“Fishful Thinking”- Job Search wisdom found on the back of a Goldfish Box

Goldfish Crackers are a standard in most homes with children. My two children have always loved them.  Yesterday as I was putting away groceries, the word Optimism caught my eye on a big box of whole grain baked Goldfish with the important note: “Optimism is a skill children can learn and leads to greater happiness and resilience.”

As an advocate of Positive Psychology and building optimism, I went straight to the website to read more about “Fishful Thinking”. Pepperidge Farm’s marketing ploy worked. Intrigued, I read “how to teach your children optimism and resilience.” The title of a simple yet pointed outline to teach children the skills necessary to cope in an unpredictable world.

Hold on. What about all the adults that were never taught these skills? Leave it to Goldfish to sum up what a bookstore needs an entire self help section to accomplish. My immediate thought was how relevant and critical every one of these was for a successful job search. In fact, most people today I see have been mired in job search paralysis for longer than they want to admit. Being stuck leads to a cycle of negative thinking, hopelessness, and often times depression-like feelings.  But Goldfish provides five easy steps to managing the challenging experience of being out of work.

1. Think Positive

Optimism is the skill of focusing on the positivewithout denying the negative – and channeling one’s energy toward what is controllable. Optimistic people expect good things to happen in their lives and work toward creating positive change.

It is hard to maintain an optimistic outlook 365 days of the year while being unemployed for the majority of them. We are only human, but making optimism your default setting is key.  For example, lets take two 50+ job seekers from my practice. The first claims that her situation is hopeless, due to her age.  The second, a woman over 60, took a new position admitting that it “was very daunting, but I go to work every day and literally tell myself “I can do this” and I am still there. I love learning and I am not afraid of it.” Learning new things keeps us young. Maybe it can help provide us with a sense of optimism too.

2. Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks, learn from failure, be motivated by challenges and believe in your own abilities to deal with the stress and difficulties in life.”

Lou, a former job search group member would not take his job loss sitting down. Literally. Without wasting a minute, Lou was walked the streets of Manhattan and visited every company he targeted, in search of work. The library became his second home where he conducted his job search. He read biographies of successful people who overcame adversity and he established his own mantras to keep focused on his goals. Lou’s resilience helped him bounce back after a devastating job loss and he landed a new job in record time at the height of the economic collapse in 2009.

3. Set and Reach Goals

“Hope isn’t just passively wishing and waiting for something to happen. Hope leads to the drive to set and pursue goals, take risks and initiate action.”

Research shows that high-hope people are excited about the future and also set goals. Furthermore, people who write down their goals are more successful than those who don’t. In your job search, hope is futile without action.  After all doesn’t the saying go “A dream remains a dream unless it is written down with a plan and a deadline”.  Jobseekers are wishful thinkers to believe a passive online job search will lead to success. Job boards are no longer the primary job search tool. Without a strategic plan of action including specific goals and activities, your ideal job will remain elusive. For example, my client Jose was interested in using LinkedIn, since he knew this was the most optimal use of his time. Learning how to use LinkedIn more effectively paid off for Jose, as recruiters and colleagues started to reach out to him more often.

4. Self-knowledge

“Knowing your strengths and weaknesses helps you focus on what you are good at, and ignore what you are not. This leads to a greater sense of self-confidence or self-efficacythe belief in one’s self.”

If you know what you excel at, then you will feel empowered to go after it.  In my career coaching practice I strongly recommend job seekers take the time to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses through various assessments and self-exploration exercises before jumping into the job search process. As I like to say, “you can’t stand out, if you don’t know what you stand for”. Never before has it been more difficult for a job seeker to stand out in the crowd. An intimate knowledge of yourself will give you the confidence you need to stand and be heard out in today’s marketplace.

5. Emotional Intelligence

“Emotional awareness is the ability to identify and express what you are feeling and to have empathy for what others are feeling.”

These skills are essential to successful networking and career management in the long term. Networking is the foundation of a successful job search, and yet it still is the most challenging aspect of the job search.  Developing emotional intelligence is critical to building strong relationships and helps you become a better communicator. Once you are more comfortable with your “people skills”, you will start to network with greater ease and confidence, hopefully leading to your next job.

Sometimes the literature on the job hunt is overwhelming. Thank you Goldfish for elucidating these fundamental principles of success.  Your advice is more than just for kids. It’s for all of us.

How easy is it for you to remain optimistic during this transitional time?  Please share some strategies that work for you.

Here’s to “fishfully” thinking!



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