Just last week, one of my clients, Pamela – a writer/editor in her mid-twenties — hit the bulls-eye, – the very job toward which she had been aiming for the last three years, without realizing it. What she was experiencing was a lot of career pain, the symptoms of which included the dreads (dreading going to work every day); the drabs (boredom, verging on depression); and the dregs (obsessive-compulsive negative thinking and talking about the job).
If you have any or all of these symptoms relating to your job or career, take two Advil (my personal favorite) and call your career coach! It might be time for the Big Dig! A career coach just might be able to help you dig yourself out of the hole you are in and into the light and air that awaits you just above ground. As long as you’re down there struggling, you can’t see anything else.
You may not believe me now, but it doesn’t take all that much time to get a handle on what lies beyond the limited world you can see from that dark place. For Pamela, it took about six career coaching sessions over a period of two months to move from “I am stuck forever in this job because the economy is so bad and I’ll never get another job in my field,” to “I know who I am, I know what I want, and I am determined to keep looking until I find it.”
This transformed, powerful (as opposed to weak) attitude is predicated on finally knowing what you want and what you are looking for – the bulls-eye. You can’t find the needle in the haystack unless you know what it looks like. It requires that you sit with the not-knowing for a while until you develop a solid list of criteria for your next step. This list often emerges right out of the pain you are in. The pain is a sign of what you want but don’t have. The pain often points to its opposite, which actually points you in the direction of what you want next.
Example 1: You have no autonomy. This points to the fact that you want more autonomy. Check. Example 2: You have no say in how things are run. This points to the fact that you want more authority. Check. Example 3: You don’t respect your boss or your company. This points to the fact that you want to work for a company and boss you can respect. Check.
I just took a moment to look at Pamela’s list of criteria for the next step and counted 15. Here are a few examples of the general and the specific types of things that show up on a typical, well-thought-through list: 1) the position includes leadership, written and verbal communication, and some form of teaching or presenting; 2) the organization is either a non-profit with a cause that I resonate with, or a company with a mission and purpose I can respect; 3) there is the possibility of flexible scheduling and working from home. There were 12 more criteria on her list.
Usually people have a pretty clear sense of their criteria for the next step when they stop to think about it. Examples of these are: appropriate job title, size of company or organization (smallish, mid-sized, global, etc.), general vicinity and commute time, salary requirement, et al. These criteria constitute the general target for your fabulous cover letter and resume. Don’t apply for jobs you don’t want, only for jobs you want and that meet your general target requirements. If your resume is actually a fit for the job description, and you know you are a good candidate, it is likely you will be called for an interview. If you don’t get that call, move on. It’s not the bulls-eye, or you would have gotten the chance for an interview. The point of the cover letter and resume is to get the interview, so you can get your body there and assess the situation. You will have criteria you are looking for, just as the interviewer(s) will have. If there is a match, you will know it. If there isn’t, move on. Don’t take everything so personally! Each opportunity will give you a clearer sense of what you really want. Our mutual intent is for you to hit the bulls-eye, just as Pamela did. Her new job – the one she is thrilled about – has all 15 of her criteria, plus many great things she didn’t even think to mention. The bulls-eye job is usually better than you imagined it would be.
And lest you think it was just Pamela who hit the bulls-eye last week because she is 25 (and you are 50), another client, Daniel, a 48-year-old marketing creative on the East Coast, hit his bulls-eye as well. He’ll be assuming a VP role in a company that is expanding internationally – yes, one of his most important criteria.
One of the things Pamela said when she got the job offer was that she felt almost guilty because she knows people who have been job-hunting for two years. My response was, Do they know who they are? Do they know what they want? Do they have their criteria written down? Do they have a great resume that clearly matches the job descriptions to which they respond?, and
Do they have a career coach?