Advice from Cary: How to apply for that job you don’t really want but just to be on the safe side since your own job doesn’t feel all that secure and you haven’t had a raise in a long time you think you should probably apply for anyway just in case

Write for Advice


Hi Cary,

I’m in my 50s with a career in my chosen field. The pay isn’t great — never is in this field — but I love what I do. I consider myself very lucky to have found this job. However, the recession and continuing economic mess have not been good to my employer. I’m watching the business incrementally slow down, employees leaving and not being replaced, less and less work to do, bills not getting paid, paychecks late … well, you get the picture. I know things may turn around, but it’s pretty scary right now.

As business has slowed, so have pay increases. I can’t remember the last time we got raises, but it was at least five years ago. Yes, I’m lucky to even have a job in this economy, I realize that. We also lost our health insurance as a consequence of the company not being able to pay the bill. I don’t hate my employer, because I know she is doing everything she can to keep the place afloat.

The city I live in has other employers, including one right up the hill. There are many, many jobs available there, though not in my field. Jobs for which I am qualified, though; jobs I should be able to get. Not-awful jobs. What I’ve been thinking is I should apply for something part-time, something that would get me some benefits and steady income, a job that would allow me to keep the career I love until or if business improves. So I’ve been thinking of applying …

… for months. Three, four months have gone by, months in which I have not opened the file with my résumé’, have not rewritten it for the jobs I should be able to walk into, have not applied for the many part-time jobs I see online. My current job is no less shaky, no less scary. It could all fall apart in an instant. And I have the possibility of this reasonable compromise that would put me, at least, on a better footing.

So what’s the hesitation? Why don’t I move forward? I don’t know. I do know I have always procrastinated when it comes to looking for jobs. It’s not that I lack confidence — not at all. I don’t think it’s that I’m lazy, though I am in other ways. I guess I don’t really much like change — yeah, that’s an understatement. But I would look forward to a new challenge and think I could do these jobs well. Still, when it comes to looking for jobs, I sort of have to be pushed, more or less to the brink, to make that move. What is going on in my head? How do I make myself move forward now, rather than wait for catastrophe?

Looking forward to some insight, or a push.

She Who Hesitates

Dear She Who Hesitates,

Find an hour and a half of free time. Mark it on your calendar. When the appointed time comes, begin by meditating for 10 minutes to get calm. Just sit for 10 minutes and breathe in and out and notice your breath. Do that for the first 10 minutes so your mind is clear and you’re not distracted or worried. Then look at the clock and confirm to yourself that you have one hour and 20 minutes left of free time, and there is no rush and no one calling you and your phone is off and you are not looking at your email. Have some paper and pencil or pen — a notebook or pad, whatever you prefer. Write at the top of the page: “Just A List”

Then use the next hour to make a list of all the concrete actions you need to take in order for your résumé and application to go to this company, and for you to work there. Be detailed and “granular” with this list. List everything large and small. On the list will be, of course, the action of opening your résumé file. On the list will also be the item looking at your résumé. You might think about where you are going to look at it — at home, or at a cafe, or at the beach, or on the back porch.

On the list will also be interacting with the company. List how you might do that — email, etc. It might even mean a personal visit to the enclosure in which you would encounter other physically embodied humans who receive regular automated monetary payments and in return carry out duties under the company’s direction and supervision. In other words, you might have to actually go there. Put that on the list.

Each item may have things associated with it — looking at your résumé will include printing out the résumé, marking it up, changing and/or verifying contact info, verifying contact info of references and contacts, putting in your changes, printing it out again, proofing it, etc. All these little items are important because they take up time and energy. Put them on your list.

Some things may seem obvious but just put them on the list. If you might wear something different from what you usually wear for an interview at this company, or to work at this company, put that on the list. If you will shop for that, put shopping on the list — where you would go, what you might spend. If there is someone you want to speak with about an item on your résumé, or about the company you wish to work for — for instance, if you know someone who works there already — put that on your list.

List possible feelings — regret, shame, nostalgia, fondness, anger, loss, etc. — that might come up when looking at an old résumé or in an interview. Don’t shortchange the emotional part of it. Emotions take time and energy to feel. They are also full of information. You might might ask yourself why you feel that way. You don’t have to answer. Just put that on the list.

Don’t do anything about it! That’s key. Just make the list.

Making the list may exhaust you. That’s OK. You’re doing something you don’t want to do, something that uses your weaker side. That might be all you can do in the first session. So schedule your next session in your calendar. Begin it the same way, with the 10 minutes of meditation and the turning off of the computer and phone, etc.

At your next session of work, your task will be: Find some motivation.

It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be something you want, something that seems delicious and enticing. It might be the extra money. If it’s the money, then think about that money, how good it would feel, what you could do with that money, how much money it might be. It might be just that the building is at the top of the hill and you’d like to be up there on the top of the hill. It might be the lawn. You might think of lying on the lawn of that company and eating lunch. It doesn’t have to be about the job. It just has to be something you feel good about. Whatever it is that you would like about working there, let it become big and vivid in your mind so you can taste it. Write these things down.

What you will have, when you are done, is a way to make a concrete list of step-by-step instructions for putting your résumé together and applying for this job. That should help you relax a little bit. You will also have a proven method for scheduling time to work on the application. So repeat the process in order to actually apply: mark time on your calendar, eliminate distractions, meditate beforehand, then carry out your instructions by following your list and checking off the items.

If you do these things, you will accomplish the task of applying for the job. That will take it off your mind. You won’t have to think about it, or wonder why you’re not doing it. Later you can decide if you actually want to work there. That should be easier.

One other thing interests me about this; it may be evident why, as I also am in a period of transition:

Change requires transition and transition is uncomfortable so I’m thinking about vulnerability  and I’m thinking vulnerability can be delicious too if you don’t fight it but just surrender, if you accept that in this moment of vulnerability and surrender you are truly in the bosom of the life-giving universe and at its mercy; any belief that you’re in control vanishes and you must truly accept the capricious beneficence of the universe, this universe which provides the air you breathe and the food you eat.

Surrender simplifies. It gets you down to basics. Vulnerability and transition can be really lovely. But not if you fight it. If you clench up and fight, you might break something.

So plan, be vulnerable to change, meditate, take these little steps, and with warmth, curiosity and an open heart, accept what happens next.

Write for Advice