Job Searching: There Is No Map, But There Are Guides

View of Mt. Sinai Desert

View of Mt. Sinai Desert

Do you ever think you are lost in time, trying and trying to make something happen with no visible results? Do you need reassurance?

I love the metaphor of wandering in the desert to describe job transition. It works in at least three ways.

Wandering Doggedly

 One interpretation is like the Israelites seeking the Promised Land. We think we’re looking for jobs. We keep applying, can’t see anything happening. We’re scared. We’re afraid to leave home and what’s familiar.  People or events are nearby, but we can’t make sense out of attending them. We’re embarrassed; we say we have no value, that nothing good is happening.

Other people in our lives see lots of things we could be doing or doing differently and don’t understand why we’re “wasting time.” 

A student of Hebrew once told me that the reason the journey across the desert took 40 years was because two generations had to die off.  No one could enter the Promised Land who still yearned for the security of slavery!

Seeing Goodness In Our Surroundings

A second way to view the metaphor is to see sustenance, like manna, in our circumstances.  By looking around  we see objectively that we are given nourishment along  with the people around us. We are given “fresh water to drink:” new ideas and ways of understanding ourselves which we wouldn’t have seen if we didn’t take this journey.  We are given new principles and guidelines. 

We find we’re not alone, that we have  already-friends and new friends who guide us along the way easily, who bring us along with them. Taking our time, we are sped up to see where we are being led (not by a pillar of  fire, thankfully), to see what way is opening up for us. Not only that, there are many paths we could take; and there is fun along the way.  

A Model of Encouragement

A pillar of fire led the Israelites by day. The fire of passion burned in them so that they stayed relentless in their pursuit of their calling. They struggled to find their way with guidance, calling out to their God who answered them, saying, (paraphrasing), “Stay with your groups and guides! I’ve given rules and process to your leaders so you will be respected. I am bringing your whole group to the Promised Land. You will arrive together. It’s easy; follow me. Follow your hearts, you’ve been longing for this!”

Bridges’ Model Shows Encouragement, Too

It is reassuring to know there is a “characteristic shape” to transitions.[1] First you have an ending (sometimes with ensuing chaos). Then there’s a “neutral zone” where you may feel frustrated and scared, or mystified, about not knowing where you’re going or how you’re going to get there.  There’s no map and you might think time is ticking away. You don’t see progress. You may even want to go back to where you came from. But the new beginning comes out of the activities you engage in during this neutral zone, or what I call desert time.

This in-between part is where the growth, meaning, lessons and gifts are.[2] William Bridges in Transitions writes:

The work-life, like the love-life, has its own natural rhythm. The task is to find the relation between the actual change in work or career and the underlying developmental rhythm…. The task of finding the significance of a particular transition may be slow and difficult. Unless that significance is found, however, the thread of personal development will be lost and one will be left with an inexplicable change and an overwhelming desire to put the pieces back together again as quickly as possible.

Although there are no ways to tell you what a particular change means, there are ways of maximizing your chances of finding that meaning and they apply equally to the world of relationships and to the world of work.  

In my experience, once the meaning is found, the rest of the transition to the new beginning comes fairly quickly. 

Does this resonate with you? I’d love to hear your experiences of coming through transitions! Please share them with us in the comment section.  I can’t wait to hear your stories!


[1] William Bridges’s Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes is a book many, many job seekers have found helpful in explaining the process of job transition and reassuring that it is meaningful. We are using his material and our own experiences as the foundation of our meeting. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get or read the book  to gain insight from our discussion.


[2] I’ve worked with 4,000 job seekers and this has been true for each one of them: There is a gift in every transit

We Get There Together

We Get There Together