The Search for Something Better – Redux

If you are familiar at all with my thinking, you know that I am big on recommending that people take seriously the notion of conducting a personal “Year End Review” in order to clear the path for the new. In case you have forgotten the questions that underlie momentum, here they are again:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What’s missing?
  • What’s next?

Reflection time can be hard to come by, but find a way to carve it out. It could have everything to do with how the New Year will go for you. If you never stop to think about what you would like to change, it probably won’t. Change requires your participation. You can’t just wish it would change all by itself. You can apply the questions to your whole life, or to an aspect of your life, but allow the questions to work for you. If there is something that screams out at you — like your position in your company or your role in the company or your job or your boss — pay attention. This might be the obvious place to begin changing your life for the better.

One of my former clients recently emailed me about embarking on a new job search, now that her current position has lost its luster. The job was a great fit a few years ago for getting her out of one field and into a new one, but now she has evolved, the job hasn’t, and she is ready for something better. Big surprise!

Career, as I always say, is a verb, not a noun. You can’t just pick one and think you or it will remain the same forever. You can count on one thing: you are evolving all the time, but you only notice it about every six or seven years. That’s often when the platform you are on, or the role you are in, has become too small for who you have become. The way you will recognize your growth is that you will begin to feel antsy or bored or stuck.

If you can look at these symptoms of “career pain” as growing pain rather than as some form of abstract existential angst you can’t do anything about, you are more likely to take effective action. If your “inner voice” could communicate a little more clearly, it might say something like, “Look at you, you wonderful creature! You’ve grown so much in these past several years. Isn’t it time for you to move on to something more suitable to the Self you have become? Get out there, look around; there’s something great out there just waiting for you. . . ” With this attitude, wouldn’t you want to get right out there and find it?

Unfortunately, that’s usually not the message that arises from deep within the pit of your stomach. At the thought of change, fear and dread are likely to raise their ugly heads and growl something more like this:

Lots o’ luck on the job search! You’ll never get what you want anyway, so why bother? First you’ll have to update your resume, a task you hate doing; then make room for fresh truckloads of humiliation and rejection; then face the dreaded interviews you almost hope you won’t get, since they’re so stressful. You might as well avoid all this and just stay right where you are. (Where if you recall, you are already in pain.)

Could there be another way to proceed with the search for something better?

Here’s my verbatim response to the client I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post. It suggests a different approach:

No, you don’t have to change your resume for every job opening. I don’t know who started this rumor. What you need you already have: a great, clean, clear, authentic “core” resume. (The assumption is that you, bright reader, also have a great resume, one that is clean, clear, and has been created or vetted by a professional, not just by a friends or neighbor.)

Each time you see a job opening that genuinely interests you or suddenly “lights you up inside” as you read about it, you should be able to write a compelling cover letter that explains why you think your background has prepared you for that particular role. If, however — and this will be the exception not the rule — you see a job description that requires you have some particular experience you have had but is not already emphasized in your core resume, it might be a good idea for you to tweak a section of your resume to make that experience more obvious.

The Job Search does require that you put some time in on the internet — at least two to four hours a week, possibly more, but you need to manage your mood while you are doing it. This is because you are going to see a lot more jobs you don’t want than those you do. We’re talking maybe 100 to 1 or worse. This should not be a shock. Expect it; accept it.

You are, in a sense, looking for a needle in a haystack, yes, but in order to find it, you need to have a pretty good idea of what it looks like and what you look like. There needs to be a good match in the first place in order for there to be a possibility or probability you’ll win an interview. This is not entirely unlike eHarmony or match.com, if you are looking for a possible romantic match. You have to be aware of the basic criteria that need to be present for there even to be a possible match. Then when you actually meet in person, a lot depends on chemistry. It’s the same with a job interview.

Allow your “inner eye” to show you what attracts you and/or lights you up, because there’s no accounting for that. It just shows up sometimes when you least expect it. While you are searching (for a mate or a job on the internet), your “inner voice” will be responding with: No, no, no, no, no, God No, no, no, NO, no, no, no, and then all of a sudden, you will hear yourself saying something like, “Well, that’s interesting; that sounds good; there’s a maybe . . “, or suddenly, there’ll be a “Yes!” Pay attention when that happens.

This is what I refer to as an “automatic narrative.” When it shows up, it’s like a signal from the great beyond telling you you’ve hit a possible match. It’s like having your own personal Geiger counter. Rather than fretting about what to say in your cover letter, you will find that you know just what to say. (Still, to be safe, have someone, hopefully a professional, proof the letter for you.) If you express yourself well and if you actually believe that your background and skills match the required background and skills, your letter will get the attention it deserves. If you get the interview, you will know what to say when you get there.   

Don’t force anything when you’re searching. Go with your gut as well as your rational mind. If it’s a yes, apply. If it’s a no, meaning something you aren’t really interested in or is too much of a stretch or something you find yourself rationalizing about, don’t waste your precious time or energy. You already got the answer: it was “NO.” Let it go. You won’t be convincing anyway.

Remember what this is all about. You are searching for something better than what you have right now — a step up, a step out, a step forward — movement toward more satisfying work and, therefore, a more satisfying life. That’s what the discomfort during The Job Search is really all about! Keep your eyes on the (possible) prize.    

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