Are You Keeping Yourself From Your Next Dream Job?

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8 out of 10 Americans want a new job (Society of HR Professionals, Dec. 2003). When people want to figure out their career situation, they are generally looking for something that is “better” or more, i.e., more passion, more of a challenge, more balance, or more money. Ironically, I’ve found that most clients start the career planning with a limited sense of possibility.

Limitations come from:

* Lack of confidence ("On one level I know I can start out on my own, but when it comes to doing it, I think I can't; so I don't!")
* Self imposed constraints ("I have to be the one to get the health care for my family, so I must have a corporate job" or "I'm not happy but I can't make the time to do anything about it.")
* Unchallenged conclusions ("It's irresponsible to consider taking time off — that's like being a 20 year old again" or "I can't switch industries now; I have no experience so nobody will want to hire me.")
* Blinding fears ("What if I make the wrong choice — I've made too many mistakes already. I can't afford to choose wrong again.")

These statements are all interpretations — what I call "stories" — about "facts" that do exist for real in your life. For example, having no experience in a new industry is an objective "fact"; believing that it means you can't enter the new industry is a "story." Your constraining self-talk seems like it reflects realistic ideas about everyday events.

But in fact, your "stories" have no materiality to them; they are just the product of neurons firing in your brain. "Stories" derive from deeply entrenched limiting beliefs.

If you are unable to move forward, it is usually because you are seeing your assumptions as "true" or "factual" — something you must work around without challenge. You are often unaware that you make your "stories" into "facts." For example, "I can't try to get a new job in the new industry now" becomes an unchallenged truth for you. You limit your spectrum of possible next steps and hold back from pursuing possibilities that could be more satisfying to you.

Here's an example:

After a few discussions about how he could locate another bank job, a 40 year old male banker told me he has always wanted to work in the film industry. His frequent self talk had been "I don't believe I could ever make it in the film industry," "The only way my wife will feel safe is if I get our healthcare through my bank job," etc. He was confining his search to bank jobs, even though he was unhappy.

When he developed confidence to overcome his limiting ways of thinking, he transitioned to a film industry job for which he exudes passion. He saw that the reasons he had kept himself from this dream choice - for 15 years! - were all self imposed. He "Got out of his own way."

Similarly, without this kind of process:

An IT professional would have continued his 2 year procrastination and not started his own company.
* A languishing MBA grad would never have seized a desired job as hedge fund analyst.
* A female lawyer client would never have pursued a 3 month sabbatical to paint in Rome.

Unrealistic? That's what they thought at the beginning, too!

Here’s another example:

In a delightful book called The Art of Possibility (by Roslyn and Ben Zander), there is a good example of how unchallenged “stories” determine one’s reality. Two shoe salesmen are sent to Africa and send a telegram home to their companies. The first writes: “No one in Africa wears shoes. I’m coming home.” The second writes: “No one in Africa wears shoes. Score! Send over the sales team!” Same facts — different “stories” about the facts. Who’s going to have a more successful career?

Where Might You Be Self Imposing Constraints On Your Career?

Career coaches help you figure out your skills and interests after you have an unblocked sense of these. But until you "get out of your own way," a career counselor can only help you pursue the limits of your conscious possibilities. Avoid making next steps that keep you stuck in a rut or still dissatisfied. "Get out of your own way first.”

Managing your Negative Voice

When you are considering making a decision, notice all of the statements that get activated in response to your considerations – it may even help to write them down.

Notice how many of these statements reflect assumptions you’ve made and then acted on as if they were “objectively” true. Notice how these “stories” about the “facts” constrain and demoralize you.

You do this hundreds of times a week, except that you don’t realize it because you truly believe that the “stories” you tell are true, so why challenge them. Whether it has to do with your career search process or not, believe in yourself enough to check out your hunches, get factual confirmation, and find a creative way around the barriers you have imposed.

Action Steps

1) Track the kinds of “stories” that you seem to tell often – these “automatic stories” are the filter through which you see the world.
2) Give yourself the exercise to have to tell “3 alternative stories” before you can act.
3) Clearly articulate what you want for your life or for the situation; then choose the story that is in the service of your goals in life.

About the Author:

Sharon Melnick, Ph.D. helps “talented and successful people get out of their own way.” Sign up for her 5-week teleseminar that helps you Get Rid of Your Negative Voice – Forever ( ) Check out the life changes others have had using her proven process to identify your blocks and unleash you from them. Learn more about her offerings at her website,

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