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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Kent


How many times have you felt frustrated with your job and just decided, in a messy moment, to start the search for another one?

You start looking at job boards, maybe even run the idea by a few friends. Perhaps you send in a few applications.

You might even have stopped to think about what we all refer to as Murphy’s Law:

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

You assume there will be some bumps in the road. You weren’t born yesterday!

Now, as a career coach, of course I am all about setting career goals! But I have seen so many people set the wrong goals only to give up when it takes “too long” or it seems “too hard”. That results in the decision to stay in their current position - but now it feels even worse -because they think that they are stuck there.


Nothing is as simple and/or easy as it seems.

EVEN when we think we have accounted for Murphy’s First Law.

Most people don’t get stuck because they’re lazy or don’t know how to do something.

They get stuck because they underestimate the complexity of the strategies, tactics and mindset necessary to attain the goal.

They have an inaccurate perception of the costs and benefits associated with achieving any given goal.

If you want to avoid stress, burnout, and general “what was I thinking” recriminations, before you choose your next career goal you have to account for this SECOND LAW.

For example, consider this scenario:

You want a new job. You do a little googling and find that the most common strategies for a new job seem straightforward and simple.

– Apply for jobs online

– Reach out to your network

– Show how you can provide value

– Learn new skills if necessary

How hard can it be?

But the moment you get started, layers of confusion, complexity and a general lack of clarity that you never anticipated emerge.

- What is that ATS system and how do I account for it?

- Why isn’t anyone responding to my networking communications?

- What exact skills do I really need to have and what is the best way to learn them?

- Why do I feel so overwhelmed? confused? tired?

You find yourself in the proverbial River Of Misery, slogging through the muddy waters wondering if you have the strength and stamina to get to the other side.

Things seemed so simple at the outset. You were so motivated when you thought you would do a little work and find quick success.

You wonder what happened to that new job land of rainbows and daisies you were envisioning was right around the corner.

But what we all can’t see – and what we can’t anticipate – is how every goal cascades into a big pile of possible directions, subtasks, and decisions.

The simplest of strategies can feel like a tentacled beast.

The moment one problem is solved or one obstacle is overcome, another springs up in its place.

The solution?

Accept this Second Law.

Assume that every goal you’re considering is ten times more complicated and demanding than it seems.

Expect each strategy, tactic and action to contain layers upon layers of unexpected complexity.

Then ask yourself:

"Am I still willing to accept this challenge?"

If you knew that…

– Pivoting to another industry would demand twice as much effort as you thought and mean learning more sophisticated new skills than you counted on in order to get a decent job offer

– Connecting to a new network that could be instrumental in guiding you toward a new role in a new company would take twice as long as you imagined

– Getting a promotion or a new role would require doing more complex and time consuming work than you anticipated

…Would you still do it?

I bet that most of the goals you’re considering now won’t pass through the filter of this Second Law.

But the few that do are the ones that will likely generate exponential returns. They are the ones that you won’t give up on.

It’s only by assuming complexity that simplicity is possible.

Simplicity in deciding what career goal you are actually willing to work for.

Simplicity in the knowledge that it won’t be easy, that there will be pivots and iterations and that it will all be worth it in the end.

Simplicity in not being upset when things are hard.

You won’t quit and undermine your confidence in your ability to get things done.

You won’t create evidence for yourself that you are lazy and/or unmotivated by quitting when the going gets tough.

You will have already accounted for the discomfort of complexity, and will expect it. You will be prepared and willing to confront it head on.

You have an inner knowing that the end result is worth the effort.

You know you will accomplish your goal!

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