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At the Start Line

October 20, 2011

As a marathoner, I often think of things in race terms.  As a SLOW marathoner, one of my favorite sayings is “Dead Last Finish is better than Did Not Finish, which is still better than Did Not Start.”  Starting something new is hard.  It requires a commitment not just to the idea that we SHOULD do something, but also that we CAN do it.

In our careers, this can be especially true when it is time to take the next step forward.  Often taking the next step in a career requires leaving one company for another.  Even when applying for promotions internally, we have to have enough faith in ourselves to put ourselves out there.  This can be difficult for many reasons, so we make up excuses that keep us from taking the next step.

Excuse #1)  This is such a great company.  I’ll never find another company / owner / boss that treats me this well.

The truth is that there are lots of great companies out there, as well as lots of bad ones.  You can have a great boss this week, but next week she could take the next step in her career and be replaced by a bad boss.  Owners sell companies all the time, or pass them on to incompetent family members who would drive you crazy.  My point is, things could change at any time at any company.  Admit it, you’re scared.

Excuse #2) I hate this job, but  if I leave I could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Really?  You’re going to stay at a job you KNOW you hate because you MAY hate the next one, too?  See #1 “The truth is that there are lots of great companies out there, as well as lots of bad ones”.  Admit it, you’re scared.

Excuse #3)  If I stay here long enough, surely I’ll get promoted.

The truth is that at some companies, this will never happen.  You need to critically evaluate the opportunities your current company can offer.  If you have seen that other employees at your position have successfully climbed the ladder without leaving the company, then you may have a pretty good shot if you stay.  But if there are two or three pay grades between your job and your boss’ job, and you are the only two employees in the department, it could be limiting.  Admit it, you’re scared.

Excuse #4) If I job hop all the time, no one will want to hire me anymore.

The truth is that it depends.  If you consistently leave each job within two to three years, have multiple gaps between jobs, and are not progressing in title or responsibility, then the job hopping could be a red flag.  However, the good old days when you could work for the same company for forty years and retire with a gold watch and a pension are over.  Companies expect candidates to have worked at more than one company.  In fact, it can often be a competitive edge because it gives you multiple perspectives.  When I was a recruiter, I found that hiring managers almost always preferred a candidate who had worked for three companies over a twenty year span over a candidate who worked at a single organization for twenty years, even with similar progression in job titles and responsibility.  Admit it, you’re scared.

Excuse #5) I don’t know if I can do it.

The truth is that NONE of us know if we can do it, until we try.  When I started training for my first marathon I had been a couch potato for more than four years.  I REALLY didn’t know if I could do it!! I tried running but when the training program got to about 10 miles my knee hurt too bad.  So I decided to add in some walking intervals, and it worked.  My knee stopped hurting and I was able to complete the training season and have a GREAT race day.  This kind of strategy correction is often required in our careers and is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.  If you refuse to move forward due to uncertainty, then the only certainty you will have is stagnation.  Admit it, you’re scared.

So am I suggesting that everyone who doesn’t think they’re ready to make the next career move is just a big scaredey cat?  No.  For some it really may not be the right time.  What I am suggesting is that you check your thinking against these five excuses to be sure you aren’t holding yourself back out of fear.

I realized recently that I was doing just that.  Though I knew I wanted to start a resume writing business for some time, I just hadn’t thought I was ready.  I needed to take care of family stuff first.  Then I needed to finish a consulting project.  Then I needed to get certified (nevermind that I have been writing them for over ten years and have read thousands as a recruiter).  I finally admitted to myself  that I was just scared.  And that my friends, is what gave me the courage to get to the Start Line and finally open my business.

My name is Karleen Harp, and I am your personal RésuméSmith.

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