Job Search Paralysis


If you’ve ever been in a situation where more than one job or career holds appeal for you; where you struggle to make a definitive choice on what direction to go in, then you will understand job search paralysis more than others.

A lot has changed about how we go about job searching over the years, especially with respect to the impact of technology. Whereas in the past you might have had to send in an application by mail and meet face-to-face for an interview, today you can email and have a Skype interview from anywhere on the planet the internet reaches. Yes much has changed.

At the same time, very little has changed with respect to wanting a job or career you’d find enjoyable. Since the turn of the century, a whole host of new job titles have emerged; some obvious and others so convoluted and quirky you’d have a hard time guessing what work is involved based on the title alone when hearing it for the first time. However as I’ve said, ideally you’d like a job that brings you happiness and satisfaction.

So what then if you have the good fortune to not only discover one job you’d like to perform but rather three or four? That’s a nice predicament to be in is what you might think if you’ve yet to find just one job that would ignite some energy and passion. While it’s a different kind of stress for sure, it’s stressful nonetheless. After all, what if you choose wrong?

If you’re in this situation, grab a sheet of paper and a pen. In the centre of the paper draw a circle and label it, “Me”.  Next put a circle near the corners; 1 for each job you’re considering as an option moving forward. You can have 2, 3 or 4 goals therefore. If you only put a job in one corner, there’s no debate; you know what you want. Got it? Great.

Now from that center circle, draw a straight arrow out to each of the jobs you’ve got in the corners. As you’ll want to be moving toward a job or career this is why the arrow points outward. Now put the pen down and look at that diagram; it becomes clear that each job or career you have up for consideration has its own path. What could be the source of your stress is this; as you move outward towards any 1 of the goals you’ve identified, you are simultaneously moving away from one of your other jobs or careers you’ve identified as having the potential to make you happy. That realization could cause you to retreat back to the center where you are equidistant from all your goals; here it’s safe, secure, and voila, you’re paralyzed with trepidation about making the wrong move.

That paralysis has a cost. Soon you’ll find the longer you stay in that circle you’ll experience a loss of confidence to choose, lower self-esteem as you remain without the identity associated with a job or career, anxiety will grow and you’re in danger of full-blown depression. You’ll eventually say things like, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I move forward?”

Here’s the thing to assure yourself of; you put down jobs and/or careers that you’d find bring you satisfaction and happiness didn’t you? Whatever you opt to do will bring you a sense of fulfillment. So let’s add something to each of those arrows leading out from the middle. Starting with 1 of your possible destinations only, put a line at right angles to the arrow for each step you imagine you’d have to take to reach your goal. These could include doing research into the job requirements, applying for school to upgrade your education, applying for funding to do so, actually attending school (possibly a 1- 4 year step alone), targeting your resume, making a phone call, networking with others in the jobs already, having an interview(s) etc. until you are hired.

Do this same process with the other(s) which you put on the paper in the other corner(s). Maybe on those lines you need to acquire or renew a licence, get insurance, take a test etc. Each job will have its own steps you’d need to take. Okay, now do you see any single step along the way which you are unable or unwilling to take? If for example you aren’t willing to go to school for 3 years to get the degree you’d need or don’t want to take on the debt school requires, that end goal will never be reached. As painful as it might be to realize, it’s also liberating in a way and makes things clearer when I tell you to put an, “X” across that circle with the job title in it.

Now do the same with the other circle(s) you came up with. Do you see a shorter path or one with no single barrier you aren’t willing or able to move past? It could be that for now at least, this path is easier and more obtainable. Remember you aren’t settling for second best; all the jobs/careers you identified in the first place will bring you happiness. Rather than worrying about letting go of some dream, re-frame your view as locking on and finding focus on what you DO want; you’ve made a decision!

With movement along that path, your anxiety shrinks, self-esteem rises and with each step you’re closer to your goal.

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