We probably all begin a new year with good intentions. Many people make resolutions to lose weight, improve their eating habits or get a new job, to name a few. If these sound like familiar promises you’ve made and ultimately fell short on, then it’s probably a good idea to evaluate what happened. Now is a good time to review your past year and figure out where things went sideways.
First, look back and take stock of what you did accomplish that you are proud of and happy about. What contributed to your success? Can you replicate your approach? How much of what went right can be applied to what didn’t?
On the flip side, did you fall short of accomplishing what you had hoped to accomplish? Were there events that impacted your performance or your well-being? How well did you handle them? What could you do differently if faced with similar challenges?
Start this next year with more than your good intentions.
You might be wistfully remembering how well you did in January and February, but by March, you were already starting to slip. Even with the best intentions, the resolutions you made in December were probably in your head and not recorded in your calendar. In other words, without an action plan and commitments for completing specific tasks by specific dates, you were pretty much doomed from the get-go. Now is the time to take the bull by the horns and pull a plan together to start this next year with more than your good intentions.
If there is something that has continued to show up on your “to do” list, then stop talking about it and get out your calendar. Make a commitment for getting it done, come hell or high water. Even if life events sway you, there’s a very simple strategy for not losing track of what you want to get done. Having clearly defined goals, and planned dates for accomplishing specific tasks and objectives, you will be forced to reconsider taking off for happy hour or adding some other inconsequential task into an already full day. If something happens that requires your immediate attention and you fail to complete the scheduled task, then you can simply reschedule it instead of leaving it on a revolving “to do” list or forgetting about it altogether. What we’re really talking about is accountability.
Going forward, plan around already-known events and block time in your calendar. Anything you plan can be changed to a new time if there is a true emergency that arises. Unplanned actions remain happenstance and are far less likely to get accomplished. Also include time to evaluate your progress each week. If you have trouble staying on track, find an accountability buddy who will hold your feet to the fire. Do what it takes to own your actions and remain accountable for your results (or lack thereof). Track your accomplishments and challenges to help you improve your productivity as you move forward. Most importantly, make this process a habit that you don’t deviate from. Make the new year your best year so far.
If the last bus was leaving in two minutes and you were still contemplating where you were going, how long would it take you to make a decision whether to get on that bus? If you did get on the bus, what’s the likelihood you would be on the right bus headed in the right direction? It seems to me that most people would no sooner jump on a bus without a destination in mind than drive with their eyes closed. Why, then, do people engage in a job search without a target or a plan, and without a sense of urgency, expecting the outcome to miraculously meet all of their needs?
There are two issues I typically run across when someone comes to me for help with a stalled or unsuccessful search: They don’t have a plan and they have been relying solely on job postings to determine where they will work. Often they’ve also waited until they are on their last dime to hunt for work, and for them, it is miles beyond the last bus stop. Looking for work without a plan or being lackadaisical about your approach can extend the length of your search unnecessarily. A passive approach and a lack of urgency can lead people off track.
The “any job will do” notion has outlived its time. What you do for work has to be attached to your values and your life goals. Finding satisfying work that meets all of your needs requires a strategy and a plan, along with considerably more information than what may appear in a job posting.
Applying for posted jobs may lead to an interview, but without a solid understanding of the employer’s needs and a plausible story for why you want to work there, the interview is not likely to lead to an offer. Even if the interview does result in an offer of employment, it can just as easily lead to a new misery. Without context for the role and knowledge of the circumstances — e.g., company dynamics, internal politics, unspoken expectations or difficult personalities— the candidate could be walking into a snake pit.
An improved economy does not necessarily mean that everyone can be employed in their dream jobs or that getting a great job is easy. It takes a goal, a plan, a commitment to working the plan and a sense of urgency to come close to finding the “perfect” job. It also takes resiliency to weather the disappointments that can arise and flexibility to adjust your plan when it isn’t working.
An improved economy does not necessarily mean that everyone can be employed in their dream jobs or that getting a great job is easy.
Blaming the economy or job market for your unemployment or passively waiting around for your ideal job to materialize won’t change anything. Changing your approach can make a big difference in the results you get.
Many people start off the New Year with good intentions for fulfilling resolutions, but their interest and enthusiasm often wanes away by the end of February. This year, make a difference in your life. Review your habits and past behaviors that have previously not produced the results you desire. Be honest with yourself. Examine your circumstances carefully to determine what part you have played in the outcomes you have experienced. Don’t rely on your employer, market conditions, or your family obligations to dictate what happens to you (or doesn’t) this year. Make a commitment to reach your goals by outlining specific actions to accomplish them.
It seems the elements I observe that contribute more frequently than not to a stalled job search or poor results are associated with three elements: lack of commitment, failure to plan and unwillingness to change. The following questions might help you to determine if you are setting yourself up for success, or more of the same this year.
- Are you truly committed to making a change this year?
- Have you written down your goals? Are they specific? Are they measurable?
- How many times in the past have you held off planning a course of action to “wait and see” the results of someone/something else’s actions before you make a decision to do something? Why? What would happen if you simply made a decision to take action, make a commitment, and in the worst-case scenario, had to change your plans later?
- Are you able/willing to stay focused? If you are not what are the barriers? What can you do about them?
- Are you willing to work long hours, weekends and holidays for a limited time to accomplish what you desire?
- Do you know what you need to get done each day?
- How far ahead do you plan your schedule? Are you looking ahead at least 90 days?
- How many hours per day have you worked on your employment (or other) goals in the past?
- How much time do you plan to dedicate to working on your employment (or other) goals every day, every week, every month for the next year?
- How many times have you allowed distractions to prevent you from completing what you have set out to do because you don’t have a plan?
Change Your Behavior – Develop New Habits
- Have you continued to do the same things over and over expecting to get different results? (uh, oh. You know what that means!)
- On a scale of one to ten, with ten being excruciatingly uncomfortable, how uncomfortable are you with your present circumstances?
- Are you willing to sustain that degree of discomfort for 30 days? 60 days?
- Have you made a conscious decision to consistently establish and practice new behavior on a daily basis? In the past, have you stuck with it for more than 30 days?
What is the biggest change you will make this year?
I don’t have children, but I think I know how proud parents feel when their kids achieve their goals and soar past milestones on their way to bigger dreams.
Recently several of my clients have had some pretty noteworthy successes. After a long, difficult trudge through our region’s devastated job market over the past two quarters, they have built new opportunities for themselves to get back on track with work that is in line with their life plan. On the surface, each is showing the results of very smart and often hard work. Their efforts required a great deal of thinking, planning and extra effort to ramp up their job searches to produce the obvious results: they now are all working. Pretty exciting, very cool, and definitely worthy of celebration – There is more to celebrate, though.
In each case, these folks have followed some very basic concepts that are at the root of my coaching, teaching, and preaching. The most exciting part is not just that they are now employed, but each has a clear plan for what it will take to move forward, whether that is to maintain or build their value with this particular organization, or out in the broader scope of the job market, should their organizations change or hit tough times. Each of the people that hit their target (“Plan A”), as well as the ones that accepted less than their optimal target, (“Plan B” or “Plan C”), have kept their eye on the ball. They all have planned and measured out what it will take to build their value where they have landed or move forward toward their targets as the market improves.
There is nothing to be taken for granted in this market and it is unlikely things will change for quite a while. These folks are living proof that there are jobs- that you can take a controlled approach, you can influence your own situation favorably, that you can look forward to better things by keeping your eye on the ball. None of their work was random, none based on “luck”. It was planning, discipline, endless preparation and a commitment to getting forward. They might say it wasn’t pretty. But the rewards are pretty fun!
Own your glory! Let others know what things made a difference in your job search.