If you’re like most job seekers, you’ve probably felt discouraged at some point along the journey. Sometimes, that discouragement feels like a sprinkle of rain. Sometimes it feels like a tidal wave. When the discouragement is so consistent that you feel like you should start taking surfing lessons, it’s natural to start thinking about quitting.
If your shoulders are starting to hunch and your toes are beginning to curl as you read this article, pause right now, take a deep cleansing breath, and do something my mentor always asks me to do when I’m starting to let anxiety drive – list 3 things you’re grateful for.
Now that hopefully, you have a clearer head, I want to first acknowledge your lived experience. Yes, job seeking can be discouraging and anxiety-inducing under the best of circumstances, not to mention circumstances that are less than ideal. If you’re dealing with this right now, you’re doing a hard thing. Be proud of yourself for doing a hard thing.
I also want to reassure you that you won’t be doing the hard thing forever. You might land your dream job. Or, you might decide to quit. Either option can put you on the path to success.
Sometimes, Winners Quit
I’m going to share with you two illustrations that I’m almost certain you’ve heard before. The first is a quote that goes something like “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” The second is a parable about a man perched atop a roof who turns down flood rescue attempts by a raft, boat, and helicopter because he says God will save him. After he drowns, he asks God why He didn’t intervene, and God says he sent the raft, boat, and helicopter.
While persistence is typically positive, blind persistence isn’t admirable. The man on the rooftop was blindly persistent. He was committed to being rescued by God, but he didn’t know what that looked like. He was so persistent that he viewed escape via the raft, boat, and helicopter as quitting rather than what they were – rescue attempts.
How does this relate to job seeking? I’ve worked with many job-seekers who confuse quitting with pivoting. They have their mind focused on a particular company, opportunity, title, or salary. Focus is to be encouraged. However, they focus so hard as to be inflexible. When opportunities come along that would require a pivot, they turn them away, even though the pivot might ultimately lead them to greater success in the long run. For example, I recently coached a client who was looking to break into a specific industry at a particular level. Despite having little experience in that industry, they had incredible transferable skills. When an opportunity to break into a lower-level position in the industry came along, I advised them to take it and work their way up while also taking advantage of paid training and education options. This opportunity was the raft – they took it and survived. However, I’ve seen other jobseekers refuse to take raft and raft, boat after boat, and helicopter after helicopter. Ultimately, they often end up jaded and unable to move forward.
A number of studies support the idea that knowing when to quit is more important than a blind commitment to perseverance. The Harvard Business Review shared this example, which I find particularly insightful:
“Remaining fixated on long cherished goals can also mean people ignore better alternatives. A great example of this are baseball players on minor league teams. These players often receive low pay and have little job security, but live in hope of being spotted and making it into the major league. Only about 11% of players will make that transition. The other 89% are left languishing for years. If they stopped playing baseball, they would be more likely to find alternative employment which was more secure, paid more, and had a more defined career path. In short, by remaining under the spell of their dream, they are unable to explore other options which might be more lucrative.”
What’s the takeaway? Sometimes, winners quit. No, they don’t give up, but they decide to pivot strategically to achieve a better outcome.
Sometimes, Quitters Win
How do you know whether you’re more likely to win by quitting or persisting in your job search? Work backward. Start with the outcome. What kind of life will your new job provide for you? Better balance, a higher income, the opportunity to work more with people or alone solving challenges? When you start with the end, you typically begin to realize that what you want isn’t necessarily to be at the VP level or above in a communications company or to earn at least six figures as an analyst. What you want is a life and career that is more aligned with your values and preferences. Once you outline what you really want, you will usually find that there are multiple paths to get there.
If you realize that what you want is a positive work environment in which you collaborate with others to solve problems as a team, as well as ample time to travel, you’ll probably find that you can both get there as a Project Manager at a content development company making at least $200K and as a Travel Editor whose company picks up the travel tab making $125K. In this example, even if you were seeking the Project Manager role, “quitting” to take the Travel Editor position makes sense in this case. The Travel Editor position is the raft.
Other Times, Everybody Wins
Job seeking can be stressful and disappointing, but when you start looking at it from the “working backward” perspective, you might find that it comes a bit easier. Instead of feeling like you’ve submitted a thousand applications and will have to continue submitting thousands more before your unicorn job gets back to you, you can focus on diversifying your application strategy and pursuing multiple paths that might lead you to the same strategic outcome.
This is where working with me or another career coach comes in handy. A career coach can help you identify other paths toward your ultimate goal, guide you toward following them strategically, and help you decide to quit by spotting a raft, boat, or helicopter when you’re feeling like you’re drowning.
If you would like to discuss your strategy for job seeking, persistence, and quitting, book a free call here: https://morleycareersolutions.com/contact/