Find Your Dream Job, Episode 258:
Focus on What You Want, Not What You Should Do, with Jackie Mitchell
Airdate: August 26, 2020
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You may think you need to settle for less when doing a job search. Instead of trying to get the position you want, you may apply for the job you think you should do, sometimes for financial reasons.
Here to talk about this is Jackie Mitchell.
Jackie is a certified career coach. She helps professional women feel fulfilled, achieve financial goals, and have well-rounded careers and lives.
She joins us today from Miami, Florida.
Jackie, let’s jump right into it. Now, you say, in a job search, you need to focus on what you want, not what you should do. Tell us about this. What do you mean by this?
Yeah, so I think that sometimes when people are thinking about what they want to do in their careers, where they want to go, what their next position is, they immediately go to, most times, “What should I be doing? Where should I go next?”
And sometimes that holds you back because it comes with a lot of stuff behind it. You know, the word, “should,” I try not to use because it sometimes has a negative connotation of a lot of responsibility. “Oh my goodness, there are all these things that are on me. Where should I go? What should I do?”
Typically, it’s not all about you. It’s maybe, for other people, for other responsibilities, and sometimes it just drowns out what you really want to do. I think those are two different things, what you should do and what you want to do. I think they’re very different things.
Is this largely about finances, Jackie, or is it other things? Are people thinking, “Well, I’d really love to do this kind of job but I’ve got my bills to pay, so I need to focus on that.” Or is something else going on here?
I think it’s a combination of things. I believe, and from what I’ve seen and what I’ve been exposed to, a lot of times, it’s financial but, at the same time, it comes with a lot of other things, you know, what I call baggage. The word “should” has baggage behind it. It could be disguised as financial issues, right? “It’s something that I need to do because of finances. It’s something that I should do because of finances.”
But that still has a negative connotation because a lot of times, people want to do one thing, but they’re thinking, “Oh, I can’t make money doing that. I really want to do it, but…” I want to do it, “but.” That’s where the “shoulds” have a lot of baggage, and, to me, a negative connotation. So, that’s why I say, focus on what you want, not on what you should do. The shoulds have baggage, that’s where I’m coming from with that.
Alright. Well, let’s unpack that, tell us a little more about that baggage and certainly money might be a factor but I hearing you say that there’s something else going on as well. Is it fear, Jackie? Is it the expectations of others? The norms of the people in your neighborhood or family? What do you see when you work with your clients?
The number one thing is fear. The number one thing, hands down, has been fear. I think a lot of times we make decisions based on fear, and if we really sit and think about the decisions that we make or the choices that we have, we come from a position of fear. “If I don’t do this, then this.”
And here we go with the shoulds again, and it’s a vicious cycle because a lot of times I see, I work with a lot of women, and a lot of times I see that they’re making their decisions out of fear and they get into another job, another position based on the constraints that they’ve already put on themselves going in. And then they’re miserable and then they’re trying to figure out, “Why am I miserable? I have a job that’s paying this amount, it’s doing this…” But it’s still not fulfilling their needs. It’s still not fulfilling what they want to do; it’s what they feel they should have done or taken.
Perhaps they’ve taken a position that pays what they hope to earn but they’re unhappy, and is it the fear of financial failure that prevents them from taking another job that might pay equally as well? Or is it that they’re considering taking jobs that don’t pay as well and they’re worried that they won’t be able to get their bills paid?
It’s quite a few different things for different people, but what I’ve seen a lot is that it’s the fear of not being able to pay a bill or pay certain bills or live a certain lifestyle or maintain a certain lifestyle that they’ve been used to. Or sometimes, people are living check to check which is very common, and it’s the fear of not making the right decision for themselves.
A lot of what I see and a lot of where I’m coaching with these women, it’s a trust situation. If we really unpack this, I’m not a psychologist by any means but when you really unpack where this is coming from, it’s the fear and the trust issues. And it’s not trust of others, it’s really trusting themselves to make the right decision for themselves. Because they have a lot of outside influences, and granted, yes, we all have bills, we have debt, things that we have to do, children, families, the whole nine. But you can still have a dream job and focus on what you want without having the fear of what you should have or should be doing.
You can be happy in your role. You can be happy in a job. It’s not a matter of having to choose between happiness and finances. One of the exercises I have my clients go through very early on is a checklist that they actually create themselves, and we use it throughout my coaching program with them. We use it throughout that journey where it literally is a checklist of wants, a checklist of needs.
Part of my background in IT has been in business analysis and in business analysis or being a BA for short, you’re writing requirements for your customers. And so I take that and I transform it and say, “You are your own customer and you are writing down your requirements. What are your requirements for this new position? This new job?” And you’re listing absolutely everything, and then we prioritize, and then we look at the different offers, we look at the different available positions out there and start lining things up.
Obviously, starting with the positions that are available that are out there and you start to line things up, and which ones would potentially meet your criteria for success or your criteria for what would help you to be happy, or add happiness to you to feel fulfilled, and it’s not all the time about money. It really isn’t, because I teach my clients that, yes, that is a factor, but it really shouldn’t be the only factor. For some people, it is the main factor but at the same time, okay, if it is, then you have to find other things as well that will help to keep you satisfied in this position because money is not going to be the end-all, be-all for you.
You could be very miserable, making great, money and you’re working for someone that’s not very pleasant.
Okay, so you’ve just walked us through an exercise to help you focus on what you do want. When you take people through that exercise, Jackie, how does that affect the fear and uncertainty they may have about making a change? What changes in behavior do you see in your clients who take the steps that you just described?
We go through this kicking and screaming, so it’s not an easy thing.
Why is that? Why are people kicking and screaming?
Goodness, because it’s a change in paradigm, it’s a change in their thought process, it’s a change in mindset. A lot of times, right off the bat, “Oh, I don’t know what I want.” Okay, then let’s start there. They think they’re going to get push back from me. No, you are not, we are going to start where you do not want. A lot of times that’s the best place to start because if you know what you don’t want, you know what you do want.
Walk me through that, because I’m curious here. I think I understand what you’re saying but you’re saying, people resist at first, they’re unclear about what they want. So, when you have somebody make a list of what they don’t want, how does that help them understand what they, in fact, do want?
To me, it’s so simple, because it’s easier for us to talk about the things that we don’t want. What’s unsatisfactory to you? Once you look at that…to me it’s black and white. There really isn’t a gray area with it, because we go deep. I go very deep with my clients: tell me exactly what it is that you don’t want, or what are you coming from that really pulled your chain? What was it that you didn’t like about this thing, or this position, or that person, or that job? What was it that you didn’t like?
Well, those are the things that you don’t want. So, then, conversely, if you don’t want to be in an office all day, it would stand to reason that you’d want a position that you don’t have to be in an office all day. You’re looking for flexibility. Do you get what I’m saying?
Yeah, if you don’t want a long commute, then you probably want something where you can walk or take a short bus ride to your next job; is that the logic?
It is because I think a lot of times with women, sometimes, and I think we’ve been conditioned, and I’m speaking very generally, to not speak up for ourselves, to not be comfortable expressing our needs and our wants. So, a lot of times, it’s hard for us to say what we want, and it kind of goes back to what I just said. It’s easier for us to talk about what we don’t want. It’s easier for us to talk about the negative. But I take that negative and we flip it to the positive and then that’s the mindset shift.
Okay, I want to pause there, and I want to talk more about that and what you do with your clients after they’ve identified what they don’t want, and how you help them turn that into what they do want. And I also want to talk about the process itself because when you first described it, I thought, “Wow, this is so logical.”
And then you said you have to take people kicking and screaming through this, so I want to hear more about what some of the barriers are as people go through that reflection and how you help your clients overcome them.
Let’s take a break and when we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with Jackie Mitchell about why you need to focus on what you want in your next job and not what you think you should do.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio.
I’m talking with Jackie Mitchell. She’s a certified career coach. She helps professional women feel fulfilled, achieve financial goals, and have well-rounded careers and lives.
Now, Jackie, before the break, we were talking about how to focus on what you want and not what you should do when you’re doing a job search. And you had described this process that you take people through, and sometimes, you get resistance and you often begin by asking them what they don’t want.
After they identify what they don’t want and begin to translate it into what they do want, what happens next, as you work with your clients?
I have to peel back the layers and I do a lot of exercises apart from that, that complement your wish list or your requirements or what it is that you’re really looking for. But it’s a huge discovery, and so we’re digging and we’re digging and we’re digging, and it’s not an easy process and I hope to not make it sound like an easy quick fix. This is over several different sessions, and depending on the client, it could be a two or three-month situation. I really meet people where they are and take them through the journey at their own pace because I don’t like to just throw people into the deep end and say, “Okay, swim to me.”
I literally hold them by their hand and we’re walking this journey together. So, what I find is that, when I’m doing these exercises and we’re doing our exercises, it’s really eye-opening and pleasing to see women start to come out of their shells, and they start to feel a little more confident. We do a lot of writing, so they’re required to have a journal and they’re writing these things out, and once you see it in black and white, and speak to it and talk about it, and start to believe these things, you know instead of looking at the negatives. We get that out of the way very early and shift our focus to more positive, and, “What can I bring to these situations? What are the win/win solutions that I bring?”
If I’m looking at a list of my wants, what do I have behind me, in my skillset that can support the things that I want? Make sense?
That helps to build confidence as well, so there’s a huge transformation there.
You’re focusing on taking people through a process that identifies their strengths and what they have to offer and working with them to identify what they want. And I’m glad, Jackie, that you mentioned that it takes time to do this, and, tell me because I think I know some of the reasons, but why does it take time? Why is this so difficult?
I mean, a lot of people are just stuck in their ways. We think one way and we’ve thought that way, and I don’t want to sound coach-y but it’s like, we have these stories that we tell ourselves or these programs that we have in our mind. Our operating system, it operates a certain way. I’m a techy, so it operates a certain way and it’s like, it’s time for an upgrade. I’m afraid of the upgrade, let other people do it, and let me be in the second, third, fourth, or fifth phase of it before I join.
A lot of times, making change is very difficult. People are afraid of change because they like their normal. So, what I help to do is point out that maybe the normal for you is not getting you where you want to be. What are the new different things that we can do? And it’s a lot of trusting the process, it’s a lot of trust that’s involved in this but it’s definitely a process.
It is not a quick fix, but it’s a process that lays a foundation so that you can now go forward and build a life for yourself. Not saying that you don’t have one, but build a foundation for success, I should say.
When you take people through this process and you see people overcome these challenges and get clarity about what they want, do you see common traits in the people that you work with who do this?
Absolutely, it’s so funny because they come from so many different backgrounds, so many different layers or levels. I’ve worked with executives that you would be surprised that they had these feelings. But the common thread is, there are two things: they lack trust in themselves and they lack confidence. Those are the two common traits.
How do people regain trust in themselves or perhaps build it for the first time and get that confidence? What do they do, typically to accomplish those 2 things?
Oh my goodness, I do so many exercises with my clients. Things that I’ve developed, trial and error, but it’s mainly through a best practice. So, I take a lot of what I’ve learned in project management in IT and I translate that to people and people processes and things, and so it’s really interesting because when folks are going through the process, when women are going through the process, I could see that lightbulb moment when they realize, “This works, let me try this. Oh, this works, too.” Not to say that everything works but the majority of things will work and so they see, we do small wins.
I had a mentor CIO tell me one time, and this was when I was very early in my career and I didn’t know what it meant, but he was like, “Yeah, we go after the low hanging fruit.” And I was like, “What are you talking about? I’m talking about software, you’re talking about fruit.” And he was like, “Go after the low hanging fruit.” And that always stuck with me when I realized what that really meant.
We go for quick wins. I literally meet people where they are, and just in conversation, talking to women, I have this thing where I listen to what people are not saying. And I could typically tell what your birth order is just in the things that you’re telling me about your current position and how you react to certain things. I love people-watching and studying human behavior, and so it’s really interesting when you start to see the progress, and you definitely see that aha moment because we do exercises where we’re talking about future accomplishments as they are today, if it were something today.
Can you give an example, Jackie, of one of those small wins that either help someone increase that confidence or help them regain trust in themselves?
We do a lot of writing. I will have women literally sit down and, depending on where they are, they will do a list of 25 things they do very well, it doesn’t have to do anything with career, just doesn’t matter. If you braid hair well, or if you can make a mean pasta, it doesn’t matter, just list 25 things and then I’ll push people, what’s 50 things? Someone, I had her do 75, she came back with 125 things that she does well, and it’s very interesting because we don’t necessarily give ourselves credit for the things that we do know how to do.
Is that what happens when you make a list like that? Do you have that lightbulb go off over your clients’ heads?
Yeah, because they’re like, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize I could do this many things. I didn’t know I could do that, I didn’t know that I could do that.” I say, “Okay, we’re going to take that list and start categorizing it. What are the things that you do in your career, what are the things that you do in your personal life, what are things that can overlap?”
It’s almost like a Venn diagram. But we’re looking at that and now we’re looking at skillsets and now we’re building on that. Really, what is it that you bring to the table?
All of that translates to, what do I bring to the table? What is my value? Ultimately leading to our value statement. What can we bring, what can we offer, so that we are now shifting mindset from job seeker to problem solver?
How does that help someone in a job search? Having that mindset and not thinking of themselves as an applicant but as a problem solver?
Applicants are desperate. I’m going to be very blunt about that. Applicants are desperate and before you guys start throwing things at the monitor, if you really think about it, when you go in as an applicant, you’re sitting there, you’re absorbing information, you’re taking all of this in, it’s very interview style, one-way interview style.
“I need a job, I’m going to come in and you’re going to tell me about the job and you’re going to ask me many questions about what I can do and I’ll answer you and that’s the end of the interview. And I’m hoping and crossing my fingers that you call me back for a second interview. I get to the second or third round. I eventually get hired.”
What does a problem solver look like, Jackie?
A problem solver is very confident, bold, and very assertive but not aggressive, assertive and confident in herself, themselves, and they know for sure the value that they bring. They know what they’re bringing to the table. They know with their head high, they know that these are the problems that I can solve for you, and they’re seekers. They go out and seek opportunities that align with what they can offer. And so, what they’re doing, they’re looking to see, “Where can I best fit and what could best fit for me?” As opposed to casting a wide net and hoping that they catch something or catch fish, or you know the eye of a hiring manager or a recruiter or something to that effect. Where it’s like, it comes back to the, “I should.”
“I should be doing this. Let me send out 10 million resumes and hope that I get a bite.” And that’s the absolute wrong way to go about it.
It’s a different mindset.
Absolutely, and we were talking in the first segment about fear and we talked about financial consequences, living paycheck to paycheck, but another fear that I would guess is very prominent among your clients and people who take the work that they think should do, is fear of failure. Can you talk about failure in a career and how it’s not necessarily a bad thing all the time, is it, Jackie?
I don’t believe in failure. I believe in lessons. And if we shift our mind and focus on the positive, and when I say the “positive,” I’m not necessarily saying that everything is rainbows and cookies and daffodils. It’s, what are the positive aspects of certain situations that did not meet your expectation? Because failure to me is a lesson, and a lesson learned is something that you will now take and apply. It’s applied knowledge, you apply it somewhere else.
I do not even like the word failure. I don’t even use that with my kids. It’s like, “What’s the lesson in this?” And once you learn the lesson, you might not get it right away but it will come to you. Even if the lesson is, “You know what? I didn’t like the way that felt.”
Okay, so now you know what you don’t want. That’s a lesson. So, failure, to me, is a word we should just get rid of when we’re thinking about anything, really, but even in your career there really isn’t any failure, it’s, “What did I learn from this process? What did I learn from this thing, from this person, from this situation? And now, what can I take from that situation and apply it elsewhere?”
Okay, well, terrific.
It’s been a great conversation, Jackie. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
What’s next for me…so, I’m really excited, we started an online women’s professional network called the C Suite and some people may think that is women going after C level positions but it’s not. It is our thought that all of us should be CEOs of our lives and run our lives like businesses but with a human side. We should be in the driver’s seat and so that’s what that really is.
C Suite Success Network is a membership for professional women who are seeking mentorship, coaching, and professional development, and community.
Well, great. I know people can learn more about you and your services in that community by visiting jackiemitchellcc.com.
Now, Jackie, given all the great advice that you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you need to focus on what you want and not what you should do?
I want us to focus on what we want so that when we are in a position or in a new job, it’s something that is satisfying. When you focus on what you should do, sometimes that is not satisfying. We’re all deserving of fulfilling lives, and usually, what you want is something that is fulfilling to you. And now it’s about, “Okay, how do I line everything else up, or how do the other pieces of the puzzle line up so that in its entirety it’s fulfilling?”
If we focus a little bit more on the positive and what gets us going on a day to day basis, I think we can live a better, more fulfilling life, and go after positions in a mindset as a problem solver. It’s much more beneficial.
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