by Mark Cummuta

Week 36: Evaluating “Who Am I?” in Your Job Search – Part 2

Jun 02, 20086 mins

When in a job search, we frequently feel left out, disconnected from our career, and we even start worrying about our skills getting rusty. Today’s post continues the “Who Am I?” discussion I started two weeks ago with an in-depth analysis of what has been holding me back in my job search. It also explains the benefits of applying this same introspective process I used to your own job search situation.

One of the feelings that so many unemployed job seekers experience is a sense of disconnectedness — from their career, their friends, their skills and even their self-worth.  Men and women tie so much of their identity to their work — their title and accomplishments — that when our titles get stripped away, we are left wondering, Who am I?

In Part 1 of this series of blog entries I noted how I’ve encountered cycles of incredible focus and drive in my job search as well as periods of self-reflection.  In the former cycles, it was easy to stay excited and focused when I had very specific goals, driven by my job search project plan, and success as measured by the number of opportunities, return interviews and negotiating discussions I had. At the end of each of these cycles’ high points I experienced a period of disconnect after I learned one by one that the positions I had been so excited about had evaporated for any number of reasons (for example, placing second, resume concerns, and positions put on hold). I can remember one week in particular where I really had a difficult time getting myself motivated to start over again.

I generally have no issue with confronting my own problems, and I generally value, and even request, constructive criticism.  But when you’ve been laid off your skin tends to be a bit thin, so you are generally not inclined to go out of your way to seek criticism. Yet you need that feedback to keep yourself honest and to stay on track.  So what do you do?  How do you get feedback if you’re not getting interviews and/or if you don’t experience an event that triggers self-evaluation?

For me, that’s where my own job search project plan proved a saving point. Because project planning requires metrics, triggers and goals, my job search project plan lets me know what I should be doing daily and weekly.  While I had fallen behind on formally maintaining my lists of tasks and accomplishments, when I reviewed even my general log of activities over this current third cycle, I could easily see that my “new business” efforts had fallen off significantly.  That is, I had not been completing my required tasks to keep my pipeline of new opportunities full, and I had not been applying to nearly enough new positions for the law of numbers to produce exceptional final-stage opportunities (i.e., negotiations to full-time employment).

However, there was more — I felt that something deeper was wrong with my job search.  I couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but I had a gut feeling that an underlying issue was keeping me away from my normal personal high standards and potential.  So rather than just jump back into action, I approached my “Board of Directors” — my wife and my mentors.

We noted that I have been focusing too much of my time on one or two specific leads channels — in fact, I’d been doing so almost exclusively.  That I knew.  But why?  What was holding me to just these two channels and not to the multi-channel approach I had been using so successfully throughout my career?

That question led to an in-depth, heart-to-heart discussion with my wife.  Since she is not a negative person, she has not wanted to tell me something that has been bothering her for a long time.  But just two weeks ago, I learned something new about my wife after nearly 20 years of marriage.

She told me that despite me being able to successfully provide well for her and for our family over the past several years through my own CIO and strategic services consulting firm, she is not comfortable with me being a free agent.   Even though I have repeatedly been able to quickly land new clients and projects, every time a project was nearing completion she grew apprehensive about how long it might take me to land my next project and start getting paid again.  In short, in her heart, she felt insecure with the perceived instability of me owning my own business.

At some level, I had heard her concerns.  She had been hinting at them to me since I started this job search and increasingly so since February of this year.  I think her concerns began to alter my efforts this current, third cycle of my job search.  I now realize that subconsciously I have been torn between working hard to land my own new clients (towards my goals) and working hard to land a full-time CIO position with an established firm (towards re-establishing a sense of security for my wife and family). The result has been that I lost confidence in my goals, and did not attack either objective with any kind of resolve, which clients and hiring managers highly likely picked up on.

In sharing this rather personal side of my own job search with you, I hope that you will consider your own efforts.  What is holding you back from attaining your goals?  Certainly the economy is having an impact, but there are and will always be outside factors that anyone can point to and say, “I failed because of X.”  But many, many people succeed despite those exact same outside factors.

My wife is not to blame for my lost confidence.  In our “business partnership” we have vowed to help and support each other, and I now know that she has a risk aversion to specific business opportunities.  Like any partnership, once an obstacle is identified, you work together to find solutions.   For me, I am already pursuing a number of alternative opportunities that are a blend of what we both need.

I’ve spoken with hundreds of job seekers since starting this blog, as well as with career counselors, resume writers and other bloggers.  The consensus of stories I hear is that very often those individuals who can overcome their personal and external hurdles, and even see these times as opportunities for career growth, are those who find even more rewarding positions.  These are the solution builders whom firms seek out no matter what the economic condition.

Next week’s post will conclude this three-part series.   It will include ideas on what to do next, the kinds of opportunities that exist to help you overcome your own job search hurdles, and what I am doing to rekindle and redirect my job search project plan to a new level of success!

Please share your stories of what you have done (or someone you know has done) to inadvertently sabotage their own job search, as well as your stories and suggestions to overcome these down times.

Thank you again for all of your comments and ideas!