Keeping the Focus in a Job Search

I usually don’t write about personal things in these blogs, but I had an insightful moment this past weekend which has a definite connection to how a person conducts a job search.

My husband and I set out on a hike early on Sunday morning to the Washington Cascades. Upon arrival at our remote location, our hike began, and it went up. And up. And up. And up. Now, as someone who wasn’t athletically inclined back in my school days, I’ve maintained a fairly active adult life but not to the point of being a jockette. This hike was kicking my butt! But I took my time, organized my thoughts, and put one foot in front of the other and kept moving despite the burn in my leg muscles.

We finally made it to the ‘easy’ viewpoint after a two-hour grueling uphill slog, and stopped to rest in a giant mountain meadow bursting with wildflowers. The dazzling view also included snowcapped Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood in the panorama. This was definitely an incredible reward for such a gut-busting hike!

After a little bit, my husband looked at me and asked me: “Do you want to continue on and do the longer loop to Big Huckleberry Mountain?” I sort of looked at him sideways, already thinking about the trek down, down, down. Leaving the car seemed such a long time ago, I sighed. He encouraged me, telling me, “It’s only 11 miles round-trip from the car, and you’ll have a sense of accomplishment in completing the longer hike.” I wasn’t totally convinced, but ate another granola bar, laced up my boots, gritted my teeth, then smiled. Ok, I told him. Let’s do it. I’d never gone so far before on such a tormented trail.

The trail stayed true to its beginnings: it went up again. Then we lost about the same amount of altitude as we followed a ridgeline of three peaks. Up and down we went, gaining and losing altitude. Argggh! I thought. This is ridiculous… what is the point of going up only to lose it all again in the next ridge going down? I started to balk and have fantasies of crashing out in my patio chair at home, but near the top of the second peak, we saw a bear just 50 feet away. It was an unexpected and exciting development. It ran off within seconds. In all of the years that I’ve been hiking, I’ve never encountered a bear in any of my hikes in the Pacific Northwest. The adrenaline rush lasted for the next hour when we got to the summit of Big Huckleberry Mountain. The views were even more amazing, and my husband beamed at me for sticking with it.

It wasn’t until I got back to the car that I realized what an amazing hike I had done, gauging from how steep the trail was going down. My knees were killing me!

Much like starting a job search, this trek seemed insurmountable from the start, going up and up. You feel like you are marching up a mountain. And you are!! At times during this hike, I didn’t feel particularly up to the task of continuing such a difficult endeavor, which also happens when looking for a new job. Seems like you take two steps forward only to take one step back. The key is that you have to take a breather. You need to stop and assess your progress. Then take a deep breath, then keep moving forward.

I kept focused, and didn’t think of how many thousands of feet I was going to have to climb, instead keeping my attention centered on taking one step at a time, and I was able to keep going. And it’s ok to take a break. And as you keep going, it’s a step-by-step process that adds altitude to your efforts… you never know what wonderful things you might learn and see along the way.

We found pristine mountain meadows filled with delightful flowers and were thrilled with spotting some wildlife. In a job search, you can meet some wonderful people, learn new things, and have amazing experiences that enhance your life experience. Just like the hike, a job search isn’t easy. There are times where you feel discouraged. Sometimes you go up (interview) and then other times, you have a dizzying loss of altitude (don’t get the job you really wanted). It’s a landscape of peaks and valleys. That’s right when you need to dig deep, and push yourself, and remember your objective.

This hike turned out to be the longest hardest hike I’ve ever been on (I’ve gone 13 miles before but it was flat compared to this one!), and having that sense of accomplishment that I put my ‘all’ into the efforts is unparalleled. Sure, I was sore and exhausted. But I was so glad I did it and the most important thing of all: I realized how much more possibility is out there for me to challenge myself. The easy thing would have been to turn around at the first viewpoint. But now, I realized that if I can do this hike, a whole new world of other trails are there for exploring and summiting.

So go out there, tackle that mountain, and enjoy the view from the summit. It’s worth the journey.