Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lose Your Keys, Find a Job

At the beginning of April, I did what I thought to be the unthinkable: I lost my car keys. Some of you may read that with disbelief since losing (and eventually finding) your car keys is normal pattern of everyday life. For me, though, it was absolutely terrifying for two reasons. First, I only have one set of car keys; if I lose them, I’m screwed. Second, and this may be hard to believe, I have never lost my car keys before…ever. I was an absolute wreck, the stress and anxiety overwhelming me. You can imagine my relief when my wife found them in her car (they slipped out of my pocket the night before), but what was more remarkable to me were the lessons I learned that could be applied to the job search process.

One-key vigilance: I was freaking out after losing my car keys because, up until this point, I had always known where they were at…for almost eight years! The fact that I only had one set-and the pain that I knew would occur should I lose them-kept me hyper-vigilant as to their whereabouts. Now, if I had multiple sets of keys, I probably would not have been so upset to lose a set…but my vigilance would have been affected by the “safe” feeling created by having a back-up pair. The lesson: if you feel stuck in a job right now and can’t seem to “break through” to find a new one, perhaps the current job you are in is making you feel safe. I challenge you to “shake up” your system, imagining how you would proceed differently in your search if you didn’t have your current job, or even quitting your current job to be put in the “sink or swim” circumstance that will force you to approach your search with vigor.

Understand that you have options: When I lost my keys, I felt the only option was to find them again. However, I had another: I could have gone to the dealership and paid $100+ for a copy to be made. I bristled at the idea of paying for another set, and luckily I didn’t have to. But it was still an option, one that I could have exercised. The lesson: explore the options that you have in your job search by asking yourself this question: “what am I not willing to do?” It’s a powerful question, one that-when answered honestly-will point you in the direction of how your choices are negatively impacting your search.

Proceed with patience and intelligence: I tore up my house trying to find my keys, searching in the same place three, four, sometimes five times. Imagine all of the energy I wasted, searching the same location multiple times, expecting a different outcome! The lesson: despite the stress you might feel in your job search, proceed with patience and intelligence. Be intentional about the jobs for which you decide to apply and carefully prepare your application materials. Acting erratically by applying for any job to get you out of your current situation or preparing sloppy application materials will not get you where you want to go; in fact, you will be hindered by your choices.

I’m happy to have my keys back and even more thankful for the lessons that I learned from that messy situation. Now, I wonder where I put my iPod…

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