Don't Catch The "Wishing Syndrome" When Managing Your Career

“When you wish upon a star

Makes no difference who you are

Anything your heart desires

Will come to you.”

Most of us wish that the lyrics from Walt Disney’s film Pinocchio would mirror our personal realities; but as we mature we come to realize that simply “wishing on a star” is a futile exercise.

By its very nature, making a wish places responsibility for making it come true in someone else's hands; thus depending upon others to fulfill our wishes can stack the deck against achieving our aspirations and celebrating desired outcomes.

Whether you have just graduated from school or are well into your career, your wishes express desires to strive for, but converting them into your intended reality requires considerable proactive actions.

Let’s examine the validity of some common wishes and action steps that may bring them to fruition.

There is a difference between:
  • Wishing for a job (or a better one) and taking control of a career strategy 
  • Wishing for increased profits and managing a solid business strategy 
  • Wishing for increased income/results and executing a successful revenue generation plan 
  • Wishing for financial security and advancing a well-positioned investment portfolio
  • Wishing for positive change and implementing a game-changing initiative

The Wishing Syndrome
In the executive search and selection profession, we often observe a debilitating “wishing syndrome” among some people aspiring to make a positive career advancement. This syndrome can present itself in varying ways.

For instance, one phase of magical thinking in career management occurs when job seekers announce to friends and recruiting professionals their wishes for entering into a new role. These seekers view a simple declaration as definitive progress. Yet, delegating assignments to valued colleagues can leave them hoping for the best, but lacking in assurance of the final outcomes.

There lies the rub. Surely, friends and colleagues want to be of help, but just how often do the stars align, revealing dream jobs that they can pass along to their favorite seekers? And recruiters commonly struggle to make a very precise match between a seeker’s circumstances and a client organization’s particular unique specifications. In the end, seekers’ wishes often stir up polite replies more than advancing them toward definitive career progress.

Another symptom of this wishing syndrome is “wheel spinning.” Employment seekers can get caught up in stages of earnest review, unproductive rumination, conscientious reflection or dogged research only to have their intended career progress hit a blank wall for lack of planned action.

The Antidote
Responsibility for a career plan rests with the career seekers, although this doesn’t mean they must go it alone in advancing their process. For instance, a seeker’s initiatives can be supported with an assessment by a business psychologist. This type of professional serves as a neutral, yet honest advocate for development of the most prudent path a seeker ought to pursue. The results flowing from an assessment are commonly pivotal in orienting both prospective employers and a savvy seeker to their individual talents and unique characteristics and to the seeker’s healthiest career path.

Much as organizations target acquisitions of products that best match long-term growth strategies, effective seekers precisely target organizations and the roles which best complement their personal career trajectories. This focus telegraphs their intentions, stimulates relevant referrals and assures their supportive allies that they are focused and well-prepared in advancing their career plans rather than simply wishing upon a star.

*Image courtesy of bulldogza at