Friday, June 01, 2007

Fear Induced Lethargy

Anyone of us who has ever found themselves "between portfolio assignments" or whatever other euphemism you want to use for looking for a job while being unemployed knows full well the range of emotions (very few of which are good) one experiences in the quest for the next gig.

Some of us talk about it, others write about it, most of us intellectually fully understand what we're supposed to do about it, but for a multitude of rationalizations often hold back desperately hoping that the world will finally feel the pain of not having us as the answer to their prayers and that one day our phone will ring and the person on the other end will say "Dave, I am so glad I finally found you, please just fill in the blank on this check, and come help us become #1 in our industry."

So why is it that so many senior level executives in a job search seem to find themselves waiting for that call, or who feel they are really having a productive day because they have sent of lots of emails with resume attached to job board after job board or if they were really on an efficiency kick, sent off lots of emails to jobs they found on one of the aggregator services that have been scrapped and published from the net thus saving themselves the click and loading time going from site to site.

One of the best answers to this behavioral phenomenon I found in the musings of John Reinke (who in the interest of full disclosure is a member of ExecuNet) and who among his myriad activities has a blog which he calls Reinke Faces Life.

John came up with the phrase "fear induced lethargy" in a communication he was sending to one of the many folks who come to him for free advice regarding their search. John, who, like many of us, has far more experience in looking for a job than he would like, has what some might consider a pretty cynical outlook on a number of things. Said differently, the advice he dispenses from what is clearly a very giving and compassionate heart is neither "warm" nor "fuzzy." It falls much more into the Howard Cosell school of career management circa 2007. Hence the phrase "fear induced lethargy."

When John used these words he was really trying suggest why it is that many of us take the easy way out (and hope) rather than putting our time and energy into those aspects of a search that are much tougher (e.g. really trying to think about and articulate what it is that I really bring to the table and being able to communicate same in a compelling and confident fashion.)

Fear of rejection is indeed a very powerful motivator for inaction.

It is for this reason and lots of others (but this one will certainly suffice for now) that when people ask what ExecuNet is all about that one of the answers I will give is that we are in the career management education business for senior level executives and professionals.

When the lethargy takes hold, it's as if all of our self-confidence and self-esteem resided on only one side of the desk, and for many that perception is in fact the reality.

So, what helps to change all that and make what John calls "fear induced lethargy" morph into result producing proactivity and action? For me, the hold a gun to my head one word answer is information.

When the "what" seems overwhelming, often it is only because we don't have the information that provides us with the knowledge of the "how". Once I know how, somehow or another the self-confidence adrenalin kicks in and it is for that reason that we spend the time and energy we do on the "how" and I have to say the feedback we get helps me to understand why many teachers love what they do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The expression "fear induced lethargy" is a very apt one for the rejection avoiding inaction that we all experience in any "putting yourself out there" endeavor. But, it is not just limited to job seekers.....It keeps artists from showing, aspiring performers from performing, single people from dating, the shy from get the drift. The irony of protecting yourself from rejection is you get no exposure, no feedback...and as you say, Dave, no information. So, if the job seeker can focus on the information needed rather than the rejection feared.....well everything changes! Changing "what job do you want to get" to "how can I find a way to bring my value to an organization's need" is the most productive thinking. That said, I remember a wonderful executive that I worked with who had a rescue fantasy that one of his neighbors, friends or family would eventually take pity on him and "give" him a job. We argued about this mindset (seeking sympathy is not a marketable position) session after session until one day he told me "I've been rescued by my fantasy". He found work by having a casual conversation at his son's soccer game about what he wanted to do professionally with an interested neighbor who was in the same field.. He found out....but not by intentionally networking...that sharing his expertise with another interested executive led to his next gig. Sharing a mutual interest and focusing on what you have to offer rather than the job you want someone to help you get reduces the fear of rejection.
Sheryl Spanier