Job Search Magic

A few months ago I was interviewed for an article on job search. When I explained to the Sacramento Bee journalist that there’s no magic formula for getting a job during a recession, she seemed disappointed. I wasn’t surprised, because I often get the same response from clients and potential clients. They’re hoping I’ll perform a little sorcery, a sleight of hand, a wave of the wand that will usher them into the realm of super hero job seekers. When I tell them I don’t have that kind of magic, I see their shoulders slump and their eyes glaze over. They often revive a bit, however, when I guarantee them that they have this magic inside of them, and can access it when they begin to work from the inside out, rather than the other way around.

I’m a dedicated believer in what I call “inside-out” job search, which means focusing more on who you need to be during the process rather than on facts you need to know. Certainly, facts are important, but there’s a wealth of job search techniques and strategies available from gifted teachers, great writers, and accessible websites. I gently push clients to take an active role in gathering this information, and ultimately they decide what they want to do with it, after we’ve sorted through it together. This frees us up to concentrate on the inside stuff, the stuff from which magic arises: cultivating optimism, resilience, courage, imagination, responsibility, wisdom, and joy, and transforming limiting patterns and beliefs.

It is truly magical when clients search for a job from this perspective. Serendipity shows up as a welcome companion. Clients start to trust themselves. They feel more magnanimous. Their lives improve. And guess what? They get jobs. Seeing clients getting jobs right now helps me understand that all the fear and emphasis on what you “should” or “must” do to find a job in this climate is highly overrated.

Sometimes, of course, people insist on the quick tip that will catapult them past the competition. Several years ago, when I told a client there weren’t any quick answers and instead encouraged him to read a highly regarded book on job search, he snapped back, “I don’t want to do that. That’s what I come to you for. I just want you to tell me what to do.” Clearly, he was anxious and burned out, so I assured him that we could work together to create a better “inside” place for him from which to proceed. He rolled his eyes when I said that, and not surprisingly, didn’t stick around much longer.

Those who have stuck around, however, have taught me a whole lot about who you need to be during a job search, which is what I tried to tell the journalist last November. Since it didn’t make it into the newspaper, I’ve tried to capture what I’ve learned below. As you read through the list, notice that we all have the capacity to develop these qualities, and in uncertain times they are sometimes the only things we do have control over.

 Okay, here’s what I’ve observed during good times and bad about people who are successful at job search:

  • They surround themselves with supportive people and readily ask for help
  • They are good at advocating for themselves and telling the truth
  • They can balance optimism and realism to weather difficult times
  • They take care of themselves physically and emotionally
  • They let go of things they have no control over
  • They don’t wait until everything is perfect to take action
  • They identify their “shoulds” and make conscious efforts to move beyond them
  • They are creative thinkers and can almost always come up with workable solutions when they feel squeezed, such as getting housemates, pooling resources, taking on part-time or consulting work, or starting small sideline businesses
  • They reach out and connect with people, either in person or virtually. You might say they’re good at networking, but the term doesn’t quite fit, because they listen just as much as talk. They practice empathy and understand the inherent value of each person’s story. Their frame of mind is just as likely to be, “how can I help this person?” as “how can this person help me?”
  • They make an effort to know their neighbors and seek a sense of community where they live
  • They are involved in interests, hobbies, and activities that may have nothing to do with work: art, yoga, music, dance, karate, literature, food, poetry, writing, and book clubs, to name a few
  • They limit their access to news media because they know it’s driven by ratings, and catastrophic stories are the ones that get the best ratings
  • They often have some sort of centering practice or spiritual foundation
  • They volunteer for causes they care about: the environment, children, women, LGBT, homeless, animals, and political campaigns, to name a few
  • They appreciate the small moments of life and make an effort to live in the now

As I look over this list, a theme rises to the top for me: these individuals are actively building the world they want to live in, and their job search is an outgrowth of that. I am truly inspired by such people, and if you are too, why not start now to concentrate on becoming more of the person you need to be, whether you’re searching for a job or not?

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