Every job seeker needs a powerful intention statement – a 5 to 10 second answer to the question “so what are you looking for?” It has to GRAB the listener immediately.

So over the past few days, I’ve worked with people to zero in on specifically what they want to do. To be more specific, I want to know exactly what work challenges and issues they want to tackle.

Why am I doing this?

1. Specificity breeds commitment. It’s hard to be committed to achieving a generality. “I want to lose weight.” Sure, doesn’t almost everyone? Compare to: “I want to be 10 pounds lighter in 45 days.” It’s a SMART goal: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Once I voice that want or intention, I actually am committed to it. Something happens in my brain and heart where it becomes a goal I am motivated to achieve.

2. Specificity allows others to help me. If I say I can do almost anything, that is not helpful to people who want to help me find work. Their next question is usually “but what do you WANT to do?” People need specificity for their brains and mental rolodexes or contact pages to come alive and start spitting out ideas and connections. So if I say instead “I can do almost anything in fundraising” or “I can write just about any marketing piece you need written,” there is enough specificity for people to start thinking “who do I know in fundraising, or what do I need written, or do I know anyone who needs something written?”

Even better: “I love to write persuasive materials for organizations with a great mission and low visibility, to invite people to be part of making a big difference in our community.”

Or “I love to solve space challenges for companies with big ideas and limited budgets, and make their spaces reflect their brand image and strategic thinking.”

Or “I love to help organizations grow to the next level, through identifying new markets, creating sustainable internal systems, and making the most of opportunities.”

That last one is still a work in progress, but it’s directionally correct.

Another one that is definitely still muddy but headed in the right direction is this one:

“I love to solve big operational challenges for companies in transition or crisis or facing significant market changes, through reengineering processes and people to turn things around and achieve big results.”

3. Specificity breeds serendipity. Once you’re specific, amazing odd things and opportunities will start to appear. Paul Coehlo said “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” It doesn’t mean you won’t have doubt or fear or anxiety about whether you’ll achieve the goal. And that’s fine. As psychologist Rollo May said, “Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of doubt.”

Yesterday, Nancy and I were talking about her desire to work in a specific kind of organization in a specific NYC neighborhood. Because it might be difficult for her to immediately get such a position, we talked about interim steps. One possibility was for her to look for a position similar to her current one in her target neighborhood. Then we went on to a job search site, and there was a posting for EXACTLY that kind of job. Obviously, she will apply for the job and network her way into getting an interview. It was just an amazing true story of how specificity can attract the exact thing you want.

Sarah’s story is another such example. She was very specific about the kind of job she wanted. Friends and her husband worried that she was TOO specific and would lock herself out of other positions. The thing is, she knew what she wanted. If she didn’t find that, she could always expand her search. Why not try for exactly what she wanted first, however? The outcome of that story is that she found exactly what she wanted and got the position.

I hope these examples inspire you to identify exactly what you love to work on, what challenges excite you, what problems you love to solve. And when you find such an opportunity, allow your passion to flow through you into your cover letter.