It can happen to any job-seeker. You hit what feels like a brick wall and find you are out of ideas for how to get around it.
You may have contacted everyone in your network, applied to your list of top 20 companies, and submitted resumes in response to postings. But just for the moment, opportunity isn’t knocking and you aren’t sure what to do as a next step.
The answer is surprisingly simple: Tell yourself you are taking a short break.
Jeremy Dean, author of Making Habits, Breaking Habits and PsyBlog, writes that at some point we all hit mental blocks.
Whether it’s trying to figure out how to update your linkedin status, your resume, or your job search, you can find yourself unable to come up with a single new approach.
Umpteen studies over the years have confirmed the advice that many of us have received from a colleague or friend—the best problem-solving strategy can be to take a time-out from your problem.
But until now, experts weren’t clear on why this strategy worked. However, a recent study from the University of Sydney, Australia, has come up with the answer.
According to this research, if your brain knows that you’ll return to your problem within a certain amount of time, your unconscious mind will continue to work at trying to solve it — even while you are preoccupied with other tasks.
The study found that the key it to tell yourself with certitude that you will come back to the problem.
That’s the finding of the University of Sydney research. For the study, participants were asked to come up with a list of different things they could do with an everyday item.
For example, they had to come up with a long list of novel things one could do with a book. (Use it as a footrest, as a building block, to hide money, etc.)
After listing as many ideas as they could, participants took a break and worked on simple math questions.
People who were told in advance that they would be asked to add more ideas to their list after their break came up with twice as many more novel ideas the second time than those who did not know they would returning to the exercise.
At the Bagg Group, we’ve successfully placed over 60,000 people in full-time, contract, or temporary placements during our 40-plus year history.
And in that time, we’ve heard many candidates talk about feeling stuck during their job search. Sometimes, making a list of all possible next steps, no matter how novel, can be amazingly helpful.
For example, perhaps you might think about temporary placement in a different industry, or making an inventory of your skills suited for contract work, or looking for a different type of volunteer experience to expand your network, etc.
Make a list that’s as creative as possible, and when you run out of ideas, take a time-out.
But before you do, consider these two top tips:
Prepare: Look at your problem from as many angles as possible before taking a break. According to the study, the more novel approaches you can imagine before you take a time-out, the higher the chance your unconscious can give you some answers.
Short breaks: Studies have found that taking a 30-minute break can work better than taking a 24-hour one, but there are no hard and fast rules. The key is tell yourself you’ll revisit the problem within a predetermined time.