Is your job search in drive or park?

I’ve been an observer and coaching partner with many people in job search or career management mode for more than 20 years. I’ve empathized with those struggling to move forward; and celebrated with those who did just that. I have an opinion on what separates the two.

Success not necessarily = to external factors

Do you ever wonder why some people are constantly pushing forward in their job search or careers? And others are not? They’re stuck. Why some have a natural knack to succeed no matter what the immediate situation? Or the economic climate? What’s different? What’s the magic formula? Well, it’s not magic, but I believe there is a pattern.

As with most things in life, it’s often simple in theory and not so simple in practice. Here’s the reality as I see it. Those who drive their careers know their identity never changes. What does change are the roles they play. John might be a Project Manager at work. At home, he’s a spouse and father. In his community, he’s active in church and a youth soccer coach. If he has an off day in one role, he never allows that to influence his individuality.

Barb’s client heroes

I take notes when coaching clients in job search. Lots of notes. I dig deeper than their on-the-face strategies, action and results, although these obviously matter. We talk about what intrinsic or adopted habits, styles and traits helped them – and continue to help them. Since our lives – careers no exception – are evolving, we talk about how they were able to respond to challenges in ways that served them well. I got the “drive – park” analogy from my client, Peter. In one of our early coaching sessions, he said, “Barb, I feel like a car with the gear stuck in park. No matter how badly I want to, I can’t seem to shift to drive.” How do I do that?

As I always do, I shared nuggets that I know worked for other clients. Call these principles. Mantras. Coping mechanisms. Strengths. You might even feel they’re too obvious. It’s back to the practice versus theory.

From my files, here are some commonalities with client heroes who kept forward focused. They:

  • Acknowledged change. To do otherwise entices anger, frustration, fear and other negative emotions. Anger can cause you to make impulsive decisions. Fear can paralyze you before the job search even begins. Frustration can cause you to give up just when something’s about to happen.
  • Didn’t internalize negative or positive events. Things happen. Could be a firing or layoff; a promotion or raise. A company gets acquired or goes bankrupt. Sometimes you have control; sometimes you don’t. Maybe you see what you might have done differently. None of these things define you as an individual. It’s kind of a two steps forward, two steps backward that is life. If there are lessons, take them and go on.
  • Were accountable. You come into this world with you and leave with you. Take ownership of the part you may have played in losing a job, not getting the promotion, etc. If you can’t do anything to change what was, forgive yourself and move on. If you can do something, what? Try it.
  • Pushed through adversity. In line with my “you are always with you” perspective, you can and should always be your own cheerleader. Yes, have a support team and champions. But in the end, you must pick yourself up. Put one foot in front of the other. Shift from park to drive.
  • Accepted failure. Dread of rejection can hold you back in your job search campaign. Disappointments are part of the growth process. In the employment landscape, you get two answers. “Yes, it’s a fit,” and “No, there isn’t a fit.”Expect both responses. Oprah was told she would never make it on television. The Beatles were told they should go back to their day jobs. So I use the term “failure” very loosely here.
  • Looked forward. One of my clients once told me (may not be an original quote, but certainly was impactful), “Barb, I don’t look back, because I’m not going that way!” Wow! Don’t get stuck in the “Why me?” phase. Focus on the steps you need to move forward. What are the roadblocks? How will you handle them? Distinguish between your immediate and long-term goals. Strategize and carry out your career campaign accordingly.
  • Steered clear of unfair comparisons. If you shape goals that are true to your values, likes, accomplishments – the authentic you – you will measure success in realistic terms. There will always be someone smarter, richer, better looking – fill in the blank. This is about you, what you want, where that is, and getting it.
  • Were consistent. Create a realistic but aggressive action plan. If it’s not working, step back to figure out why. Perhaps the cart’s ahead of the horse. Go back to the figure out what you want, find it, get it and keep it mantra. Drop what’s not working and do more of what is. Keep on, consistently and persistently.

Sometimes it’s an easy trap to become the victim. But career success is a choice. Your career shift is not broken. You’re in control to shift gears at any time.


Photo: brownpau

2 Responses to Is your job search in drive or park?

  1. Smartly written post, Barb!

    I agree that people who move forward with their careers do tend to embody similar traits, as do those who spin their wheels and make no progress. Even with challenging circumstances, people can evaluate their options to see what choice will best fit with what they are facing.

  2. Barb Poole says:

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your insights, Melissa! Yes, I so agree that there are common traits that serve us well or get in our way, whether in job search mode or other life goals and commitments! There are always choices to be made!

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