Challenges are an inevitable part of life. No one cruises along their career without a few hiccups along the way. However, just because something is hard to do, doesn’t mean that you’re failing at it. In fact, those heart-dropping, seemingly career-ending moments are something to celebrate.
Just like exercise, the moment you feel the quakes and shakes in your muscles means you’ve hit the point of growth. And there’s no way to move past it and get stronger, except by going through it – every day, a few reps at a time.
Whether it be for the gym or for your career, never underestimate the power of daily habits – and I say this from experience.
My Three Habits When Job Searching
Back in 2007, after finishing my MBA, I was living in San Francisco and working as a marketer for a large consumer packaged goods company. At the time, I had been managing a long-distance relationship with my then girlfriend – now wife – who had finished up her Ph.D. in London.
I’d always prided myself on being a practical person with clear plans laid out for my future. So deciding to suddenly make the leap out to the UK without a job lined up beforehand felt impulsive. I’d never applied for a job in another country, and I had a very hard time getting any real advice on how best to approach this.
So I did the only thing I could think to do – I dug deep, and worked as hard as I possibly could, day in and day out, to find a job out here.
I treated finding a job like my full-time job and committed eight hours every single day to job hunting and networking. To reach my goals, I forced myself to take these three consistent actions:
- First, I reached out to at least three people every day
- Second, I physically travelled to London three days every week to network
- Third, I met with at least three new people every week
I’ll be honest – the job hunt wasn’t easy. A lot of people never responded. A lot of those trips led to nothing. And most people weren’t that helpful.
However, a few people did respond. Some were helpful. And a couple of those trips were really productive. Within six weeks, I landed a new marketing job – a senior role at a rapidly growing startup that ended up being a promotion from my last job. Things worked out for the best.
The 20-Mile March
This story ties well into a concept Jim Collins unpacks in his book Great By Choice. He talks about the 20-Mile March, and illustrates this by telling the story of two teams, identical in capability and profile, who set off to lead their teams to the South Pole in 1911. To make the long story short, only one team survives the grueling journey
The key difference was that the team that succeeded went 20 miles every single day. On good days, they didn’t go more, and on bad days, they didn’t go fewer. They committed to a 20-mile daily pace no matter what. In contrast, the team that didn’t make it would sit still on the bad days and overexert themselves on the good days – and that pace became unsustainable.
This shows the power of taking small, manageable steps every single day toward your goals.
Maybe you’re in a situation like I was where you’ve been working toward something, and you feel like you’re dealing with a lot of rejection. Or you feel like you’ve been giving your best but you’re getting nowhere. You just have to somehow dig deep, hang in there, and keep working hard. Keep putting in your 20-Mile March, because you never know when your luck’s going to change. Sometimes, it comes down to finding that one person who will say yes.
This reminds me of a quote my sister Joan shared with me when I was in high school,
“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it’ll split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” — Jacob Riis
Define Your Daily March
My challenge to you is to define your 20-Mile March. When you think about the steps you need to take to reach your next big career goal, what’s one specific action you can commit to doing every single day to steadily move you in a concrete way toward achieving your goal?
It doesn’t have to be a groundbreaking step. It could be as simple as taking on a pet project or devoting 30 minutes to reading a new article related to your craft each day.
But surely, all those little steps will add up to something great – after all, why else do we love the climb to the top?
Listen in as I discuss “Creating Steady Progress” in more detail on Career Relaunch® podcast episode 3 with health consultant turned founder Anne Tumlinson.
Did you enjoy reading this?
Get more free career change and useful personal branding resources like this sent straight to your inbox. After registering, you’ll also gain exclusive access to my Career Resource Hub, get the latest episodes of my Career Relaunch® podcast, and hear my perspectives on current career transition topics.