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The #1 most devastating Mistake in Job Search & Managing Your Career

Updated: Jun 26

Whether we have found ourselves without a seat in the musical chairs game of employment, or we have a seat that’s not quite as comfortable as we’d like and are looking for a better one at the table, time itself is the one factor most often overlooked.



As a top career coach based in New York for many years, I've worked with individuals across the country and internationally at every level, and from every industry.


If we are no longer working and looking for our next opportunity, often times we are going through something very akin to the stages of grief. We may have gotten caught up in one of the rounds of layoffs that come out of the (seemingly endless) restructuring world of corporate life, or something more specific may have happened to precipitate our termination, complicit in our own employment demise. Glee from the freedom of our release that we feel might be our first reaction, no longer under the thumb of pressures we had felt.


”I'm so glad that's over, and glad to be out of there… I never liked it anyway!”


Yes, it can be a wonderful relief when we have suffered for an extended period of time, either in a very dysfunctional company or in a role without opportunity ahead of it. The release of that extra weight on our shoulders suddenly being lifted off can spring euphoric positive feelings. Free at last, free at last, oh my goodness –I’m free at last!


Until the next week’s mail arrives, and the next round of bills that are coming due shows up in our mailbox. Our initial denial of the situation can even extend for months. If we have served this company for a number of years, with our notice of departure issued to us often comes a financial package to ease our transition toward freedom, helping also to reduce employee litigation.


A blessing for sure, but that blessing is really a double-edged sword. We calculate the number of weeks or months that we have ahead of us to (essentially) ride that wave of freedom. Maybe we can take a trip or vacation. Maybe we can begin to work on all those things and projects that have built up at home. Maybe it's the right time to start that business that we’ve had in the back of my mind over all of these years. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. That bell will toll, and we know for whom.


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The #1 most devastating Mistake in Job Search 

is not taking advantage of the time that we have been afforded to chart a new course or new direction, and to fully engage in our job search as it needs to be: the most important project we will or have ever worked on.

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As time fleetingly passes by, our bank accounts begin to dwindle, the pressure begins to mount, and that feeling of someone waiting ‘just over our shoulder’ becomes ever-present.


Sometimes it isn't even that we've been let go, sometimes it’s as if we’re a prisoner locked in our unhappiness with our current job and employer. Overburdened, overwhelmed and exhausted. No time for thoughts for the future, as our mind is centered on surviving the day.


One thing is for certain: it's very unlikely that our scenario will change on its own without our direct action.


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Whether you received a departure package or just your last paycheck, time is still your advantage if you seize the day.

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Carpe diem. Captain, my captain.


Break out of the box that you have built for yourself.


You may desire to continue on the same professional track that you have been on, but you can also reinvent yourself in many new directions.


“I can only do whatever I have done before.”


Nonsense. At my wiser, more mature place in life looking backward, I've reinvented myself and my career several times. Quit accepting other individual’s narratives that are projected upon you.


It will not happen through osmosis, you're going to have to take action –and that means taking control of your career narrative and your career branding. Then, plot a course systematically to go after what you desire.


Even if you have no idea of what to do next, your 1st step is quite obvious: discover the best parts of your career story that you have built to date.


Your resume and your LinkedIn profile, typically tell a hollow lifeless version of your story. Your career cannot be visualized in the mind of the reader. Rarely will you be able to inspire and engage imagination about the possibilities of what you could do for them, based on the tired ways you’ve told your story.


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The most difficult challenge for any individual, as we are so ‘emotionally close’ to our own story, is to see it with clarity.

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First Step: Discover Your Real Story


1.) Do a ‘deep dive’ interview.


Really get in there and cross examination yourself to rediscover every point of your education and career that you have either forgotten or tossed away because of its apparent lack of value. Was this your first school? Did you start somewhere else and then transfer? Were you working or doing internships while in school? Did you work at Denny's?

There is no detail too small for you to recapture. I'm very likely not suggesting that you add Denny's back onto your resume –unless you would like a career in the commercial food world. But you do have to discover your full story before you could not possibly consider the elements as part of any new narrative.


So, let's go back and find every detail. Did you get some award? Did you get a scholarship? (even if you did not finish that degree) Why did you choose that school? What's the first thing you did after the school? How did you land your first job? Did you get recruited? Did you get it from your networking? Was it as you expected, or did you grow somehow faced with a new challenge?


Do this type of deep dive interview / interrogation walking step-by-step through every piece of your career (whether you consider it related or not related). Did you stay at some company just three months? That's not typically a good thing. But, you could never imagine how that might work into a new narrative if you did not go back and discover the missing elements.


2) Break down the walls of your story on your resume and renovate it from top to bottom –just as you would when you gutted a bathroom for renovation.


Until you get rid of the old way of thinking of ‘you’, it is very difficult to install the new ideas of ‘you’. After your deep dive interview, you are likely to have 8, 9, or 10 pages of notes if it’s been done properly. Go back and rebuild every part of your story into a ‘longer form’ resume until the complete picture is captured. From there, it becomes much easier to edit-in-reverse once you can see the entire story and have the bigger picture view from which you can consider the very diverse ways it could be told.


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Distill that career narrative down to just the ‘nuggets of gold’ or ‘drops of perfume’. 

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Think about how you will take a figurative needle and thread to weave together only the most precious items that are left, in order to create a great through-line in your career narrative.


I think you may be beginning to understand why most individuals cannot effectively do this for themselves, as our emotional connection to the story clouds our judgment.


That distilled version of your story must fit on a single sheet of paper in all cases.


The resume is not where you prove anything, only where you claim your accomplishment connected to what you’ve produced or been involved with over the course of your career.


Yes everything in there must be letter true, but it is not the place to tell them ‘how you did it’, as that only acts to undermine their confidence in you. If you were confident you would not feel the need to prove it. By the way, the correct place to ‘prove it’ is in discussion when they cannot wait to get you in for a meeting to hear the ‘rest of the story’.


Second Step: 

Take Action on Your Job Search & Career Plan


Don't be complicit watching your (limited) time resource pass you by. That time wasted is never coming back to you.


Yes, each of us have a great many pressures in life and individual things to juggle trying to keep life in balance. But, the future waits for no one, and we must take action –no matter how painful or stressful that may seem.


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Don't simply wait until it's your turn to get caught up in the layoffs.

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If we were blessed with a financial departure package, that gave us the gift of time, don't squander that precious gift. If we are stuck as a cog in the machine of our daily career: carve out time needed to take control of your destiny.


1) Look at your schedule, carve out the time for yourself today, as you owe it to both yourself and your family.


I have not yet met the individual that has enough time available in modern life to do all the important things waiting for attention. Our workload seems to endlessly bury our future. Our spouse or partner keeps waiting for us to get to that critical project. Our child needs that very precious time with us. The gym time we never get keeps calling our name. Our lack of discipline in time management and commitment to each important area leaves us prisoner to a cycle that will never improve.


Take back control and understand what you need to move in a healthier, better direction.


I myself face these same issues. Never enough time; a significant number the speaking engagements; client work and coaching sessions each day. Where is the time for sleep? I guess that will be a dream some day.


A few years ago, I made a commitment that has changed at least a part of my life: one hour of cardio, five days a week. With my schedule, giving up an hour every day seemed impossible.


True confession: I accomplish my goal about four out of five days per week, but my goal remains to do it every day. I am aggravated and feel cheated when I miss that time. Not just because it's good for my physical health, but it's good for my mental health. It's great for my energy and it helps me be better at every other thing that I do. If you'd like to hear more about that, read my article, “Losing the '20 lbs. of Fat' in Your Job Search, & Career!


2) Set a Schedule / Stick to Your Schedule


Whether that's 30 or 60 minutes a day, or that amount of time per week committed to your job search or career, it will not happen without commitment. Imagine what you desire for your future, and for your family’s future –and hold yourself to your commitment as one of the most important elements in the very many things you likely have to juggle.


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There are 24 hours in a day, make use of them. Sleep deprivation is certainly not recommended, but nothing will prevent me from getting to my goal. 

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I'm very confident that you could carve out 30 minutes one time per week, even if it needed to be at 10:30 or 11:30pm during one of the evenings. By that time of the day my brain sometimes has difficulty processing, and I find myself a little (all too often) getting up at 4:30 or 5 o'clock in the morning to work on projects. Those ‘fresh eyes of the morning’ certainly help with clarity, as does the commitment to my cardio exercise which, as I said, has completely changed my energy levels. By the way, I am not a morning person, but nothing will prevent me from getting to my goal.


3) Design a Step-by-step Plan for Your Job Search or Career that can be accomplished within your Time Commitment.


I think an effective job search starts with a list of 30 very targeted companies or organizations for which you have a burning desire to work. If you have only 30 minutes that you can make available per week as you are juggling all the pressures of your current job assignment and home life activities, then maybe it's understanding that you should use that focused 30 minutes to target one company per week.


Check out my other articles which will guide you on how to develop a potential company as a employment target. They’ll also help with what your outreach message should look like (by the way, that outreach message would not be to the HR department in my opinion, unless you desire to work for the HR department).


Get to the decision-maker even if through a late-night email, and inspire them about what you can do for their team.


Think like a detective, work backwards to understand what the steps needed may be, and discover how to align the sun, moon and stars so that your opportunity and destiny are on a pathway within your view.


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Fear can keep us stuck in place, or it can motivate us to take the very important steps to begin to chart our way to a new destiny. 

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Face your fears. Take your next steps. And take back control in your job search and career.

You may find yourself in the most unlikely of places, at the very top!


Let's get started today–

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John Crant

Author, Career Coach & Speaker on Job Search and Career Management


Featured Speaker for

The New York Public Library's JOB SEARCH CENTRAL






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In the Media: As Seen As Featured in 


amNY, Time Out New York, The Wall Street Journal (and its FINS.com), CRAIN'S New York BusinessForbes, CNNBBC, FOX News (on Social Media Marketing), AriseTV, New York PostThe Huffington PostEssence magazine, CareerBuilder and The Ladders


On the Radio: As Guest: WHCR 90.3 FM "The Voice of Harlem"

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As an industry manager, executive recruiter, recruiting & sales trainer, event speaker, and as VP of a nationwide system of recruitment offices, I have seen most every aspect of the hiring process and this varied insight is what provides the clarity you will find in this book.


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