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Redefining Objectives and Identifying Your Obstacles

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One purpose of your information gathering is to refine and add realism to your sense of the kind of work you want and the kind of organization you want to work for. As you collect information through library work and networking, you should periodically review your ideal job description and revise it to reflect your growing knowledge and your increasing commitment to a narrowing range of possibilities. If you don't feel that your commitment is growing or your range narrowing, review and revision can help you achieve these goals.

At the end of every week, take out your latest perfect job description, reread it, and make notes in the margins. Use the exercise to sum up your week's work. Every few weeks, do a full rewrite of the description, integrating the notes you have accumulated. In this process of continual review and revision, you will be transforming your ideal into a more concrete, achievable objective.

Your growing knowledge of both yourself and the current world of work should also enable you to identify obstacles that may stand in the way of reaching your employment objective. You may discover that to get the kind of position you want, you need a stronger background in marketing or finance or human resources or journalism. Or you may learn that in most companies in the industry most appealing to you, almost every one above a certain level in the hierarchy has an M.B.A. Or you may decide that to continue moving upward in your previous field, you will simply have to learn more about computerized data bases and spread sheets. Or you may realize that you feel uncomfortable in interviews and that you need to enhance your communication skills both to get a new job and to do well in it. Perhaps as you confront your emotional responses to the trauma of termination and the stress of job seeking, you realize that psychological problems stand in the way of your being productive at work and happy at home.

Identifying potential obstacles to reaching an objective and figuring out ways to overcome them is the very essence of creative problem solving. You need to perform this crucial step as thoroughly, honestly, and realistically as you can. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper and your ideal job description/employment objective. Read the description carefully, title the blank sheet "Potential Obstacles," and list any and all that come to mind. In addition to the sorts identified in the previous paragraph, consider ones like:
  1. Not having enough time for the demanding job you want in light of current family responsibilities.

  2. Not having enough money to go to school for additional training.

  3. Not being able to afford to travel to distant cities where you would like to interview for jobs.

  4. Problems with alcohol or drugs.

  5. Feeling too depressed to do well in interviews.

  6. Not knowing how to get money to start a business of your own.
Next, for each obstacle, list several possible ways to overcome or get around it. This is a good time to enlist the aid of friends, lovers, and family members. In addition to supplementing your imagination, they will probably be among your chief resources for overcoming problems.

The sooner you get them involved in the problem solving process, the more committed they will be to the solutions you decide to pursue. Be open to all sorts of possibilities at this point; you can return to them later for critical assessment.

Through the process of identifying obstacles and finding ways around them, you will be developing a set of intermediate objectives. You will be breaking down your journey to your employment objective into manage able steps. Let's look at an example to see how this works.

Suppose your background is in human resources management, and you have worked for several years at a large firm in the financial services industry. Your self exploration and information gathering have led you to conclude that you want to move into general management in the same industry, but you have identified your relative lack of financial knowledge as one obstacle and prejudice against "human resources types" within the industry as another. Now you have in a sense defined a new, intermediate objective: acquiring knowledge and credibility in the area of finance. Your next step would be to identify ways to reach this new objective. Taking courses might be one; reading everything in sight about finance and the financial services industry might be another; doing financial management or analysis work on a part time or volunteer basis for a community group might be a third.

As you assess these options, you may identify additional potential obstacles. Courses are expensive, and you never liked being a student any way. Teaching yourself may seem more appealing, but then you face the problem of convincing potential employers that you have the knowledge you claim. You could perhaps get around this obstacle by proving your acumen through voluntary work or by managing a portfolio of securities for your family, but proving yourself through these activities would re quire you to establish a track record, before which you would have to educate yourself in finance a very time consuming process that would actually be quite expensive considering the time lost to paid employment.

So, you conclude taking courses would be the best option. Now you have defined a new objective: to figure out where such courses are offered, which you should take, and how to raise the money for them. Notice that defining objectives, identifying obstacles, and figuring out how to get around the obstacles is a continuous process. As you engage in this process, you continually generate new, intermediate objectives, thus reducing what may at first seem like a huge barrier to smaller and smaller pieces. Eventually you will reach a point where you can pick up the pieces and cast them aside one at a time.
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