Job-Search Stalled? Jumpstart your Transition! (New Years Resolutions Part II)

  • Tired of reading the 'want ads' & job boards?
  • Worry that your job-search has stalled?
  • Get back on track with your New Years Resolutions!
Learn about the Stages of Change, set attainable goals and plan for success!

The New Year is one of the  busiest times of the job-seekers and for professional, career counselors like me. It's very natural that many people have career goals and would like to start fresh in the New Year. At every holiday party I've attended, I've been asked career questions, economic and job-search questions and received requests for virtual, career coaching and tips. Let me help guide you in your new, career endeavors. Check out my initial post about New Years' Resolutions (Part I). This post outlines the major stages of change and provides a framework for goal-setting. 

"New Years' Resolutions Part II"
What “stage of change” were you in when you made you last New Years’ Resolution? An experienced counselor can help you analyze both your history of change and current readiness for change. Though the majority of  my clients tell me that they want a job right away and want to jump right in - they are not necessarily in the 'action' phase. There are often, related issues to sort out, assessments to take and a career plan to initiate. It would be a mistake for me to assume they are in the action phase, without assessing them further.

I'd like to share a recent, true story of one of my clients. It perfectly illustrates how the Stages of Change works within a career transition context. One of my former clients reconnected with me. Six months earlier, he attended one of my most popular workshops “Accessing the Hidden Job Market.” Many professionals attend this workshop and on the sign in sheet - all report that they intend to job-search right away. The workshop is very interactive and includes the techniques to help you launch a successful, job-search and recession-proof your career. I provide detailed, practical handouts of how to get started with career planning and job search. It sounds pretty straight forward: attend the course and take action, right?

My client had pulled out my course handouts the previous week and decided to get in touch for a career tune-up. His first statement was, "I’m sorry, I haven’t contacted you sooner, I’m sorry to say I haven’t begun my job search, yet. I know what I need to do, I just haven’t done it.” He felt embarrassed and guilty. It could very well be that this young professional, was not in the action stage when he took my workshop. He was probably in the preparation stage and attending the workshop, was a way to learn about next steps. Additionally, having worked with this client before, I knew that his job-loss history had been traumatic and sudden. His first, professional job had gone up in flames. Very likely, he needed this time to process, the emotional baggage associated with this loss. In our virtual phone session, I provided him with a “job-search tune up” and helped him reframe his situation. This understanding of the Stages of Change, had an immediate and positive impact on my client.

Facing change is scary and takes a lot of courage… Sometimes, you just need a bit of encouragement. Let’s say your resolution last year, was to eat healthy. You had a vague idea about what this entailed, but no specific goals. When, you didn’t accomplish this, your mistaken perception was that of “failure.” Ask yourself if you really failed? What stage of change were you really in, not what stage you wanted to be in? If you didn’t have specific and measurable goals, how do you know you failed? If you had some goals, were they achievable? Actionable? How did you prepare for this challenge? What timeline did you use to judge success or failure? How rigid was your criteria? Was your definition of success black or white, all or nothing?

As a previous addictions counselor, I worked with hundreds of clients who were in various stages of change and/or recovery. I have seen first hand how hard it is to change and know that set backs are normal. Any of us who have ever dieted, know that the stages of change are not always linear. You may take one step forward and one step back. In fact, the Stages of Change Model addresses what we commonly refer to as “failure” or “relapse.” Maybe you were on a diet, when you secretly devoured an 800 calorie, jumbo, slice of cheesecake. You do not need to make your relapse complete and devour the entire cake! Instead of considering this a “failure” and triggering a cycle or recriminations and self-loathing, think of this as a "return from action to an earlier stage." Hopefully, you can restart the process again at the preparation, action or even the maintenance stage. People who have relapsed may need to learn to anticipate high-risk situations. It is possible to step back, and stop, despite this misstep.

A resolution, for the most part is a sign that you are in one of the first 3 stages of change. Think about the massive spike in gym and health club memberships each January. How many of these new members even go? How many made the mistake of thinking they were in the action phase? Think about how quiet the gym is, around March. Within 3 months, more than 75% of resolutions to work out/exercise – crash and burn.

 Healthy goals. Give yourself a break.

• What about taking the time this year, to acknowledge your resolutions for what they are – simply an
    idea,hope or intention for the future.
• What about allowing yourself to work your way through the stages of change, at your own pace?
• What about praising and encouraging yourself through-out the process?
• What about not obsessing with the end-result?

As a society, North Americans are goal-obsessed. What about looking on the positive side? If you had a New Years' resolution last year, you may have worked your way through 2 additional stages of change in the past year. If so, then January 2011, may be your action stage, the year your goals will succeed!

I'd love to hear about your resolutions, transitions and job search experiences. Post a comment or email me
Author: © 2011 - All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, MA, Counseling Psychology, CPRP.

Licensed Counselor. Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist. "Virtual Career Counseling: helping business professionals, reach their career potential!"

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  1. This is a very insightful article, thanks for sharing.

    Thanks for letting us in the different phases of change. Your insight gave us a way to view our processes and goals in a more friendly way.

    On a side note, I agree that a lot of jobs nowadays are hidden, they are sometimes called 'unadvertised' or posted in places other than or - in Twitter, Facebook, etc. For the jobseeker, a knowledge on the hidden job market strategy tips will one-up his job search and will make him more successful.

    1. Alisa,

      I'm so glad that the post resonated with you! Often as career professionals, we assume that our clients are in the "pre-contemplation stage" not the "action stage."

      Sharon C.

  2. Alisa,

    I'm so glad that the post resonated with you! Often as career professionals, we assume that our clients are in "action stage" when they are actually in the "pre-contemplation stage." Once we recognize this, we can meet clients where they are.

    Sharon C.
    Your Virtual Career Manager