Checklists vs. Checkpoints

by on April 13, 2016

Checklists vs. Checkpoints

writingI was with a group of job searchers recently in a weekly group I facilitate. A number of them were expressing frustration over their lack of success in the job search process. Job search is a very frustrating process, even in a search where things are going well. The bottom line is job search is work, which means it involves tasks such as research, targeting, follow-up, etc., and often not just once, but over and over again.

As I was riding in my car on the way home from the session I was dissecting in my mind what I had been hearing from the participants that were frustrated. They had taken Step A, then Step B, and then Step C, etc. much as is recommended in the job search sessions they had attended. And, for all intents and purposes the steps indeed are solid ones to make part of your search. However, then it came to me. Those who were either beginning to doubt the process, or who were looking to other reasons, (their age, recruiters, companies not really having openings or having pre-decided candidates), were tied to a “checklist” of steps. The expectation was one of “if I do the steps I am recommended to do, then the result should be not only interviews but ultimately job offers.” It would be nice if life worked that way.

Checklists are good tools to use. They keep you on track. They allow you to organize your thoughts as to the steps you want to take to accomplish your goals. However, unless you control all aspects of each step of the process, your chances of steps leading immediately to your goal are impacted by forces beyond your control. For example, if you are planning a big outdoor event, and the day of the event it rains, you could have put together, the greatest list of tasks, but if that list did not contain contingency plans for rain, your event will be compromised.

Yes, checklists have their value. However, so do checkpoints. In job search one of the other pieces of advice that the job support groups and literature on job techniques recommend is to regularly measure one’s progress. For example, on a weekly basis, make a schedule of tasks to accomplish over a coming week. Evaluate what you hope to accomplish by completing those tasks. Set realistic expectations. For example, if you are setting up a meeting with someone for the first time, don’t set the expectation as one where they will offer you a job. A more realistic expectation is to at least establish a relationship, perhaps even get some advice from them as to steps you may want to pursue. And, then at the end of the week, review your progress for the week, giving yourself credit for what you have accomplished, and pushing yourself forward on the items you have not. Establish new tasks to accomplish over the upcoming week. The weekly review and planning is setting a checkpoint from which you can judge your progress and revise your strategy.

We all want to get to final goals as quickly as possible. That is understandable, especially if there are other consequences of not reaching those goals, (ie. bills to be paid, savings being depleted, etc.). However, the more challenging the process, the less likely we are to face a situation where there are no obstacles along the way. Evaluate what has not been going the way you would hope. Have you just been making lists and not been happy when the results you are hoping for are not happening. Ask yourself, am I setting regular checkpoints to assess my progress, and am I giving myself credit for those steps I have accomplished along the way?

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