An acquaintance, who is a writer of wonderful fiction, recently messaged to tell me she is looking for work and to ask me to let her know if I heard of anything she could do.

I wrote back to ask what sort of work she was looking to do, and if it was writing work. She replied simply that she was looking for something she could do “from home,” since she has some physical limitations. I wanted to help, so I pushed back a bit, saying there were probably many things she could do from home and did she have something specific in mind. But she just signed off, simply saying thanks and asking that I let her know if I hear of anything.

“LIKE WHAT!???” I wanted to shout through the messenger.

I “hear” about jobs one could do from home all the time. On Twitter and Facebook people are always posting journalism jobs, blogging jobs, community manager jobs, social media jobs, content jobs, marketing jobs, copywriting jobs, design jobs, programming jobs. I don’t think my acquaintance designs or programs but I don’t actually know that, since she didn’t tell me anything and I don’t really know her that well.

So, I might forward her one or two but I’m not going to spend my day forwarding her every job I see and I won’t really know if the ones I do send her will be a match, making me much less likely to bother at all.

So, while I applaud this woman’s initiative in reaching out, I have my doubts about the potential success of her job search. Why? She has no idea what she wants. She just knows she wants “something.”

See, if you (the reader) and I wanted to get to Cleveland by tomorrow, we could probably do that. We’d look up flights to Cleveland, book the flight to Cleveland, get on the flight to Cleveland, and go to Cleveland.

But if we just wanted to get “somewhere” by tomorrow, there’s a pretty good chance we’d get nowhere. Sure, the aimless wander has a poetic, romantic association, but in reality you’re as likely, if not more likely, to crumble under the weight of your options as you are to move from your starting place. It’s the same with the job search. You can’t get hired in a specific job, that you are capable of doing and that someone will pay you to do, unless you know what specific job you want. Nobody – nobody – wants to hire someone who is just looking for “a job.” They want someone who is looking for, and suited to, their specific job.

I used to have this problem of no focus. For a very long time I dabbled in media in various capacities – print, online, television – and didn’t have a specific idea of what exactly I wanted to do. Now I know exactly what I do and can tell you in one sentence. It makes the job search much easier.

You must focus your search – you must know what sort of job you want and focus on finding that job. And you need to be able to put into words why you are the person to do that job.

A lot of people have no trouble with this – they know they’re looking for an electrical engineering position or a hospital nursing position. It’s creatives and media types who have a harder time.

What you need to do: Make lists of your experience, skills, and qualifications, pull out the strongest and most prominent of these, and find the job to which they best apply. Include hobbies, as that will help you find something you enjoy.

For example, I think my acquaintance likes gardens, and would enjoy gardening if it weren’t for her physical limitations. Perhaps she could get a job writing about gardening in some capacity, for a blog or magazine, or in some sort of community or marketing position. I’m just guessing. I don’t know enough about her. I’ll send her a message suggesting it.

My point: Before you embark on your job search, or any search, there is one thing you must do before all other things: decide what you are looking for. If you don’t, you are doomed to fail. You might as well not even bother.