Closing out the first session of my Career Brand Accelerator with a new client, I asked them how they felt and what came up. I wasn’t surprised at their response- “there were parts that felt like therapy and it made me realize what areas that I have been holding myself back in.”
I focus the first session on gaining more clarity on what the client wants and needs from their career, but that can’t be a coldly logical back and forth about salary expectations and corporate perks. It has been like that with some clients yet with others, I have had to ask a few deeper questions once I detect a mental block around interviewing, portfolio building, networking, etc. This is vital to their success. A large part of the value of a multi-session coaching package is accountability so I need to know how I need to monitor them for self-sabotage.
When I first started working in career services, I didn’t fully grasp the role that self-sabotage could play in increasing the length of a job hunt. I played the role of advisor and consultant and I was the ‘just the facts’ lady when it came to building a career strategy. I wasn’t raised in a family that really did emotions. My mom thought that therapy was for rich people who needed friends (note: bless her, but she is wrong). This was before my own journey with personal development, mental wellness, and training in cognitive behavioral therapy. I was great at the tactics and the strategy so I didn’t think to triage my clients for anything more.
Until I noticed a pattern with the electrical engineers that I served.
Primarily veterans who were older than the traditional college student, they were smart men who paid attention, did the work, and excelled in school… then started making stupid moves once they graduated.
I was not only advising them but directly connecting them with employers and arranging interviews.
With one student, I had pretty much sealed the deal with a lucrative position that would pay more than double his current salary. He was a month away from graduation and I wanted him to walk across the stage as an employed engineer. The student literally just had to show up to the interview and the employer was ready to take him. This was a job not just on the platter but spooned up for him.
I was so excited when I walked into the office that day because I assumed that by 3pm, I would get a happy update. Then I got an afternoon peeved call from the employer asking where my guy was.
The graduate didn’t show up.
I spent the next 30 minutes trying to repair the connection with the employer and frantically look through my student list to find another bilingual engineer. I tried to get ahold of my student.
Since I am persistent and I am not the kind of career specialist who hides in my office, I tracked him down on campus to ask him what in the HELL-o Kitty happened.
The student, a grown man with kids and an honorable military career, shook his head. All he could articulate was that he panicked. He didn’t oversleep an alarm or pop a car tire or have a family emergency. He just choked on the cusp of success.
He eventually ended up employed, but that was the day that I realized that it wasn’t just the job market that my clients were up against, it was themselves.
I have used him as a cautionary tale and have gotten many responses including from people who laugh and say they wouldn’t be so stupid then they end up doing the same thing. I have gotten gently ribbed by colleagues and clients alike for my emphasis on journaling, self-care, and critical self-awareness. Then the madness in my method becomes clearer as a job hunt stretches on.
This emotional stuff isn’t hippie woo woo. We are ruled by our emotions even as we like to claim that we are rational logical beings. The sooner that we can face the mirror and understand how our subconscious can trip us up, the sooner that we can prepare for it. Ask an Olympic Athlete, your mental game needs to be on point to ensure victory.
Job hunting isn’t easy. That is why it’s called a hunt and not a cake walk. You can’t take half a dose of medicine and expect a cure. You’ll get the results when you follow the program. The trouble happens when we hold ourselves back. I can give a client all the tools, insight, and materials to ace their job hunt, but I can’t be there pulling the strings and moving their mouth like a puppet master in the interview.
By golly, I have tried. I have literally picked out clothes, done interview role play, picked out a sympathetic interviewer, and driven clients in my car to interviews only to see them psyche themselves out either in the interview or soon after being hired. As someone who takes a lot of pride in my work, it was a hard lesson to learn that I can’t will my clients to work the program and get their metaphorical shit together.
Your success always depends on you.
Self-sabotage can take many forms. Essentially, we are self-sabotaging when we are undercutting our own goals. Maybe we fear success, maybe we are insecure. There are many blocks that can lead to hindering our career development. I see this most often with clients who get a strategy and then hold back on implementing it.
Some examples of self-sabotage in career development…
👉🏻You struggle to finish portfolio pieces because you are paralyzed by perfectionism created through parental influences.
👉🏻You resist networking because you are scared to connect with others after being hurt before.
👉🏻You stay in a job you hate because you are insecure about your skills and fear the responsibilities that come with success.
These mental blocks can be compensated for when we are aware of them. We can build accountability, self-care, and other tactics into a career strategy. As a career coach, I have to be aware of what is going on so I can ensure that you have what you need for success and kick your booty in a loving fashion when you need it!
Self-sabotage doesn’t need to be a permanent trait! How can you stop yourself from sabotaging your career goals?
👉🏻 Face the person in the mirror then, critically and compassionately, examine your current goals and see if your actions are meeting your intentions.
For example, if you know that you are in an area where networking is vital for a career changer and you have a plan to connect with five new people each week, but you keep avoiding the coworking space or logging into LinkedIn. This is a sign that there is a gap between your goals and your actions. Journal or talk to a friend/mentor/therapist on why you are resisting networking.
👉🏻 Drop the excuses.
People are the masters of rationalizing their own nonsense. We can use even the best reasons to pump the breaks on our dreams. I had a client tell me once after reading a personal development book that she resisted the advice because it was inaccessible to lower-income black women in Flint, Michigan. This was a white woman in Europe going for executive roles, mind you. She was the exact audience for this book. Note: I used to be a librarian, I know how to recommend a book. After probing deeper, I discovered she was triggered by the chapter in the book about knowing your dream because she didn’t know what hers was anymore.
👉🏻 Forgive yourself when you self-sabotage and learn from it.
It’s okay to stumble. Sometimes you miss an opportunity, that is the consequence of inaction, but there will always be another one around the corner. Failure is a byproduct of human existence. Make peace with your failures and try again.
Self-sabotage has affected all of us at one point or another, but you don’t need to be your own worst enemy. You can design a career that satisfies you, creates an impact, and propels you forward. This is 100% possible. Just make sure that your intentions and your actions are aligned. You can do it!