How a Reality Check Helps Your Job Search

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One of my favorite career gurus is David P. Campbell, who co-authored the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory, and my dog-eared book, If You Don’t knows Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else. In that book, he has a quote that I’ve often shared with clients. Many have said it hit home and made sense—a call to action, you could say.

One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.

Many folks look for a new job as though they were jumping off the ship into an ocean with all manner of unknowns lurking at the surface and other levels. They are scared to death; but hope everything will turn out okay. If you are thinking about a career change into work you’ve never done or tried, it’s like walking that plank. Now, I’m an absolute champion for folks finding success with complete career transition. I had an orthopedic surgeon client who opened a bagel shop; and a truck driver / dispatcher who became a phlebotomist.

I love and admire an adventurer. I’m not sure that I would advocate jumping blindly into an adventure. I offer a case—my own, in point. One that coincidentally rings familiar to Campbell’s quote in essence and literally! I have not been camping for decades. Invited on a Boundary Waters wilderness trip, I said yes. It’s around the corner.

There is no way, however, that I’m just turning up in the wilderness on the designated date. I’ve taken an all-day class with my husband that included actual portaging with a canoe. I’ve been diligent with walking, yoga and strength training. I’ve poured over checklists and reading materials. I’ve talked to people who have done it. I hold onto every word my daughter-in-law—a Voyageur guide, says to me. I may not be experienced, but I will be at least be educated. Because there are realities that need to be addressed. A place without signage for the most part. Your map and compass are it. A place with weather (wind, storms and the like) that can turn in an instant. Common sense stuff about safety and preparedness. Tools and skill sets needed.

You get the gist. I cringe a bit when I hear “Oh, I just fell into this job,” or “Nothing better turned up, so I took it.” Here’s where reality testing can help.

Reality check = knowledge = power

What is it? I define it as any method of personal research in which you can gather data and be involved in the actual work activities at the same time. Something that makes me a bit sad is when folks in job search mode disqualify themselves before the race begins. “They would not want me.” “There’s too much competition.” Perhaps that universal fear of failure or discovering one’s limitations leads people to stop before they begin. Isn’t it better to know your limitations? Isn’t it then that you also uncover delightful strengths, talents, or interests you had not noted or even explored?

Many of us are afraid to try, for fear of looking foolish and being judged in some way. It often is the roadblock that throws the job seeker off track. And boy, others are more than happy to chime in with their advice. “Be careful before you enter the field of [fill in the blank].” “Come on; be realistic,” they say. This usually means, “Be practical, be safe, and choose a career that you are sure of doing well in.” Problem is, how can one be absolutely sure of what will happen in a job? These well-intentioned interlopers don’t usually answer that one!

Like beauty, reality is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s career nightmare is another’s career dream. Sometimes advice from those who mean well, translates to “Do what I think you should do.” The potential problem with “reality” is that others will often try and define it for you. Certainly their advice can be helpful in terms of information. But it can also be biased. Don’t make their opinions your own.

Next time, I’ll share my insights on jumping into those unknown oceanic waters of career; and the value of truly doing a reality check to balance that realism with the uniqueness of you and what you deserve.

Photo: -just-jen-

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