Did you make any resolutions associated with the start of 2016?  Have you already broken them?    Many of us have experience making – and breaking New Year’s resolutions.  One January, I arrived late for my longstanding yoga class because there was simply no place to park in the gym parking lot.  I mentioned the parking situation to the instructor after class and his response was not to worry about parking since most of the new people who made resolutions to go to the gym would stop coming within two weeks and would be back to their comfortable old routine.

Job search behavior reminds me of New Year’s resolutions.  I frequently hear job seekers make comments like, “I’m going to begin networking.”  I’ll even watch job seekers enthusiastically start on a networking strategy or an overall job search plan.  However, in short order they often retreat back to their comfort zone and their job search plan does not stick.  Why is it so hard to implement change and how can we find some permanency in it?

Three Necessary Elements to Make Change Stick

In the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath claim that there are three essential elements to make change that sticks.

Element #1:  The Rational Need to Change

If you are seeking employment you are very well acquainted with the need to change.  The realization that the semester will end in four months, that graduation is quickly approaching, or that boss/task/client you just dread keeps interacting with you regularly reminds the logical, rational part of the brain that it needs to engage in actions to change.

Element #2:  The Emotional Drive to Change

However, a knowledge that change needs to occur is not enough to motivate someone to change.  If knowledge alone was enough, then why would someone who wanted a beach body eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s when warm weather was just a few months away?  According to Chip and Dan Heath, rational thought is like a rider on an elephant trying to get that lumbering, big beast to reroute its comfortable, well-worn path.

Rational thought, the rider, can by sheer force only channel the emotional drive, the elephant, for so long before the emotions break free and do what they have done so well for a long time.  Therefore, an appeal needs to be made to base emotions that change is necessary.  In the job search arena this certainly happens when a job seeker finds that they are running low on financial resources.  However, there are ways to appeal to emotion before that jolt comes along!  For instance, how many of us have been inspired to change by an inspirational mentor who believes in you, or by creating a mental picture of what life in our next professional endeavor will look like?

Element #3:  Clearing a Pathway

Finally, Dan and Chip Heath claim that change is more likely to last if the rider and elephant are presented with a defined path with bumper guards that makes it more difficult to stray.  In the job search arena this looks like setting a time and place to actually perform the tasks associated with your job search.  If it’s too easy to get distracted from doing your job search – do not plan on drafting your application materials, scanning job postings or corresponding with your network from the place where you get distracted!  Go to a new location – a Starbucks across town where nobody knows you or a quiet room on campus.  Set a time that you won’t be distracted and give yourself rewards for fulfilling tangible goals.  How many requests for informational interviews could you send if you knew that you were rewarding yourself with something you really wanted for every three meetings you held?

The Forgotten Element:  Accountability

Finally, change sticks when one more element is present:  accountability.  Accountability matters because without it, you are not being held responsible for your actions (or lack thereof).  According to Weight Watchers, people who attend group meetings lose three times more weight than those who follow their program online.  Why?  People following the online and in person meetings get the same materials and information.  However, they get different levels of support, feedback, and the opportunity to have their progress monitored.  Accountability is proven to enhance results in all phases of work and change management.

The best way to add accountability into your job search is to ask someone you trust for regular check in meetings where your progress with the job search is reviewed.  Santa Clara Law students can use the counselors in the Office of Career Management for this purpose.  Our staff enjoys reviewing your job search plan and listening to your execution.  We provide feedback and support, and will gently hold you accountable.

Enjoy changing your career trajectory by making and sticking to a new or revamped job search strategy, and enjoy the empowerment that accompanies your accomplishments as you take ownership over your job search by using all three change management strategies and adding in accountability.

Vicki Huebner

Vicki Huebner, Assistant Dean for Law Career Services, Santa Clara University School of Law

Vicki Huebner is the Assistant Dean in the Office of Career Management at Santa Clara Law. She is a seasoned career services professional and is a frequent speaker and author for industry related publications and meetings and holds appointed and elected positions in NALP, the Association of Legal Career Professionals. Prior to entering the career services profession, Vicki practiced civil litigation in Huntington Beach, California and served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Ronald M. Holdaway of the United States Court of Veterans Appeals in Washington, DC. Vicki earned both her JD and BA degrees from Brigham Young University in Utah.