What’s Stopping You?

by Herzog, Barbara Thursday, March 16, 2006
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We all know people who have job Karma. Without even looking, job offers just come to them. They move easily from one job to another -- like Kevin who tells you, “Oh, I didn’t go looking, XYZ Company just called one day, and after a lunch with some top people, I had a nice offer.”

The Kevins of this world are not reading this website. For most of the rest of us, however, finding a new job isn’t that easy.

People often stop themselves even before they start.
  • “My resume isn’t ready. It needs a lot of work”
  • “I’m too busy on my current job. I don’t have time to look”
  • “There are some bad things about my current job, but it’s not bad enough to leave”
  • “I hate looking for a job, so I’m sitting tight for now”
  • “I’m not sure of my career direction”
If you are someone in a not-going-anywhere job, you know the feeling. And to make matters worse, you may feel disappointed --or a little angry -- with yourself for not getting off your duff and finding that good new job.

Don’t berate yourself, please. But let’s look at what’s really happening here. Are you lazy? Or is something else going on?

Some people who come to see me for help will say “I guess I’m just lazy”. That’s not a very helpful term.

For many, it’s that they have other things they want to do with their time: the weekend in New York, the Saturday with old college roommates, and the rest of the weekend with their significant other. Or catching up on sleep because of their 55 hour workweek.

Those are all legit, and it’s a very personal matter whether those other uses of time are more important than finding a new job. As a career counselor, I don’t call that lazy.

For others, however, when push comes to shove, there’s a more complicated reason than better things to do with their time. It’s not laziness. It’s fear. Plain old-fashioned fear.

What kinds of fear?

For example, if you put yourself out there in the marketplace and start applying, you may find that you don’t get a job right away – maybe because you haven’t kept up your skills and aren’t as marketable as you thought. Not fun to find out.

Or you might be afraid (even at an unconscious level) that if you get a good new job you may find out that the same problems creep up as those you experienced in your last job: friction with your co-workers, shaky time management that leaves you missing deadlines, irritations with an unappreciative boss, etc, etc.

Or you may be afraid that when you get that new job, you will have committed yourself even further to a line of work you don’t totally enjoy.

Sound familiar?

What might you do if you suspect fear has a role to play?

  • First, congratulate yourself that you even hypothesize that fear might be playing a role. Often people don’t recognize this as a possibility.
Once you’re hypothesizing, dig down a little. I recently came across “Embracing Fear”, an insightful self-help book by Thom Rutledge. He offers four additional steps:
  • Face it
  • Explore it
  • Accept it
  • Respond to it
Easier said than done, you say. But Rutledge’s book offers some good strategies. You can also get some help from a good friend or career professional. Find out whether it’s just that you don’t value the potential benefits enough to give up other things and get down to actually searching for a new job.

Or is it fear – fear that once recognized, you can talk back to. And be able to say “I can’t guarantee I’ll be successful for sure, but I’ll risk trying”.

What IS stopping you?