Gather Your Courage and Get Wisdom

A job change can be humbling. You will likely feel the urge to retreat and go it alone. But this slows down your success and prevents insight on things you could learn that will help you for many years.

Other people confirm, or challenge, our assumptions which leads to better outcomes. Wisdom is waiting for you, but you need to ask for it.

In almost two decades of marriage, there are many times when my wife Rachel has pointed out food in my teeth. This makes me wonder how often I unknowingly embarrassed myself before she came along! I don’t feel bad when she tells me about the spinach on my smile. I’m grateful that she cares enough to help me. She is pointing out what’s obvious to her and others, but it’s something I totally missed.

Find a mirror

True friends will speak the truth in love about what they see, if you ask them. They are like a mirror that reflects things you wouldn’t see otherwise. It can be surprising. It can be scary. We may fear hurting the relationship in some way.

Ironically, the opposite tends to be true. Deep conversation like this can draw you closer. They feel appreciated you would ask. A successful job search is won out of such humility and listening, not pride and boasting.  

In addition to friends and family, take time to read and invest in learning new ideas and perspectives from other respected sources.

A doctor needs to ask you questions and do a physical exam to understand your medical issue before prescribing any sort of treatment plan. To make change, you need to first understand yourself and your career starting point before you can make a plan for the future.

Ask good questions

Once you have somebody to ask, what should you ask them? Here are a few questions you could raise with friends, family, and past co-workers:

  • What are some times in my life or my job when I seemed to be especially energized and excited? On the other hand, what have you heard me complain about over the years?


  • If I had to start from scratch, what sort of jobs could you see me doing, with my personality and background?


  • What are three areas of work where I’m strong?


  • Where do I need to improve? If I had to choose one weak spot, where do you feel I should focus to make the biggest difference?


  • Outside of work, how would you describe my personality?


  • Do I need to apologize to you for any way that I’ve hurt you in the past?


  • What favorite books would you recommend to help me learn and grow?


  • What do you feel is the greatest misperception about me?


Listen, receive, recite

When you ask these questions and start hearing feedback, you might be tempted to get defensive and raise certain examples and counter-arguments. These interruptions stop the flow of listening, and you could miss something important or cause the other person to stop sharing. So keep quiet, engage with your eyes, nod your head, take notes, and just soak it in.  If they pause in their answer, keep mining for that next treasure by saying, “This is great stuff, anything else come to mind?”

Let the other person finish entirely. Say thank you and how much you value the feedback and appreciate the honest insight. Then read back your notes. This will reinforce key items, and demonstrate respect for the other person, as they’ll see you were actively listening. Reciting the main points also provides an opportunity for any clarification if something was misunderstood. Ask follow-up questions on specific examples or anything that confused you.  

Use your job search to take a risk, be vulnerable, and grow as a person. What do you have to lose? If you have spinach stuck in your teeth, you want your friends to point it out, not an employer. The benefits that could impact your career and life far outweigh the overblown, temporary fear you may feel.


For more helpful job search tips: Ultimate Job Search Guide: Recruiter Insider Tips