The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

Get out of your rut and find your passion

Posts Tagged ‘validating emotions in job search process’

Frozen like a boat in the Beaufort Sea in February

Posted by Karen on January 31, 2009

Got this email yesterday from a witty and side-career-coach friend of mine:

I’d love to hear what you’d say about staying in action when you don’t want to. I have a client right now who has a job he really likes in Toronto. But his partner has relocated to the US and they have sold their house. He’s terrified of the rejection of the job search, especially in this economy, plus the complexity of visa issues, and is frozen like a boat in the Beafort Sea in February”

Another former client emailed me today about a resume I thought she’d done long ago. She’d been sitting in front of a blank computer screen on and off for months and now feels like she’s hanging by her fingernails when she thinks of having to get this puppy done for an upcoming meeting . Frozen, as my witty friend might say, like that damn boat (and what WAS that boat doing on the Beaufort Sea in February anyway…?)

It’s a great question…how do you stay in action (that is do all the things you know you’re supposed to do around a job search like write your resume, get the resume you’ve promptly written out there and make connections and phone calls to recruiters and government agencies that handle Visas etc. etc.) when all you really want to do is crawl under the sofa and distract yourself by looking for spare change?

When you’re frozen solid…you’re not doing something (or many things) you know you are supposed to be doing, you need to step back, take a breath and look deeper.

There is something else – some part of you – that needs to be heard, acknowledged and accepted – before you can move into action. If you ignore it, you will find yourself inexplicably digging your heels in and going nowhere. Let’s take our man in Toronto. Life has just been turned upside down for him. He had a job he liked and a world that was known…and in the blink of an eye he’s going to have to tackle moving, moving to a new country (and all the rubber stamping paperwork that entails) ANDΒ moving to a new country that despite being Obamained is in far rougher shape than Canada. On the other hand, one surmises he’s not only leaving a job he likes, but also people he likes, a house he liked enough to buyΒ and a whole life he put time and effort into creating.Β 

You don’tΒ just letΒ go of all that without a little emotional blowback.Β 

Even if moving with his partner was always in the cards, his partner is the one with things sorted out at the other end. He or she can be excited about the prospect of a “new adventure”. Our guy is just left wondering where his day-to-day reality just went. He is the one truly stepping into the Unknown. And until that is appreciated and acknowledged on a deep level, there is some part of him that is resisting the “To Do List” of moving south.

Plus, it doesn’t do for him to be expressing any feeling of doubt or sadness. We want to be supportive and positive. We want to be perceived as brave and adventurous. We think that having made the decision we don’t get to have any further feelings of loss or grief or doubt. So amplifying his fear is the need to put on a happy face and suck it up. His frozen behavior tells you how well that’s working.

When someone is frozen from taking the next step, itΒ can be about the overwhelm of a job search. Paring down the To Do List and starting small is a good place to begin coaching.

What I suspect in this particular case however, is that he needs space to have all his feelings and emotions about this change acknowledged and validated. He needs a safe space to wonder if this is the right thing, without being called on it later. He needs to slow everything down (even though the decision has already been made) and be given permission for his emotions about the move to catch up with the logistics.

I would also suggest that if possible he delays his job search and becomes the point person for the move. It would be easier to search once in the new city anyway, and if they can afford to give him a couple of adjustment months, it might be really nice to have someone who can be home to great the cable guy and figure out where the best grocery store is.

As for my resume gal, the same theory of stepping back applies.

Resumes are notoriously full of emotion. My god it’s a piece of paper that is meant to literally summarize your life’s accomplishments. If you don’t feel deeply related to those accomplishments, or you fear getting present to choices you’ve made in life, or you are afraid if you don’t get the document right people will judge you and it will block you from your future…well, no wonder many people flip over to Facebook instead. Resistance really isn’t futile, in the sense that you can’t make yourself do something you really, really don’t want to. Start listening to the “I don’t wanna!!!” and you may find it gets you somewhere new.

Take the time to acknowledge the part of you that is resisting. Rather than push it or berate it, listen to it. It has something really important to say and it needs to be heard. Listen to it doesn’t mean you have to do what it wants. You just need to let it be heard, so you can integrate it into the whole and move forward from there.

What I find is, if someone is digging in their heels even if their stated intention is to move forward, compassionΒ and loving attention with no agenda for forward movement often softens and breaks away the ice better than any Coast Guard ship.

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