“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” Mark Twain
At the end of a career counseling session I usually ask the client a question, “What is the one next thing you need to do as part of your job search?” As much as I don’t intend for it to be a trick question, the answer is more difficult for most clients to answer than I would have thought. The tendency is for each of us to jump ahead three or four steps to the final outcome and forget the first steps (often easy) that will get us started.
One client, Jane felt stuck in her job search process. She was not able to feel like she was making any progress. Her intentions were good but her follow-through was minimal. Toward the end of one of our sessions when I asked Jane the “first step” question and she responded with a fairly typical answer, “Do an informational interview with someone in the accounting field.” Conducting an informational interview is an important aspect for most job seekers and Jane and I had talked about that being a good idea. We had also talked about how her sister-in-law worked for a small CPA firm as a receptionist and might be a good resource for contacts.
In Jane’s situation the first step is NOT to engage in an informational interview especially since Jane reported the concept felt overwhelming to her. The ONLY thing Jane had to do as a first step was to call her sister-in-law and ask if she would suggest anyone in her firm as a possible candidate for an informational interview. I asked Jane how she felt about calling her sister-in-law. Her response was, “Oh, easy, I can do that. We talk all the time.” My suggestion was that Jane only needed to call her sister-in-law to get started. If she felt good about that first step, then she could move onto the intentionally small next steps we had talked about in the session.
At our next appointment Jane was excited because she had a meeting set up with an accountant to ask questions. She said it happened because she took each easy step until suddenly the overwhelming larger task was completed before she realized it.
Break your job search into small steps and you will find yourself making steady progress. Never getting started feels discouraging and hopeless while taking action, even if it is a small action, provides hope for the future.