Why you should stop pursuing your goals


Most of my career is based on the fact that I went out for ice cream one night,” my writer friend Megan tells me.

This makes total sense to me.

Over the past week, my two most sig­nif­i­cant work leads both popped up serendip­i­tously while I was tak­ing much-needed breaks from the slog of job hunting.

In the first case, I was see­ing a movie with a friend (the excel­lent “Mar­gin Call,” in case you care).  We’d just set­tled into our seats when I espied two famil­iar faces, my for­mer neigh­bors Lou and J.R., whom I’d last seen a decade back.

In the course of a brief friendly chat, I learned that Lou now chairs the board of our local employ­ment board, the regional policy-making author­ity in devel­op­ing work­force skills.  We quickly exchanged con­tact info—yes, I’m on Face­book, too—before the lights went down.

The next day I had a Face­book mes­sage from Lou with one con­crete job lead and offers of fur­ther help.

And that’s not all.

As it hap­pens I was in the midst of strug­gling to launch this blog, and as it fur­ther hap­pens, Lou is a total com­puter genius.  In the course of Face­book and Twit­ter exchanges, fol­lowed by a cou­ple of hours at a local café, he pretty much answered all of my urgent tech­ni­cal ques­tions. (If you’re think­ing this blog looks way bet­ter than it did a week ago, you have Lou to thank.)

In the sec­ond case, I was hang­ing out with new friends at a weekly cof­fee klatsch. (I’ve taken to call­ing our group The Coven, but that’s another story.)  I’d briefly con­sid­ered skip­ping this week since I had loads to do, but I do love cof­fee and I love these friends, so in the end I went.

Good thing, too.

So what sort of job are you look­ing for,” Ellen inquired. “Because I have a friend who works at a non-profit that might be look­ing for a writer.” Within a day, she’d put me in touch, and I’d sent off my resume.

My friend Megan’s story is more of the same: Out with her fam­ily at Herrell’s, our most excel­lent local pur­veyor of ice cream, she bumped into a woman who’d hired her four years ear­lier.  “Would you like to do a small project?” her for­mer employer asked, after they’d caught up. That sin­gle chance meet­ing led to six years of steady free­lance work.

So what are the lessons here?

Some­times the best way to pur­sue your goals is to stop pur­su­ing them. This isn’t to say that stan­dard job search strate­gies don’t have their place. It is to say that they aren’t nec­es­sar­ily going to be the ones that work. That’s espe­cially true today, when per­sonal con­nec­tions mat­ter more than ever in a world where, at last count, there were seven unem­ployed work­ers for every job opening.

It’s easy to feel guilty for tak­ing a break when you’re look­ing for work—especially as the days roll by and the pres­sures mount. You need to remem­ber that job leads can pop up in the most sur­pris­ing of places.

Plus every­one needs a break: You can’t just live your job search. You also must live your life. And some­times the best way to do both may be to go out for ice cream.

Note:  The fea­tured play­ers in this post also have blogs of their own. On the job search front, Lou Franco’s Soft­ware Busi­ness Blog recently offered excel­lent advice to soft­ware devel­op­ers look­ing for work. And for amus­ing mus­ings on life in our beloved Northamp­ton, check out Megan Rubiner Zinn’s Life in the Lit­tle City. (I espe­cially loved her recent post There are a Mil­lion Viruses in the Lit­tle City.)