You’re not alone if you started 2014 with a resolution to find a different job, and you’re still in the same position you were back in January. Even when we drive to work with dread, when we grimace at the sight of another project hitting our e-mail inbox, when our spouse stops asking about our day because it’s a given that the answer will be a rant—somehow we stay put.
What is that force that keeps us stuck? The bad news is that it stems from more than one source. The good news is that you can remedy each issue with some simple steps.
Problem: Paralysis of Analysis
When people come to me for career coaching, they’re exhausted. They’ve been on the gerbil wheel in their brain for so long, they don’t know how to begin to identify what’s next for them. Do they go back to school? Do they set up automatic alerts on Indeed? Do they apply for an internal promotion?
The truth is, most people have flirted with those ideas, perhaps even made a phone call or submitted a resume, but it usually stops there. The variables that impact our careers (income, career progression, location, family time—there’s not enough space to capture everything!) are so numerous that people may hit on something they really want, but then they spiral into overwhelm.
One of my favorite teachers during my coaching training said, “Your mind is like a dangerous neighborhood. Don’t go in there alone.” It’s so easy to get lost wading through this topic. Pull on one thread, and the entire tapestry can unravel.
Solution: Make a list of the 6 criteria your next job must have—and get specific. If it’s money, know exactly the amount you have to hit. If it’s location, list where you will live (within 10 miles of Charlotte, Virginia’s city limits). Six is the magic number to hit for this list. If you’re over that number, you eliminate options. If you’re under, you’re not focused. Precision wins. “Supportive boss” isn’t the same as “Boss who sends me links to professional development opportunities.”
Bonus Tip: Flag one of your 6 criteria as your Trump Card. What’s the one variable that will domino your days into ones that make you smile when you get out of bed—or if it’s not present, will tip you into checking Facebook 391 times a day?
Problem: Your Research Isn’t Research; It’s Impressions
“I can’t work for that company; they hire only contractors?” Really? How do you know? Be wary of making blanket assumptions like this one and ask yourself about the reliability of your intel? How many data points do you have? Is that an impression—or is it based on a conversation with someone who works there now (not 10 years ago)?
Most of my clients have firm ideas about companies and jobs they covet, but (especially if they’re looking to make an industry change or shift into a new line of service delivery) those ideas have no roots. They’re based on hearsay, which usually isn’t admissible in court because it’s like any rumor: most likely exaggerated. Wouldn’t you rather have the facts from a reliable source before you eliminate a possibility?
Solution: Pick 4 target jobs. Don’t make them your ultimate choice (see above—if you wait for lightning to strike with your Perfect Job Idea, you’ll be like a dog chasing its tail. You can talk yourself out of anything. We’re not looking for perfection here; we’re looking for forward progress). Your goal is to talk to people who are doing those jobs right now. You’re not in competition with them or pushing them out of their jobs. You’re just collecting data. Represent yourself very transparently: “I’m exploring what’s next for me career-wise, and I’d like to get advice from people like you who are in X job (or Y field).”
Problem: You Won’t Ask for Help
“I can’t call my former colleague; it’ll sound like I want something from her. I don’t want her to think I call only when I need something.” I hear this concern quite often. People are afraid to bother anyone. They don’t want to inconvenience people or take up their precious time. That’s actually a great instinct. It’s important to be mindful about the larger picture of people’s lives. At the same time, people are flattered and honored to help when they can. As long as you ask people questions that they can say “yes” to, they’ll almost always take an opportunity to extend a hand. Plus, they’ll feel good about helping out.
When I was working with a client exploring the financial industry, we cold-called a financial advisor at a major investment firm. “Do you have 10 minutes to answer 5 questions about your job and how you got to where you are now?” I asked. “Sure,” he said. We had a list of questions prepared; we zipped through them (learned tons!), and thanked him for his time. You know the tone that someone gets in their voice when they are pleased with themselves? The warm fuzzy tone? That guy felt good about the time he had spent with us.
Solution: Always ask questions that get an easy “yes” from the other person. Don’t ever ask people to circulate your resume, don’t ask if there are jobs open at their company, and don’t ask if they have names of others you can talk to. They’ll volunteer that information or make those offers if they’re comfortable and those openings exist. Instead, ask them for advice (who can resist dispensing hard-won wisdom?), follow your natural curiosity, and go into those meetings prepared.
Don’t wait for 2015 to set another resolution about your job. Get into action now. Take these ideas in bite-sized chunks and get moving! Wouldn’t it be great to start the New Year with something that fits you career-wise?
A career change expert, Maggie Graham believes there’s not just one answer to the classic question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” All of us have many careers and passions in us, and the most important place to focus is on what the next best career move is. Maggie calls her clients Idealists because they’re done settling for monotony and other people’s agendas. She’s supported hundreds of clients in finding their focus and getting serious about engineering their next career moves: http://www.careerdesignandcoaching.com/. Sign up for her free course, 100 Days to Career Clarity, which sends one question to your inbox daily. It ends December 31, so jump in now!
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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