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Is your head really in the game?

As a trained counselor and therapist, it doesn’t take me long to detect that a job seeking client is stuck for reasons other than a challenging economy. Let me introduce the experiences of three people I have met over the last few years:

It took quite a bit of encouragement to get Dan into my office to talk about his job search, despite his reaching out to me with initial enthusiasm. His ambivalence soon became evident. Agreeing to one session, Dan and I met and his fears and anxieties  filled the room. In the midst of  a very successful career, he had lost his job while at the top of his game. The rug was pulled out from under him and he was not prepared to deal with the  sense of anger and betrayal that he felt. The negative chatter in his head had paralyzed him and his frustration was palpable. Starting the job search made him feel very vulnerable. Dan was going to have to process the meaning of his job loss before he could move on.

Michael visited my office week after week convinced that there was more that we could do with his resume before he embarked on his next job search. Not willing to address the factors that led to his multiple job firings in a few short years, the resume was the only thing he wanted to focus on.

After more than 15 years in an unfulfilling career, it took Sandra over eight months to build up the enthusiasm to look for a new one after she was laid off. Her unemployment is slowly running out, but Sandra is so paralyzed. She really doesn’t know what to do next, and she doesn’t know where to start when it comes to making a decision for herself.
What do these  people have in common?
A 10-foot high mental roadblock that is standing between them and their next job, their next career, even their next business. Many of us have been here at some point in our lives. For others, it is a permanent roadblock, a pattern of behavior that is preventing them from moving forward in their lives. Either way, such situations call on us to harness all our psychological resources to literally “psyche ourselves up,” and mobilizing your energy like that is not easy.
So what’s really keeping you stuck in your job search or career?

If you have been stuck in your job search for longer than you want to admit, there may be a lot more in your way than just the economy. The current job market may have fewer openings then in past years, but are you letting certain fears, inadequacies or confusion reign supreme?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been immersed in the festivities and competition of the Olympic games. As I watch, I can’t help but wonder: What keeps these athletes so focused, driven and on top of their game? I’m well aware that behind all the profiles in courage and inspirational family and friends, many athletes also use sports psychologists. Sports Psychology, or the study of a person’s behavior in sports, seeks to understand psychological and mental factors that affect performance in sports, and then apply those to enhance individual and team performance. Sports psychology helps athletes increase performance by managing emotions and minimizing the psychological effects of injury and poor performance. Some of the most important skills taught are goal setting, relaxation, visualization, self-talk, awareness and control, concentration, confidence”  Can you use these same concepts in your job search as well?

Whether you are at the beginning, middle or end of this marathon, hike, or hockey game called your career or your job search, the question remains, “Is your head in the game?” The human psyche is a fragile place and losing a job, and in the case of today, losing a career, falls under the category of great life stressors. But, like the ice skater who falls flat in practice just before the competition begins, or after the first big jump, it’s how we manage this tremendous adversity that is the precursor for everything that is to come in your career. Your success depends on your ability to build your confidence back up, after it has been crushed, and to find the ability to gain control of the endless chatter in your head.
As the first post written by myself and colleague Ilana Levitt on the impact of psychological barriers on the ability to manage your job search and career, I would like to challenge you to think in a different way? Start your job search by watching TV! Are there any lessons in the Olympics that you might take away from the athletes? Do you learn anything from stories of how they have responded to setbacks? Are there any lessons in resilience and actions you can borrow?

For Dan, Sandra and Michael mentioned above, it is really important for them to reflect on what is the real obstacle that is keeping them stuck. What is the meaning behind the patterns in their life, both personally and professionally? It does take courage to look at these lifelong behaviors because we get so used to them.

There are some practical steps they can both take. For Sandra, she needs to pick a new sport (or career field), a new direction that builds on her past skills and expertise—and which has a short learning curve. Michael’s approach may be altogether different—a 360 review with past colleagues which may help him move forward in incorporating new feedback and different ideas. With a little counseling to explore each experience, he may be able to make adjustments that go beyond the resume, and, in turn, sustain a longer tenure at his next employer.For Dan, it is really important that he start working through these feelings of loss, before he can effectively move on in his search.

What new training regimes or adjustments will work best for you?

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