability was not.

At that point in my basketball career, I had a choice.

1. I could resolve to work on my left hand skills until I could confidently dribble and go to the basket from that side.
2. I could continue to hang around the court every day. Eventually, a team would be desperate enough to choose me and my lack of left-handed skills would become evident. Both the team and I would be frustrated at the mismatch.
3. I could recognize that no matter how much I worked on it, my talent in basketball would never serve me well. I should choose another sport. In my case, that's what I did.

Cruel as it is, the playground rules provide a lesson about hiring. That lesson is: just because you are hanging around and available does not mean you will be picked. Availability is not a skill. Get over it. Just like the playground, you have some similar choices.

1. Develop a skill so that you will be hired. The skill might be as simple as learning about spreadsheets or give a better presentation. Or the skill could be a much more technical or require a return to school. Even if learning the new skill may not fulfill a lifelong dream, the new skill can get you the job that will allow to get in the proverbial door.

2. Keep waiting around until an organization is willing to take a chance on you, even if you don't have the skills. Without the skill it usually doesn't take long for you to be miserable and feel like you are in over your head. For the organization, there will be some sense of "we made a mistake". There is the possibility that something good will happen once you are "in", but it's a long shot. Hard as it might be for job seekers to understand sometimes organizations are so desperate that they will take a risk on someone who is "available".

3. Change directions by choosing a different career and go deep into learning about it. In essence, repot the plant in a different career garden.

In short, what I look for in a candidate is a skill or a passion to learn that skill and be a part of the team. Availability is not one of those skills.

To quote Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live, "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!" is almost never enough.