Editor’s Note: With thanks to Fr. David Luckenbach, Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, Tyler, Texas for the inspiration for this blog
As you navigate through your career, especially if you find yourself between jobs the result of a layoff or termination, it is important to keep your eye on the prize, the goal for what you want to achieve: finding your next job. In this hyper-competitive market, it is absolutely essential that you stay focused lest you get discouraged and give up hope.
I have found that when getting people to focus on the importance of a universal goal like this it is helpful to share a relevant story.
Florence May Chadwick was a renowned long-distance swimmer. As a young girl growing up in San Diego she was quite accomplished. She scored her first win at age 10. She was someone who liked to win, but she also craved a big challenge. So, she graduated from pool swims to something a little more challenging – swimming in the ocean. At age 10 she became the youngest person to swim across the entrance to the San Diego Bay. Still not satisfied, and looking for even greater challenge, she entered rough water events. She won the 2.5-mile race off La Jolla 10 times in 18 years.
In 1950, after failing on the her first try, she successfully swam the English Channel. Then she swam from France to England in 13 hours and 20 minutes, breaking the women’s record held by another American swimmer.
In 1952 Ms. Chadwick attempted to swim the 26 miles from the California coastline to Catalina Island. At 15-hours into the swim a thick fog set in. She could not see ahead and she began to doubt her ability. She told her mother who was in one of the boats escorting her through the shark-infested waters that she did not think she could make it. With encouragement from her mother and the others escorting her, she swam another hour before giving up because she could not see her goal, the coastline.
As she sat in the boat, the fog lifted and she discovered she had quit just one-mile from her destination.
Two months later she tried again. A thick fog set in again but this time she was successful. The secret to her success on the second try – she said that she kept a mental image of the coastline in her mind while she swam. She kept her eye on the prize.
In other exploits she enjoyed some great successes but her quest to reach Catalina Island is most significant — for her determination to try again and for her success achieved by never losing sight of her goal, even it was a mental image.
Looking for a job in today’s job market is challenging. In healthcare, retail and other industries, there are more people looking for executive positions than there are opportunities. Dozens, even hundreds of executives line up for consideration for every position. Turnover is those industries is at a record low. It is easy to lose focus. It is easier still to become intensely discouraged. “I am so worried that I may never work again,” one exceptionally talented executive told me in an emotionally charged conversation. That fear, unchecked, can paralyze a job seeker.
The truth is there is no silver bullet that will magically produce success. Only hard work such as strategic networking, making telephone calls, scheduling get-acquainted coffees or lunches and posting on LinkedIn, are examples of the work you must do every day.
You will work as hard, or harder, in finding your next job than you will doing the next job. In this market, looking for a leadership position is not a part-time gig.
One strategy that might help is to begin each day by being mindfully thankful for something or someone in your life. And you must, as you go about the essential duties of looking for a job, keep your eye on your goal.
You should also find a transition coach who will stay with you and provide encouragement and technical support. Someone who will tell you things you may not want to hear – like work harder, make more calls, speak with more people, all the while holding you accountable for not losing sight of your goal, even when the fog of disappointment and discouragement obscures everything.