A client recently connected with me because he's finding himself cast adrift in his job search.
“Every time I think I've figured out which direction to go, I find out it doesn't work after all," he said.
He's taken career assessments, gone on informational interviews (I really dislike this term and the process underneath it, and I have a different framework – but that's another blog post), and even landed interviews. He's got a pretty impressive list of ideas he's considered and discarded, so he reached out for help with this process.
My first reaction was to acknowledge his courage in getting support for his career exploration. Many people don't overcome their concerns that they should just innately know what's a good fit for them, and they spin their wheels and sink deeper into despair. Whether you connect with a career coach or access other resources such as powerful books, online forums, or circle of friends, it's vital to get input so that you don't stew in your frustration.
Second, I listened as my client confessed in our first session, “I'm afraid I'm like the princess and the pea and I'm hyper sensitive. Maybe I'll never be satisfied."
Fair enough. That's a valid concern.
It's also the voice of your fear, which isn't the best springboard for career exploration.
To get the ball rolling on tackling this quandary, I asked my client three questions:
Can you categorize your objections to the jobs and fields that you're considering?
I would put them into low, medium and high concerns, or to have more fun with the categories, perhaps you could use labels such as Pesky Irritant, Red Flag, and Dealbreaker. Once you begin to sort your reactions to the areas that you're exploring, you'll have more definition about what's giving you pause.
How do you respond to your own objections?
Many people either throw out their ideas completely and reject them with disgust, or (at the opposite end of the spectrum), they try to talk themselves out of their concerns. Neither of these approaches works, and there's a middle ground where you probe for what's at the heart of your reaction. When you explore at a deeper level what's causing you to react so strongly, you'll uncover what really matters to you and you can use that information to steer your job search.
Can you describe your own temperament?
Are you introverted or extroverted? Do you react strongly to external stimuli either because you get distracted or you find your nervous system activated and in hyperdrive? Do you want to organize your world carefully and with precision or does chaos actually provide a wonderful platform for your creativity to express itself? If you can't describe the environment where you thrive, you'll continue to sputter as you race around to different options because you don't have a foundation that guides you (like a north star) to the spot where you'll fit. I describe it as matching your personality with your natural habitat – that's an essential part of a career exploration.
My client exhaled as he considered these questions. He was relieved because he recognized that he could respond to these simple questions and develop his own litmus test for potential careers and positions. Once he was armed with this information, he was ready to reactivate his search because he was equipped with what he needed to assess each new idea that he generated.
You can shift gears just as easily, too. Write down your responses to these questions and use them to steer your search.
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Maggie Graham | Coach
Career coach Maggie Graham banishes Credential Gremlins in her forthcoming book Skip the Next Degree: Career Change without Debt and Despair. She points mid-career professionals in the direction of their next steps and defines a road map to take them there. Job seekers will find an ally when they seek support for landing their next positions.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert.