During the past several weeks, a confluence of events, interviews and advice has prompted me to reconsider my answers to basic job search questions. Questions like: What do I do? What specific expertise can I offer? What do I want to do? Ultimately, these questions got me thinking about a larger one: Who am I?
The first trend I identified has to do with my job search cycles. (I am currently in my third cycle for this job search.) Each of these cycles starts with a huge effort to build/rebuild and improve my sources for leads on opportunities, to contact my strongest network sources, and to identify and apply for opportunities. A series of great interviews with a number of firms follows that effort, and those interviews inevitably lead to two to three very strong opportunities. In more than one case I have even started discussions towards an offer.
Unfortunately, the pattern I noticed is that I become overly optimistic about those two to three strong opportunities, and I focus my attention on them to the detriment of the rest of my job search. I focus less attention on feeding my leads pipeline, maintaining my web presence and attending to my network contacts. My high personal standards for follow-through and attention to detail diminish. To be fair, it’s hard not to get optimistic about an opportunity after I’ve been through nine interviews and have been introduced to U.S. and global leaders for one firm, or after three different firms indicated that I was the leader they hoped to find. In retrospect, my problem is that I focused nearly all of my attention on those opportunities that seemed the most promising and lost sight of the strategic forest for the promising trees.
I also noticed that my current job search cycle, which began in February, has proceeded in a very different manner from my first two job search cycles.
In my first cycle, I focused my self-evaluation on what I wanted to do: my ideal next role, employer, industry, etc. I developed a detailed job search project plan which I kept updated, and I used a basic tracking system to identify and pursue opportunities for full-time employment that met those criteria. This cycle ended when I came in second for several opportunities, and several more were either downgraded or outright cancelled.
During my second job search cycle I refocused my job search on industries in which I have significant experience and on firms in the Chicagoland region. I also adapted my job search project plan to pursue a dual opportunity path of building my own consulting firm as well as pursuing full-time employment. To manage this additional complexity, I utilized a detailed tracking system a friend developed, but at the expense of a less thorough project plan. The result was several paid consulting engagements, but fewer solid full-time opportunities — three of which are still possible sometime in the future.
My current cycle began very differently than the others. Unlike prior cycles that I kick-started with a huge ramp-up period of network rebuilding, this cycle’s rebuilding was delayed until just recently because I had been tied up with consulting work, speaking engagements and family events. I even let slide updating my very detailed job search tracking log because I was too busy, and that negligence nearly cost me a key interview! Wake up call!!
Johnny Crenshaw of FloatLikeARock.com has a very unflattering term in his blog for this behavior: self-sabotage. Ouch.
After nearly missing that interview, my family started to rightly question my slack job search efforts. So in mid-March I sat down to review my efforts to date, with the harsh metric of real results! And I was not happy with myself. Too often I let disappointments slow me down and set my personal job search back. Unknowns, setbacks and other disruptions are part of every project, and therefore need to be part of every project plan. I think the difference is that I let my personal feelings of optimism and then disappointment get in the way of my “job.” Persistence and confidence are what employers value, and I was not demonstrating my excellence in either of these traits in my efforts through these cycles.
Another trend I noticed in this cycle is that I have been more focused on “immediate options” rather than on my job search “planned priorities.” Plain and simple, I allowed myself to get sidetracked by spending more time on things I enjoy (like the speaking engagements, writing articles for CIO.com and networking opportunities) rather than on the day-to-day tasks required to accomplish my own job search objectives.
In my next two blog posts I will continue to review this question of “Who Am I” that many job seekers ask as their job search continues. In my next post I will discuss why feeling disconnected from jobs does not mean we as job seekers are discontinued or damaged merchandise. The third and final post in this series on the “Who Am I” question will conclude with ways for each of us to reinvigorate ourselves and our job search efforts in order to stay connected, to overcome our personal setbacks, and ultimately, to become successfully employed.
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 stories and suggestions to overcome these down times.
Thank you again for all of your comments and ideas!