Spontaneity can be a good thing with co-workers at Karaoke night, and I am sure it is a highly desirable trait for standup comedians, but in a job search a scattered approach is not such a good thing.

I have counseled people who have been locked in miserable jobs who will come to me and say:

“Becky, I can’t stand my job any longer. I just have to get out.”

What is it you would like to do?

“Anything. Anything would be better than this!”

Not so fast.

The Squirrel Syndrome

It has been called many things but I like to call it The Squirrel Syndrome and it usually affects the “I” behavioral type; people who are spontaneous; often, people pleasers; frequently unaccountable and scattered.

Their idea of a job search is “anything that comes along,” or whatever works in the moment. Like squirrels, they jump from branch to branch. Invariably, they will be juggling four or five career ideas simultaneously; going from wanting to become a neurosurgeon to living life as a novelist.

It calls to mind a woman I once knew who said she wanted to either go into law or culinary school. She had no experience with either profession, so I encouraged her to at least get some practical exposure. She lasted just three weeks as an administrative assistant in a law office, and after a few shifts as a waitperson she realized she could not stand to be around obnoxious diners. She would eventually go on to have a career as a landscaper (as she was passionate about gardening).

In working with someone who is scattered or who does not want to hold themselves accountable to a solid plan, my first objective in working with them is to get them to focus. They must go through a process of discovery to determine their motivations, behaviors and self-awareness. My second objective with this type of person is to have them discover what a career path will take in terms of time and commitment.

When we go about designing our ideal life we must ultimately come to terms with knowing ourselves.

Any legitimate career path is a series of many small steps that build one on another. Most often the steps are neither glamourous nor lucrative. For the person wanting to be a chef and restauranteur, the training is long and hard, and the failure rate is very high. In terms of neurosurgery or any branch of medicine, the path toward licensing and competency can be thought of in terms of decades.

You’ve got to please yourself

Often the scattered approach some people take is linked to their self-esteem. They may picture themselves being surrounded by adoring restaurant patrons or giving impressive lectures at medical conferences or (and more truthful than not) gaining the approval of their parents or spouse. None of that works either. Your career will not give you a higher self-esteem; your career cannot give you the kind of love you seek.

I teach individuals to cut though all of the clutter of voices around them so they can find their own, inner voice. Most often, your family and friends can’t help you, because they are not neutral. They have a vested interest in your decisions – and honestly you scare them a little bit with your constant changes in direction. They will not take you seriously until you take yourself seriously and actually figure out your ONE thing and focus on that.

Frequently the answers we seek are right in front of us. It may take a little work to get there, but when we find our true, inner voice a lot of the scatter goes away, and pursuing the ideal career or even relationship becomes more natural.

You may indeed accept that your dream and your reality is to become a surgeon or chef or farmer. After realistically focusing on the goal and fully exploring all of the steps and hard work, you may indeed start on that path with eyes wide open.

Just be sure you are focusing on your own goal and not someone else’s vision for you. If you follow another’s dreams, it will potentially become your nightmare.









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