When I’ve encountered a client who is stuck in her job search, the problem is almost always that she is stuck in the past. Rather than focusing on the future, such people frequently fixate on why they were let go from a job. For others, they are still employed at a bad job. They say they want something new, but do little to make it happen. Instead, they waste their time reliving what went wrong, imagining a world that will never be.
In a recent article in Psychology Today, Peg O’Connor, a professor of philosophy at Gustavus Adolphus College, points to two words that kill our progress: “If only.” When we use those words, we’re getting lost in regrets rather than looking forward and working to make things better. O’Connor does say that some people can use this word to change their behaviors. However, for most people, “if only” is a waste of time and energy. It’s a much better strategy to set a goal for where you want to be and work hard to achieve that goal. As Satchel Paige put it, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”
I was at a café this morning when I overheard a young lady complaining that she could not find a job. First, she told her friend that to get the job she really wants she has to have a graduate degree. The problem is that she can’t afford to pay for school and doesn’t want to take out loans. Then she said that her language skills hold her back because “every job requires Spanish.” Finally, she talked about finding an ideal job that would only require her to work three or four days a week while paying well. That kind of job would let her go to school while working. If we think hard enough, there is always a reason to fail.
If this young woman doesn’t have money for school, she could work for a few years and save money for tuition. Her claim that all jobs need Spanish-speakers is simply not true. In fact, most jobs don’t require a second language. Her dream job of a high-paying part time job might exist, but they are too few to be a realistic goal.
A good job search and good career management is all about finding ways to succeed. Ask yourself: What can I do today or tomorrow to move forward? What are my strengths? What do I have that employers will pay for? These questions all point toward a better future. That’s the direction we all want to go.