Patience is the antidote to settling. The impetus for writing this blog came from coaching several clients who thought they had to settle for any job they were offered. I wish this were a new problem. As a matter of fact, I wrote about it 2 years ago. It’s so important that I’m tackling it again.

My clients will tell you that the one thing I can’t stand as a coach is to see anyone settle for just any job. I’m pretty rabid about it. I’m passionate about not settling because I understand at an elemental level how destructive settling in any area is to our life satisfaction.

Patience is a muscle.

As I started thinking about all of this, I realized that we need to exercise a major muscle in our battle against settling – patience. In my experience, we decide to settle on a job, house, mate, car, dishwasher, whatever, because we want to move on to the next thing. It could be that our current situation is painful. It could also be that we’re bored.

When we’re laid off and have been looking for a job for a long period of time, the pain increases every day that passes without a paycheck.  We begin to think we’re never going to get any job, much less a job that we want.

That’s when that word creeps into our vocabulary: “I’d settle for any job with a pay check.” “I can settle for taking a job that’s step down, I just need a job now.” It’s so tempting to do just that – to settle on the first job that comes along. Surely that would stop the pain?

Pause and breathe.

But, wait. Really, take a second, pause, and think. What would happen if, instead of settling, we took a deep breath and assessed our situation? What if we got really honest with ourselves and asked ourselves three critical questions?

Do I really know what I want to do? Can I describe to myself what I want to do? Can I describe it to someone else?

If we’re settling on just any job, I can almost guarantee that we can’t answer those 3 questions. We might think we can. Heck, we know we have a gorgeous résumé, a great cover letter (maybe not so great), and have studied up for the interview. But, when it really comes down to it, can we describe how we want to do that particular work? Can we describe it so well that we can picture ourselves doing it? Can we describe it so the people who are interviewing us can picture us doing the work?

Generalists need not apply.

I’m betting that the answer is no. In fact, I’m sure the answer is no. Why? Because so many of us buy into the idea that we need to be good at everything instead of amazing at one thing. You know, the expert generalist. The “I can do learn anything and do anything you throw at me” load of baloney that we’ve been sold throughout our working lives. So we write a résumé that includes everything we’ve ever done at every company we’ve ever worked for. And, no one calls. No one.

Unfortunately, that’s old advice that doesn’t work anymore. We have to know our top skills – and we have to able to (1) describe those skills so well that we recognize a job that calls for them and (2) make someone else understand that we’re perfect for the job.

And that process, my friends, takes patience. It takes days and weeks of research. It takes understanding the context of the work we want to do, the context of how we can use our top skills to accomplish that work, and the context of how that combination will move the company where we want to work forward successfully.

Cool client story.

Here’s a story about a client who overcame her fear of never getting another job, refused to settle on just any job, and ended up with a job that she loves more every day.

When Amy and I first met, she had been laid off from her director level job and had been looking for another for a couple of months. We met at a networking event, met up for coffee, and kept in touch.

A few months later Amy came to me for help. She just couldn’t get traction in her job search. She’d had some interviews. Some were good, others, not so much. She couldn’t figure out what she was doing wrong.

Her explanation was classic. Since she was having trouble finding the right job, she decided to market herself as a jack-of-all-trades. In other words, she was in so much pain that she decided to settle on whatever came up.

What are you bringing to the table?

Here’s the problem with marketing ourselves as generalists: no one knows what we’re really bringing to the table. Since we’re generalists, potential employers can’t easily identify how we fit in their organization. They’re looking for a puzzle piece to fill an exact spot in their organization, not a piece with no shape. Our top skills make up our secret sauce that changes us from shapeless into a piece that fills an exact spot in the puzzle.

So Amy corralled her patience and took the time to figure out her best skills – not just her best skills, but the skills she wants to use to power her career forward. She got clear on her message. She learned how to present that message effectively. She owned it. She named it.

She owned it so much that she turned down a job offer – even though she had been out of work for over six months. Amy realized that even entertaining the wrong offer would keep her from finding the right job. So she stuck it out. She sweated it out, and all of the sudden, things started changing.


Positions she was really interested in that had gone away reappeared. She had interview after interview. And Amy found the right job. A job that had all the security she was looking for, in an environment she was used to. Except for one thing. It fell through. After almost a dozen interviews.

However (notice I did not say “luckily”), during the time Amy was pursuing the “right” job at the “right” company, another potential job reappeared on her radar. It was a different kind of company. The business model was different. It would be challenging; she’d never worked quite like they wanted her to work. And this company wanted Amy for all her superstar qualities – every single one of them. And, just as the other job fell through, this one heated up.

Patience wins.

You know how this story ends. Amy got the job – because the company wanted her on their team so badly that they pushed until they got her the offer. And she loves it.

I love to text my clients on their first day at a new job just to say congrats and break a leg. Here’s Amy’s response to my text:

It was fantastic…. I even produced a client deliverable…. Might be the best first day ever. – Amy

I promise, you don’t have to settle. You don’t. Be patient instead.




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