The older we all get, the more we realize that many of the worthwhile things in life don’t come easy, don’t we? In fact, most of the important goals we set for ourselves are actually pretty damn hard to pull off, when you stop and think about it.
For example, while I’ve dabbled with a bit of guitar and piano playing over the years, I recently decided I wanted to add the harmonica to my repertoire. I mean, it looks so simple. You pick up this little metal contraption with a few holes on it, blow into it, and suddenly you’re the next Bob Dylan or Neil Young, right? How hard could it be?
Of course, when I actually tried it and did some research into the subject, I discovered that it actually takes quite a bit of practice and technique to be able to blow a single, clear note on a harmonica — versus a hodge-podge of random tones overlapping each other. Being determined to succeed, however, I’ve decided to carry my harmonica in the car with me at all times so I can practice my chops during the drudgery of the daily commute. So if you’re ever stopped at a stoplight and see some weirdo jamming out in the car next to you, say hello!
You probably see where I’m going with this. While harmonica-playing is arguably a far less important thing to concern oneself with than job hunting, the risk/reward dynamic involved in “trying” and “fighting through the barriers” still hold very true. As a career coach, I spend my days with individuals who express a very serious interest in finding a new job — or a better job — and who come to me seeking advice on how best they can reach their goals. In some cases, the goal might be fairly attainable in the short term. Like an individual seeking to transfer from one marketing job in the technology industry to a highly similar role in a different tech organization. In other instances, such as a person who is seeking to return to work after extended time off, or who is seeking to make a full-scale career change, the degree of difficulty might be quite a bit higher and they may need to realistically set their sights on quite a few months of research, study, and relationshp-building in order to give themselves a serious shot at success.
The point, though, is that the process of finding a new opportunity in today’s market is nothing to sneeze at or underestimate — unless you’re among the lucky few with absolutely picture-perfect credentials. The process requires considerable time and effort. For the majority of folks out there, it’s going to demand that you demostrate patience, persistance, and a willingness to get out of your comfort zone and master some new skills like pitching yourself at networking events and leveraging social media properly. You’ll also need to engage in a high outbound activity level and plant quite a few seeds in the market, each day, if you hope to generate a better response rate out there than the average untrained job hunter (aka your competition) is experiencing. Are there any guarantees of success? Unfortunately, no. The job market is too dynamic to be able to draw a straight-line equation and say “If you do X and Y, you’ll absolutely have a job in Z months.” And yet, as I believe common sense would dictate, somebody who knocks on 100 potential doors (figuratively or literally) is going to be much more likely to turn up a suitable opportunity than somebody who plays it safe, knocks on 10 doors, and avoids putting themselves out there.
So if in your heart of hearts you know you really haven’t been giving the job search process your full attention, or that you’ve been avoiding certain uncomfortable steps critical to improving your success rate, it might be time to double down and recommit to learning these new skills and working your game plan. Set goals, Be accountable. Above all, try hard. Try really, really hard. And if you hit brick walls, use those incredible problem-solving skills you’ve cited on your resume to track down the people, resources, or communities who can help you stay sane during the process and improve your self-promotion skills even further.
By way of example, I have a client I’m working with in the operations field who visited me three times earlier this year to vent about his career situation and get advice on his job search efforts. In each case, I wrote out a list of the things he needed to do and he’d then come back, a month later, having attempted absolutely none of the steps I’d suggested. Not a single one. In the last meeting I held with them, however, he rocked my world by telling me he’d finally summoned up the motivation to attempt the activities I’d recommended and to debrief me on the results, both good and bad, that he’d experienced thus far. It was hands-down the most productive meeting we’d held to date, bar none. Having actually attempted some of the techniques we’d discussed, we were able to have a far more sophisticated dialogue about where he’d gotten stuck, where he could make further improvements, and what other pieces of the puzzle we could add into his game plan, going forward, now that he had the basics covered.
The best part? He reported that as a result of actually trying to “work the plan” we’d come up with — seriously and earnestly — he felt a sense of renewed energy, optimism, and pride, even though he hadn’t landed a single interview yet! He actually impressed himself with his own efforts. And as I’ve written previously, and seen repeatedly from experience, that’s the key to overcoming any challenge and not letting it get you down…