False urgency is not your friend


We are wired biologically to react to situations that we perceive as dangerous without thinking—the so-called “fight or flight” behavior.  Without dragging the whole explanation out on the carpet (again), I tend to look to Daniel Goleman and his Emotional Intelligence as a guide to this phenomenon.  Apparently, in spite of our highly evolved frontal lobes, there is a trap door through the amygdala in the brain that still allows rapid, unthinking reaction in situations of perceived threat.

People who contact the Barrett Group looking for help with their careers also often exhibit this behavior, thinking that they must immediately do something about their careers or there will be dire consequences.  And sometimes they are right, of course, but often they are suffering from a false sense of urgency that compels them to behave in ways that are not in their best interest.

For example, I can certainly remember when I was unemployed at one point or another in my career essentially spamming my contacts with a cry for help in the form of an email or LinkedIn message telling people I was looking for a job and asking for their help.  On the surface, this seems perfectly logical or at least emotionally valid.  It is, however, extremely unhelpful in terms of progressing your career.  My colleague Dan Resendes describes this as the equivalent of walking around downtown wearing a sandwich board reading “I’m a loser. Help me.”

Instead, it is necessary to exercise some patience and even altruism in reaching out to new contacts or friends and confidants under these circumstances.  Take some time.  Explore their own backgrounds, for example, on LinkedIn.  Consider what points you might have in common or what aspects of their past achievements might particularly interest you.  Use those highly evolved frontal lobes to consider what these contacts might need, want, or benefit from that you could potentially provide: for example, contacts in a company or industry, practical advice in a particular situation, or a book or blog you think they might appreciate.

Approach them with this in mind—not with your hand out.

Every day I am approached on LinkedIn by people who think because I have accepted their connection request they have the right to try to sell me something.  As you no doubt already know, this is generally an instant turn-off.  Remember the sandwich board.

We teach our clients how to tame their false urgency and instead learn to extend their network gradually and gently, paying it forward as they do by offering help, support, and useful input up front without thought of reciprocity.  Even so, you cannot reasonably expect everyone to react to your every contact request or offer of assistance, but some people will, and these are the gems that you must mine to grow your network and eventually connect with the people who will help you find that next job, or achieve whatever objective you are pursuing.

This phenomenon is the soul of the unpublished market—where 75% of our clients land.  You cannot know about unpublished opportunities because they are unpublished.  Sometimes they are only half-formed in the mind of the eventual employer and only through interacting can you ultimately help that half-formed idea turn into an opportunity and perhaps a job.

Imagine, for example, that you have been tasked with opening up a new market in which you have little experience.  You know your product and/or service inside-out but you do not know anything about this new market to which you are supposed to introduce the product.  Then, by chance, someone pops up on your radar who has experience in that market and a strong track record of success.   What do you do?  You grab your good fortune and run with it by reaching out to that person, vetting him or her, and ultimately if everything falls into place, you might offer him or her a job to help you enter that new market.

This is, in fact, exactly what happened to me some years ago when my experience in one market made instant sense to someone who wanted to enter that market.  It is a perfect example of how the concept of paying it forward and building your social capital contact by contact will help you crack the unpublished market much more effectively than giving in to your sense of false urgency.

So take a deep breath.  Consider whether that sense of urgency you feel is real or false.  If you are looking for a job, hire someone who knows how to channel your energy productively and not waste it on a self-defeating sandwich board.

Hire the Barrett Group.

We have now helped more than 90 executives land the jobs of their choice since Covid-19 got serious in April.  We can help you, too, if you overcome that sense of false urgency and are ready to do the necessary work to succeed.  Let’s talk.

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