I’ve had so many car repair needs over the past few years that the service manager at my local car repair shop knows my phone number by heart. He picks up the phone with a laughing “Hey, Kathy, what’s up today?” as soon as he sees my cell phone on the caller ID.

The thing is, it’s the best car of all time, and I’m not about to give up on it until I *absolutely* have to. Partly, that’s driven by a commitment to sustainability, and the desire to keep purchases through their entire life cycle. Partly, it’s that it’s just incredibly comfortable, and it’s part of the family, at this point.  It’s witnessed many an impromptu sing-a-long on the way to my kids’ schools; it has safely navigated 8-hour slog-fests across icy mountains to visit my mom throughout her final days; it’s the perfect size for our lifestyle, and I continue to love it as much as the day I bought it, ten years ago.  So I’m committed to the thing, for better or worse.

job-search-progressBut on random mornings, when I feel like I need to get somewhere, I come to find that it’s stalled or not working properly.  Sometimes it’s a chug-chug-chug-silence.  Sometimes I hear click-click-nothing. Sometimes I see a check-engine light and the car still runs.

Or it’s just still, quiet, no chance of me getting anywhere soon.

I know that there are days like that in a job search.  We know we *need* to get in motion, but something’s not right.  I feel that way when I have a big goal and tons of things I know I COULD do, but sometimes I experience this internal grind-grind-grind-nothing.

If you’re in a job search, you probably know that feeling; you feel like you need to get on with it, already, but the universe is not cooperating with you.

Here’s how the scenario plays itself out:   Despite my inner panic that I can’t get somewhere as fast as I want to, I have to stop being frustrated for a moment and focus on the details of the situation.  I need to accurately define what is going on, in order to get the help I need.  Is it running, or not?  Is there a light?  What’s the sound it’s making?  Sometimes I don’t even know the questions to think through, but I CAN really focus on that moment, articulating the details of the problem to the advisor.

(I’m lucky, of course, that I have a trusted mechanic who can diagnose the situation and I know he’ll be a straight shooter with me.  He’s the kind of guy who’ll tell you that you definitely need a new front axle but the water pump can wait. Or we can go aftermarket on one part but the quality of another aftermarket option is not great. That kind of advice is priceless, especially when I’m unsure how much to invest in my car these days.)

So, when you feel like your job search is stalled, instead of making yet another to-do list, stop and focus on EXACTLY where you feel stuck.  Just like I have to describe what sounds, lights, and activity (or lack thereof) I’m seeing, you can do the same for your search.

If we had a “check engine” light and some diagnostic codes for your job search- what would the analysis tell us?  Is it that you’re not finding the right people to connect to?  Is your resume not getting any response?  Are you going on interviews but not getting to the second round?  Are you still trying to define what kind of work you want?

You can’t know how to fix your job search until you know what’s wrong.  In the case of my car, my mechanic doesn’t fix the back brakes if it’s an alternator problem; he figures out what needs the most attention that day, and then I’m back on the road, feeling grateful for forward progress.

So, where exactly is your job search stalled?  And what can you do about that specific problem, today?

Kathy Robinson, Founder