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  • Writer's pictureSteph

Take time out of it - the best counterintuitive advice I ever got

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

The chance meeting that changed everything

Years ago, at an event, I was seated next to a physical therapist who specialized in helping people walk again. The stories he shared were nothing short of incredible. This clinician had truly found his life’s calling in service to his patients and their families.

He compassionately explained almost every person has the same initial concern: “When will I walk again?”

I quietly asked how anyone could respond to such a high-stakes question. He paused, and with tears in his eyes, he said something I’ll never forget.

“You take time out of it.”

It felt like such a non-answer, and yet here was a PT who cared immensely for his patients.

Using time as a benchmark with someone who is diligently working, he said, actually has the reverse effect of hindering progress, mental health and motivation. With such a complex goal and uncertain outcome, time is a distraction and often a terrible way to gauge progress, he explained. Better to focus on any effort, accomplishment or milestone that brings you closer to your objective.

Sharing this story is not intended to compare job searching to the ability to walk. If anything, it gives us deep perspective.

Everyone wants to find a new job instantly. I hope the first resume you submit will be the one that completes your search. In reality, it’s a dynamic process; knowing this is empowering because it re-centers our efforts on the things we can do.

Here are some ways to apply the ‘take time out of it’ wisdom to job searching.

Accept that we don’t know.

Starting with the most challenging on the list, build endurance using what some mindfulness practices call ‘radical humility’. We don’t know. We can still (and should) take positive action to improve our lives, but without adding time-pressure.

Set a goal range.

It’s great to envision a finish line. At the same time, be kind to yourself with a process that has so many variables. If you prefer something to aim for, give yourself a range of time instead of fixating on a particular calendar date. Even better, re-focus quantitative energy into things you can control such as how many people you reach out or how much time you will devote this week to job search activities.

Allow for adjustments.

Again, if you feel a timeline concept is helpful to keep you on track, that’s fine. Just don’t go overboard. Expect that target dates may shift and that’s okay.

Involve a mentor.

An outside perspective is a great resource to provide guidance on pacing and setting attainable goals. Share your ideal timetable with a trusted mentor for feedback on whether this is doable or needs refining.

Challenge your perception of time altogether.

It is so easy to personify time: fast is good, slow is bad. Challenge this point of view. In college, my friend cooked chicken adobo for us. It took all day and I still remember how good it tasted, 20 years later. How about the extra time it took to meet your significant other? What if your job search takes longer than your originally planned and yields a better result than you ever could have imagined? As humans, we really can’t know if perceived delays are good or bad. As frustrating as it is when things are moving slower than you’d like, reframe this time as being on deck – ready to be hired, and on the road to something great.

Use your time wisely.

Making peace with time does not mean inaction. Both urgency and tenacity are important, especially when finances and personal happiness are involved. Be strategic, taking high-impact actions. A few hours of quality job submissions or key networking conversations will make you feel better and are more productive than staying up late (compromising sleep), blanket applying, and just plain worrying. Do the things you can do while preserving your energy.

Become the most encouraging person you know.

Could you imagine if the physical therapist I introduced you to earlier were to berate his patients or be a negative voice in their ear, telling them they ‘couldn’t’ do it, or appallingly ask why it was taking so long? He would not have any patients and we would seriously question his humanity. When it comes to you and your job search, I want you be encouraging and extremely kind to yourself. Say the positive things that you would tell a friend.

In the inevitable ‘are-we-there-yet’ road trip moments when you’re eager to arrive at your new job destination, remember that you are part of a global community alongside motivated job seekers feeling the same way. Stay strong, persevere and keep the faith that good things will happen for everyone.

When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you,

till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer,

never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

-Harriet Beecher Stowe

© 2020 WORK DOT DOT. All rights reserved.


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