The reason why you may not have yet started that thing you’ve been wanting to do — be it a new job, project, exercise plan, or any other initiative — is because you’re not sure where it will end. In baseball terms, you’re stuck in the dugout, looking out at the field and waiting to step to the plate until you’re sure you’ll hit a homerun. You’re not willing to go out on a public stage with all those people watching and just start swinging without knowing for sure that you’ll hit it out of the park.
The reality is, success comes from simply stepping to the plate and swinging. You may find that you hit a single, or a double, or that you end up bunting. You may also strike out completely. In reality, baseball games aren’t won a homerun at a time; they’re won a base at a time.
The merit is in stepping out in the bright lights and starting to swing. You’ll be surprised how many people are there to cheer you on.
You may also surprise yourself.
Feeling like you should jump jobs? Don’t wait to find your dream job before leaping. Sometimes the way is revealed by simply acting. Doing something different.
A job description may not seem like a dream job but that might be because it’s missing you. You are the thing that makes it a dream job because humans are dynamic and give life to otherwise generic job descriptions.
The goal in searching for your next gig shouldn’t be to find the perfect fit. It should be to find something that aligns enough with your values, strengths, and ideal environment to guarantee a base level of satisfaction.
Even then, you’ll never 100% KNOW this is the right move. There’s a reason they’re called “leaps” of faith. They take more than casual stepping or tippy-toeing. And, if you’ve done the hard work of reflection and research, it’s probably time to trust that you are the missing ingredient and just move. Leap. Take action.
“There is that ‘leap of faith,’ as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two.” -Boyd K. Packer, LDS Apostle
Awhile back I was discussing the hiring process I went through at Rice with my former boss. She told me that one of the main reasons I moved on to the interview stage was because of my cover letter. Before I wrote that cover letter, I remember spending significant time reading tips about how to write an effective letter and I wrote multiple drafts using those tips, but nothing felt right. Then I stumbled on an article with the best tip, I followed it with exactness, and, apparently, it landed me an interview.
Before I share it, it’s important to understand the purpose of a cover letter vs. a resume. Why do we even have to write these tortuous letters at all? Resumes are about what you can do – your skills. Cover letters are about who you are – your character.
The goal of a cover letter is to give the application reviewer a glimpse into who you are as a human.
Employees are often viewed as either objects, or cogs in a wheel that produce “things,” or subjects, human beings with desires, motivations, and beliefs. Using this analogy, the resume objectifies you, describing what you can do, and the cover letter humanizes you, turning you into a subject and revealing what drives you.
The great tip that I read when writing my cover letter was this: be authentic. In other words, write about who you are. Don’t just re-hash what you did from your resume, but describe why you did what you did, do what you do, or hope to do what you plan to do.
What motivates you? What values does that fulfill for you? How does that affect you? I’ve been part of several committees and programs that review applications and have read hundreds of cover letters. Time and again the ones that rise to the top aren’t formulaic. They don’t follow a specific plug-and-play pattern. Rather, they typically start off by talking about how they found the job announcement, why it is interesting or exciting, where it fits in their career path, and what they hope to contribute and learn.
Before you start your cover letter, answer these three questions:
Cover letters aren’t meant to be long, especially no longer than a page, and the goal is not to cram everything you can into one page. Be authentic, be concise, and show self-awareness. Cover letters are not the place to talk about things you don’t do well or that you hope to develop – save that for the interview.
You’ll know you’ve succeeded when you read over it and feel like it is a solid representation of who you are.
Big decisions can be gut-wrenching. In the past seven years I have moved a family of six and two cats seven times and I have worked seven jobs in a variety of industries. None of those decisions came easily. However, in making each decision, I used a consistent formula. This formula was given to me by a mentor in my grad school days and has worked time and time again.
As with most methods geared toward self-improvement, don’t be fooled by the simplicity of it. This takes some work and you have to stick to it. If you do, I think you will find an increase in clarity as you work through the questions at hand. So here’s the strategy:
When choosing between two options, try them both on for a day and see how they feel.
David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, said it best at a recent commencement speech at Rice University. For all decisions aside from marriage, flip a coin. “But don’t go by how the coin flips,” he said. “Go by your emotional reaction to the coin flip. Are you happy or sad it came up heads or tails? That is your deepest self telling you what it wants.”
Pure genius. And it works. When I was in graduate school and nearing the completion of my master’s degree, I began contemplating the decision to either stay on and push toward a Ph.D. or go into the world of work and continue to figure out my life. I sat with my mentor and asked him what he thought I should do. He told me to pick a day, any day, and make it the day that I decided to go on for a Ph.D. Tell people what you decided and live as if that was what you were going to do. Then, throughout the day, or at the very least at the end of the day, write down how you feel. Did you find yourself questioning it? Justifying it? Did you feel a sense of dread in your stomach or a rush of energy? Were you excited to tell people or did you only share on a need-to-know basis? Then do the same thing with the other side of the coin. I did this, and it was clear as day that I should move into the workforce. As I shared my Ph.D. ambitions I felt inauthentic and empty. But when I talked about getting a job, I lit up and my general countenance shined.
Others were able to tell me what I already knew deep down: I had already made the decision but I needed to figure it out for myself.
A side effect of using this method is solid confirmation that this is the path to take — you can reflect back on the feelings you had and the notes you took that were evidence to you that this is what you should do.
This is increasingly important as the dark clouds form to cast doubt on your mind as you draw closer to “the day” to follow the decision. Give it a try and let me know how it works. So far for me, it’s seven for seven.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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