Why are roller coasters so much fun? Is it because of the rush of speed as you plummet down multiple stories in a seeming free fall? Or is it being thrown into your seat as you race up a hill? Or is it the corkscrew turns that twist your stomach upside-down? Or perhaps it is the adrenaline that races through your body as you finish the ride and shakily walk away. Regardless, roller coasters attract the old and the young alike. It is a personal conquest of overcoming your fears. And it is a social experience.
As I recently embarked on a new job search a few weeks ago, I started thinking about how similar looking for a job is to riding a roller coaster. You have the excitement and rush that you experience with each and every job you apply for, and the twists and turns that you feel with every interview you have. As you stand in line waiting to head off on your voyage, you may be accompanied with friends or family, but as you go through your ride, you start to get to know all of the people ahead and behind you in line. You have a shared experience, where you feel the same bumps, curves, twists and turns. At that point in time, you relate and have the same joy and fear as you ride.
The Job Search
I find that as I look for a job, I encounter a wide range of emotions. I have gone through the “fear” stage – think climbing that long hill at the beginning of the roller coaster. Will you get a job? What type of job will it be? What will the company be like? What type of people will work there? What will your new boss be like? Will you be successful in this new job? Will the company see the value that you bring? Lots of anticipation and trepidation, as you got ready to head on your journey.
Once you reach the apex of the hill, you head on down towards twists, turns and loops – the interview process. You can mentally prepare for the directions that an interview may go, anticipate the questions, and be ready for any possible twist. The thing is, as you race along, you hit some unexpected questions or unique interviewing methods, making each ride distinct from another.
If you ride the same roller coaster frequently, you learn each and every turn and loop. You become better at the ride. It is still exciting but you are more of an expert. Similarly, every interview that you do, makes you better. You learn more angles of questioning, learn how to anticipate or lead the interview in a certain direction. Even the interviews that go badly are learning experiences so that they next time you climb on that ride, you have a better idea of what to expect.
More often than not, a job search can be a bit isolating. If you recently left a job either by your own choice or because of other reasons, you suddenly may feel alone. While this can be uncomfortable, it is also important to find your inner strength and your focus to complete the journey. You do need to spend some time deciding on how you want to market yourself and what direction you want your career to go. Is your next job going to be one that changes your life? Or will it be one that is part of a direction that you decided on many years ago.
It’s important to remember, you are not alone. Surround yourself with your support group. And it is important to be social. Don’t try to go it alone. You wouldn’t want to ride a roller coaster all by yourself with every other seat empty, right? There is something about having the screams and shouts of those around you that make it even more exciting.
When you look for a job, I believe you need to have a combination of online and offline socialization. People call this networking and it is a critical component to any successful job search. Start by compiling various tiers of contacts and connections. These can be your peers, ex-coworkers, friends or family. Start working with those that you are closest to. And you don’t need to physically meet with them. They have networks as well and can connect you to their friends or coworkers and assist in finding that opportunity. Some exciting jobs may not be public and through your network, you may get an inside track. Think of this as the “fast pass” in that roller coaster line – where you can bypass much of the line to get going ahead of everyone else.
As you work through your networks, remember that they have busy lives as well and frequently won’t have much time to devote to your job search. Use your connections wisely. If you can, contact them once and then wait a little bit before you contact them again.
I view the process of looking for a job, whether you are currently employed or not, as a full-time job unto itself. You cannot go at it half-heartedly. Once you get in line for the ride and wait for a while, with the time you have invested, you most likely are not going to just jump out of line at the last minute. That is not a good use of your time. You need to commit yourself.
In my current job search, I found myself getting up early and putting in a full day’s worth of “work” (searching for a job, polishing or updating my resume, networking, writing articles, researching companies, looking for 2nd and 3rd tier contact and generally keeping myself busy). While this is effective in getting headway and moving down the line, it can, as I mentioned, become a bit isolating and lonely. So, it is critical that you also do some physical socialization. Get together with your friends. Go out for drinks or coffee or chat on the phone. Even online socialization via video chats, instant messenger or hangouts can go a long way in making your feel connected to the world a bit less lonely.
Humans are social by nature. Don’t forget that. And many want to help you succeed. Just as someone may help you in or out of a roller coaster car, you may need to ask for assistance as you go through the job search process.
After you experience the rush of the ride, you may feel let down or pure exhilaration. If you land a job after a series of interviews, you should celebrate and thank all of those who have helped you be successful along the way. It’s important to recognize that most likely, you didn’t do this on your own. If your ride was not what you expected, you should try a different one. It may be new and it may have the same excitement that the first ride had at first. This time, however, you will have more experience and know what you will feel along the way.
A roller coaster is not a train. If searching for a job or your next success was like riding a train, there really wouldn’t be anything exciting about it. Yes, both a train ride and roller coaster ride are types of journeys – one just gets you from point A to point B and the other loops and twists you along to pretty much the same place where you started, hopefully with a smile on your face and your heart pounding with excitement. With a roller coaster ride, you gain experience and courage and develop expectations, better preparing you for the next ride. And while a train ride does move you along, it is a conservative approach. Once you master one roller coaster, you can take that expertise and move to an even scarier or more challenging one, but the way you would in a job search.
How do you view a job search? Is it exciting? Is it challenging? Is it something that you dread or is it something that you will eagerly wait in line to conquer? Personally, I love doing interviews, even the ones that result in rejection or disappointment. You still make connections with people, share new ideas, and gain new insights into who you are as a person.
HTD says: Don’t be afraid of that new job search roller coaster. Get some social support and go for it!