At a recent training conference facilitated by national career guru Dick Gaithers, I was reminded that one of the most difficult, but critical roles of a career counselor is to get his or her clients to venture out of their comfort zone. Dick illustrated this point with the following quote: “Statistically, there’s no faster path to employment for an unemployed person than to pick up the phone and call 100 suitable employers in order to pitch their skills and inquire about employment options. And yet 98% of job seekers will absolutely refuse to do this, unless (and sometimes even if) you put a gun to their head.”
Why do you think this is? Why are people so unwilling to try new techniques and go out on a limb with their search efforts, even if it has been proven to an absolute certainty that these approaches are the ones most likely to land them a great opportunity? I’ve thought about this quite a bit, myself, and would suggest that it probably comes down to three key factors: fear (I don’t want to get rejected), pride (with my track record and background, I shouldn’t have to do this), and/or a lack of understanding about the process itself (I’m not sure how I’d go about selling myself proactively to employers, even if I wanted to).
The good news, however, is that all of these barriers can be overcome if you’re willing to work on them and enlist help from a professional coach or other members of your support system. You just have to make a commitment to yourself that this is a time for professional growth — and that you’ll need to push your own boundaries in order to increase your odds of success. For example, if you’re actively looking for a new job at the moment, ask yourself whether you’ve engaged in the following activities:
— Do you ever pick up the phone and call 10-20 employers in a single day to inquire about opportunities?
— Do you regularly attend business, social, and professional events where you don’t know anybody?
— Do you hand-carry your resume into companies and drop it off in person, to boost your response rate?
— Do you respond to posted job openings even when you only meet 50-60% of the stated qualifications?
— Do you consistently and directly ask people for help, or do you wait for them to offer it, instead?
While the above activities may seem a little foreign and scary, just remember, that’s the very secret behind their success. Since the odds are that most people (aka “your competitors”) will also hesitate to engage in these types of self-promotional techniques, you’ve got that much more to gain when you summon up your courage and work hard to generate dialogue with an employer BEFORE that employer puts a job description together and runs it out to the world at large.
So again, if you’re currently in career transition, ask yourself whether you might be limiting your own success to a significant degree by “hugging the wall” and only promoting yourself using the safest, most conventional job finding techniques. If so, perhaps this is the week that you challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. The odds are that you’ll find it wasn’t quite as painful, embarrassing, or uncomfortable as you expected — and that great things will likely come from it!