Most people find looking for a new job to be unpleasant. For good reason. No one likes the idea of having to sell himself or herself. It would be more comfortable to find the sort of job that allows someone to progress over time, possibly in the same corporation or profession. There was a time when certain companies would hire employees with the expectation, both by the company and the employee, that that worker would be there for life. The interests of the employee and the company coincided. The employee’s developing skills were appreciated and valued by the company. Japanese companies worked that way. And so did IBM. No longer. Nowadays most people are afraid of losing their jobs, even if there is no reason for them, or their bosses, to think that their work is unsatisfactory. The current economic crisis has made everyone wary. If there is good reason for the employee to think his job is at risk, he will have to start looking for other work. Usually this process takes place in stages:
1. The threatened worker begins to talk to other people, perhaps in his own company, perhaps in related companies, about the availability of work. He/she is likely to do this in a desultory and grudging way. Often, this stage takes longer than it should.
2. After being goaded by a spouse, or a therapist, the worker draws up a resume, and then puts off sending it to anyone. He/she revises it.
3. When the worker’s job seems more imminently threatened. He/she starts looking at jobs advertised on certain internet sites. He/she may start sending out resumes.
4. When the worker is finally fired, he/she really starts to look for work, calling up old colleagues, speaking urgently to family members, and so on.
Usually this process is automatic, although some people hesitate more than others. I would like to make the case, however, that everyone should be looking for work, even when that person is working at a job that seems to be secure and that he/she likes. For the following reasons:
1. Although going on job interviews is usually unpleasant, it becomes less unpleasant with experience. And that experience is useful in other ways. There is such a thing as interviewing skills, and they are learned with practice, often after making some foolish mistake. These skills will come in handy when and if the worker really needs to find another job.
2. Exploring other work opportunities will give that person a better idea of just how valuable in the job market his/her experience is. If he/she is offered a number of jobs over time, he/she will become more confident and possibly more assertive on the job that person holds currently.
3. Even when someone is content with his/her current job, sometimes, unexpectedly, a better job turns up.
4. If the worker receives a job offer that involves a higher salary, it sometimes makes sense for that person to go back to his/her current job and suggest a willingness to stay at the current job if the salary can be improved.
I recognize that looking for a new job can be a full-time job in itself and should be conducted aggressively when the need is dire; but there is always some time, even for someone busily employed, to go on job interviews, or review different opportunities. Under those circumstances, the job search can reasonably be undertaken less aggressively and less urgently. However, successful people change jobs many times during their careers; and it makes sense to always be on the lookout for better opportunities.
Most of the time patients nod agreeably when I give this sort of advice, but then continue to do what they are accustomed to doing—in this case continue working in their accustomed job. Any change is difficult to do—even difficult to contemplate; but every once in a while I run into an exception:
Tony was a young man when I first met him. He was phobic to the point of being housebound. He was also troubled by low self-esteem since he had done poorly in school. Nevertheless, over the next two years he improved. He got a low-paying job in a department store, but was limited thereafter in his job search because of his inability to cross bridges. There came a time, though, when this obstacle too was overcome. Then he was offered another job, which he described to me as his “dream job.” It paid well and allowed him to use creative talents he had previously been afraid to demonstrate. Then an odd thing happened:
After one week of training, Tony ran into a friend who told him of a similar job which had just become available. People were interviewing right then for that job, which might, or might not, be even better than the one he had just accepted. Having in mind what I had told him about always looking for a new job, he went on an interview. It was, in fact, a similar job that paid considerably more than his “dream job,” and had similar advantages. He left the first job for the second, where he still remains! (c) Fredric Neuman 2012 Follow Dr. Neuman's blog at fredricneumanmd.com/blog