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Get back on your bike and ride!

When he was about 5 years old, we removed the training wheels from our oldest son Seth’s bicycle. We lived then in a neighborhood with gently rolling terrain, with little traffic and streets that featured the kinds of deceptively gentle hills you don’t even realize are there until (a) they’re icy and you’re trying to control your car, or (b) your novice bike-rider child is riding on them. 

One evening, shortly after training wheel removal, we were out for a family walk. I was pushing Seth’s little brother in a stroller while Seth rode along on his bike. He would say, “Mommy, watch this!” Then ride ahead, up the hill to the end of the street, turn around in the cul-de-sac, and ride back down, building up a head of steam as he zooooomed F-A-S-T back to meet me.

After repeating this more than a few times, my heart couldn’t take it anymore. I finally said, as moms do, “Last time, Seth!” Just as I thought to myself, he’s going too fast, I watched in horror as he lost control and wrecked, going splat on the road.

I quickly applied the stroller brake and ran as fast as I could to Seth, who was wailing and shrieking in surprise, shock, and pain. His helmet had done its job, thank goodness, but there was blood on his face, mainly around his mouth.

In this moment of chaos, before I even checked to see if he’d lost any teeth, I had one clear thought: 

He had to experience that.

He had to experience that.

That sounds terrible, but here’s what I mean: Of course, I would never have wished pain or injury upon my child – quite the opposite, of course. But I knew in that moment that in order to have respect for speed and grade, he had to have a wreck that would help him learn how to ride better in the future.

Amazingly, all of Seth’s teeth were intact, and other than some tissue injuries inside his mouth and the requisite scrapes on knees and elbows, he was fine. He got back on his bike the next day. The experience never slowed him down, but I could tell he rode more cautiously down our neighborhood hills after that.

here are several nuggets of wisdom that can be gleaned from this tale. But to tie it to why you’re probably here – the job search – let me offer these thoughts:

The job search is a learning experience.

The job search is a learning experience. Most people would not describe job hunting as “fun.” Some might even say it’s painful (though in a different way than crashing your bike). But if you’re going to have a career, the reality is that you’re going to change jobs every so often.

Why do people change jobs?

Why do people change jobs, anyway? Lots of reasons: To advance one’s career, to earn more money, to gain new skills. Some people change jobs to improve their commute, gain flexibility in their schedule, or accommodate family needs. Others change jobs because they want to try something entirely different. Some people quit their horrible bosses rather than quitting their actual jobs. But most people make a job change because they are experiencing some kind of dissatisfaction – or pain – in their current job. 

Some people think the pain of looking for a new job is worse than staying in their old one. Updating your resume, sending it out, networking, enduring screening interview calls, getting dressed up in your professional finest to go to an interview, selling yourself, waiting and waiting to hear back, allowing yourself to start picturing yourself in that sweet new job, only to be told you haven’t been selected.

Job hunting can be a tedious charade, and social media is full of tales of woe and “war stories” from the process from interviewees and recruiters alike. But the fact is, this is the process by which most of us find new jobs.

To continue the metaphor, you must experience that “pain” to learn and grow. The first time you change jobs, you really don’t know what you don’t know. But with each new job you take, each time you embark upon the job change process, you learn from the experience. You get smarter and savvier and more discerning. You endure the job hunt, but you land on your feet, leave your previous employer and start a new job that promises better.  

Words of comfort for job hunters

If you are feeling pain because of an unsatisfactory job or a difficult job search, may I offer some words of comfort? First of all: It will all be OK. If, for whatever reason, you have determined that you have just about reached the end of the road with your current job, move on. Just do it. The devil you know is almost never better than the devil you don’t.

Start your job search

The first step in starting your job search, of course, is updating your resume. Once you have a resume that you’re proud of – one that looks great and showcases your unique offering – you’re far more likely to get invited to interviews. And from there, the rest will take care of itself. Because you, my friend, are charming and articulate, and you will be well-prepared, and you can speak about your qualifications with confidence. And feeling prepared and confident will go a long way towards easing the pain.

So keep trying! If you apply for job after job and hear no – if you interview but don’t get called back – if you make it to the final round and don’t get selected – you’ve gotta put some Band-Aids on those scrapes and get back on your bike and ride. And look for the nugget you can glean from each experience. Because it is through pain that we learn and grow.  

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