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Dr. Jim Bailey
Guiding You to Work that FIts

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The Vocational Fit Blog

Desperation and Your Work

Henry David Thoreau is famous for having written, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Sometimes you'll see "and go to the grave with their song still in them" or something similar, but Thoreau never said that last part. What he did say was, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation... But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” 

When it comes to your work it's always a bad idea to do things out of desperation. Desperation leads us to charge blindly without thinking about what we are getting into. I've often helped clients clean up resume's where they have listed every task and responsibility of every job they've ever held. When I ask why they have all the detail they usually reply, "I want them to know what I've done". That leads me to ask, "are all of those things you'd like to do every day?"

I like to compare those resume's to fishing. I grew up bass fishing on Tennessee lakes and would bait my line with whatever I thought was likely to catch a game fish - large or small mouth bass, crappie, walleye, anything that wasn't a trash fish. It was desperation fishing where I simply wanted to catch something so the time wouldn't go so slowly. Then a friend introduced me to fly fishing. He showed me how to determine what each species of fish were eating at the time and to choose my baits according to what I really wanted to catch that day.

The problem with being desperate when you're making job decisions is that you are quite likely to land a job that makes you responsible for doing things that simply don't fit you. I'm very aware that life circumstances sometimes dictate that we take care of immediate needs, rather than seeking a better job fit. I've often helped clients obtain a "bridge job" to fill a need while they continue looking for a job that truly fits them. But even those situations have a very short shelf life and we inevitably find ourselves worn out by the daily drudgery of work obtained out of desperation.

If your goal is to get a job that maximizes your opportunities to be yourself and experience some satisfaction in your work, then you'll need to spend some time thinking about what you really want and need in a job. Embarking on a ambiguous job search or using a resume' that lists everything to land a job isn't just akin to my bass fishing days where I was grateful to catch anything but carp, it's more like using a casting net and hoping you'll pull in a prize. You will be best served by approaching your job search like fly fishing, even if it's a more challenging process.

In addition to the general rules for good resume's, I guide every client through their resume' to rid it of things they never want to do again or that present them as having skills or abilities that might land them in work that doesn't fit them.  And before we get to that stage we've invested a lot of work into becoming very clear about the tasks, responsibilities, and work environment that will truly fit who they are and what they want in their job and life. One key to a better job, is to be wise about your job search; it's one place (in many) in life where Thoreau was spot-on - desperation is the enemy of a good job fit.

James Bailey