The Job Search. It’s Like Learning to Ride a Bike.
September is a month of transitions. Whether it’s starting something new, or returning to an established routine, starting afresh is generally the theme. For those in career transition, it might be the month where you commit to buckling down to your search or career change (again?). Granted, there are always lots of distractions during the summer and it can be hard to stay 100% focused on the goal at hand! Of course, that’s often a good thing and a welcome break. But Labor Day has come & gone—and now it’s time to get re-focused. For those of you who’ve been on the hunt for a while, the challenges to “getting back on the bike” so to speak, abound. In my work with clients, the three most common obstacles that jump out at me are lack of momentum, confidence and having a strategic plan. While thinking about this the other day, it brought to mind my experience of watching my five-year-old daughter learn to ride a bike this summer. And then there is my story too.
My enthusiastic five-year-old is excited about learning to ride when there are no obstacles in the way, but when the path gets a little bumpy, she’s easily discouraged. We encourage her to stay focused and keep on peddling, the bumps in the road will soon “disappear”, or at least she won’t feel them as much.
On the flip side, I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was 29 years old. (Yes, believe it or not, but there are a few of us on this planet who, as kids, did not have this privilege! And luckily, there are actually teachers who specialize in helping adults ride bikes.) Living in New York City at the time, my inability to ride a bike got the better of me, and my determination overtook whatever fear I had developed.
You probably get where I’m going with this—job seeking is a lot like learning to ride a bike. When the job hunt gets tough, it’s easy to get discouraged and frustrated by the daunting challenge. So where do you find the motivation and support to “pick yourself up, brush off, and move forward?” — You heard it as a child, maybe, but how about now? What’s helping you move your job search forward despite the numerous obstacles that might stand in your way?
Here are five ways that I liken my own “learning to ride a bike” experience to the job search:
I. Announcing that I was finally going to learn to ride a bike: Accountability
I let a group of friends know that I was going to learn how to ride a bike, that summer, no matter what. After that, the secret was out, and I couldn’t let myself down. Do you have a group that you are accountable to in your job search? I see how easy it is for job seekers and career changers to lose momentum when going it alone, and that means not even reaching out to your community for support. I have run many job search support groups over the years because I see the value, not only in the emotional support, but also for helping people stay accountable to someone other than themselves. – More about that further on.
2. I found a professional teacher: Seek help from an expert
Having never learned how to ride a bike, I knew I would need an expert to help me. I didn’t want to put my friends through the grueling process. I found a professional who specifically taught adults how to ride bikes. Yes, you truly can find anything you need in NYC. He was also a great teacher, had a group of about 10 of us riding in one weekend. Of course, you say, it’s easy, but not for a group of adults who have never ridden a bike in their lives. Having an expert share current advice and techniques is invaluable. These days making the financial investment can be daunting, but having a prolonged unemployment could be worse.
3. Found the motivation to learn to ride a bike before I was 30 years old. Set a specific goal(s)
Having a birthday milestone and a specific task to accomplish before that date is as specific as it gets. With the job search, watching ones bank balance diminish might be motivation enough, but not for everyone. The type of goals job seekers should be considering include – Making X number of networking phone calls a week, Attending X number of networking events per week, Making X number of new connections on linkedin.com.
4. Put aside my fear and trepidation with a greater goal in mind. Focus on building confidence.
While I had never ridden a bike before, I knew I could do it, and just had to get over the chatter in my head. The same goes for the job search. Unfortunately, the problem with so many job seekers I meet is that the greatest obstacles often lie in their head. It’s easy to build up in ones mind all the reason’s why someone will not hire you. In fact, to put your fears and doubts in perspective, read Bonnie Lowes list of 50 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job . I hope this will inspire a laugh at your imperfect self, and move on.
5. Joined a bicycle riding group lesson: Don’t go it alone
When I signed up to learn to ride a bike, I wasn’t alone. As I mentioned before, there were about 10 of us, and it really helped to know I wasn’t the only adult out there that had never learned to ride. It was also great to have the camaraderie and support as we made our maiden voyage around Central Park.
Research has shown that job seekers or anyone going through a big transition fare better with the encouragement and insight of a small group designed to help members move forward toward the end goal. Job Search support groups abound. You can find them most easily on one of my favorite websites: www.meetup.com
If you don’t find one near you, start it yourself and find the support you need. I look forward to starting a new telephone job search group at the end of this month. Let me know if you are interested.
6. Learn the right way. Understand the techniques that work (especially if they have changed).
Now you must be thinking, “but it’s easy to learn to ride?”. Well, not really, particularly for a group of ol’ folks like myself with all types of bad habits and inhibitions… And, anyway, would you say the same for the job search? Learning the exact technique, and what do in various scenarios from our teacher was essential and by the end of the weekend we ALL rode the entire Central Park loop! This is one of the most important tips to take into consideration today, because if you are following old-fashioned job search techniques, waiting for opportunities to appear online, you are out of touch with how to find work in this new economy. Make sure you learn how to actively use social networking tools to expand your job search, and build your online reputation.
Taken step-by-step, neither learning to ride a bike nor finding the right job seems as daunting, does it? And eventually, both are accomplished!
Need some support getting “back on the bike” or maybe some or guidance on how to do it right so you can start to see some results, drop me a line at Donna@careerfolk.com. Maybe you know someone that could use a shot of inspiration. Please share this story. Maybe you have a story of how you achieved your own personal goal, I would love to hear it too. Thanks for reading.