Walking the Cat . . .

Because life's kinda like that . . .

I Think, therefore . . .I doubt . . .

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This post, while of interest to many in the job market, will be of special interest to the more experienced workers (previously referred to as “older workers” — I really hate that term) and those among you considering a career change. 

Allow me to “set the stage”.  You’ve decided, for whatever reason (downsizing, salary freezes, you’ve gone as far as you can with the company and are still young enough to want to go farther or you’re just sick and tired of all the bullshit you have to put up with everyday), to change jobs/careers.  This is a pretty big step for most of us, especially in an economy like the one we’re presently “enjoying”, but for the more experienced worker, it’s huge.  It was not a decision easily contemplated, or arrived at.  You’ve discussed the idea with family, friends, network contacts, even, if possible, co-workers (supervisors, human resources reps, etc) and, after careful consideration, decided the time was right for a change.  So, you dust off the resumé; update, edit, re-format, add new references, etc.  You’ve already done some homework, targeting prospective employers, so you draft a new cover letter and begin the process in earnest.  Then a curious thing happens on the way back from the post office or on the trek back up the driveway to the house; you begin to have “second thoughts”, little nagging questions as to whether this was really the right thing to do . . .

It’s a naturally occurring event; therapists and others in the helping professions have a word for it: ambivalence, those roadblocks your sub(un)conscious throws up in an effort to avoid the unpleasantness associated with change.  It’s a powerful influence on the way we live our lives, professional and personal, and one not easily overcome.  It can be overcome, though, with a little (okay, more than a little) effort and some support from outside yourself.  The “outside yourself” aspect may be a bit misleading because there’s outside, and there’s “outside”.  The reason I say “outside yourself” is simply that if you try to mentally knock down the roadblocks your sub(un)conscious has put up, they aren’t really “real”: they’re not concrete responses to those objections.  In order for them to be “real” they have to exist outside your sub(un)conscious mind. To accomplish this, it’s necessary to translate these negative ideas (that’s exactly what they are, ideas) into reality in order to knock them down.

One way to accomplish this is to talk to someone about your “concerns”; not just anyone, someone who knows you, knows your background, education, skill sets, experience, etc.  Perhaps you have an “old school chum” with whom you’re particularly close, or member of your network or professional organization with whom you’ve developed a good working relationship(if you were farsighted enough to employ a coach, so much the better); all are excellent sources of “feedback” because they have(or should have) no vested interest in whether you succeed or fail.  Assuming the feedback you received from your conversations was positive(or mostly positive), now you can develop an “action plan” to resolve these issues.  Make a list of all the roadblocks you’ve come up with (write down all of them, not just some; the little ones will become big ones if left to themselves) and then write down all your responses to those issues — all of them.  Next, read them, roadblocks and responses, out loud.  In fact, it may be a good idea to tape record yourself reading these roadblocks and responses so you can refer to them later on, when these pesky little “inconveniences” crop up again.  (It’s part of the “translating into reality” phase.  Hey!  I never said you could resolve these issues in a single sitting).

Now come the most important part of the entire process: taking action.   All the thinking, talking, planning in the world won’t amount to diddly-squat if you don’t take action.  Each of the items on your list needs to be addressed — in the most positive way possible.  If you’re not sure you’re up on all the latest trends in your industry of choice, go to the library(yeah, they still exist!), find the latest books on the subject and brush up (believe me, if it’s a trend, somebody has written a book on it); need better computer skills, sign up for a class (don’t worry about completing the course before your interview; the fact you’re taking it will be a “plus”); not sure you can fit into the culture of the new workplace, talk to someone in the industry (if you haven’t done this until now, you should kick yourself –HARD).  The last roadblock, and the most frequent, especially among more experienced workers: Am I too old?  Unless you’re considering changing careers from, say accounting to professional football, baseball or soccer player at the age of 50, it’s not a valid question.  (If, on the other hand, you’re considering a coaching position on a professional team, having coached your son’s (or daughter’s) pee-wee football or little league team does not qualify you — unless you’re looking at the Detroit Lions, in which case, you could have a shot).

Then upshot to all this is simply this: you are always going to have questions.  You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to second-guess yourself, time and time again.  That doesn’t mean you’re unqualified, that you’re not smart enough, not sure enough.  What it means is you’re human, and it’s okay to make mistakes.  It’s not pleasant, to be sure, but it’s okay.

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Written by stevewthomas

June 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm

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