When my oldest son was about five years old, he used to put a small piece of toilet paper in the toilet water when he had finished his business. It didn’t register as odd to me at first. As a father, I was concerned about accuracy and aim (you know what I mean). After all, you want your children to be functional, right?
But after seeing him do this a few times, I decided to ask him why he was doing it. He said he didn’t know. He soon stopped after some gentle coaching – a.k.a, feedback.
Similar to my son’s odd bathroom habit, many job seekers do things in their job searches without knowing why they are doing them. My friend and colleague Marc Miller, author of Repurposing Your Career: A Practical Guide for the 2nd Half of Life, calls this kind of behavior “MSU,” or “making stuff up.” A careerist formulates a narrative that they must do something, but they have no idea why they must do it beyond a perceived obligation.
We’re not talking about bad habits, like Babe Ruth’s habit of telegraphing his curveballs by sticking his tongue out. We’re talking about intentions. The distinction between “habit” and “intention” is a fine line, but the intention has a story behind it, a reason. That’s where the mind shift needs to take place.
For example, one bad narrative professionals often make up in their careers is that they are better off staying at a job they hate because they need to be loyal. Miller says this is what our parents did, so many of us believe we need to do it, too. We entangle ourselves in such made-up narratives to the point of dysfunction. As a result, our careers stall out.
This is why feedback is essential to any good job search. We often don’t reflect on our behaviors until someone nudges us to.
Here are five more specific ways that feedback will help your job search:
1. Feedback Presents Choices
At one point, I was starting to hate going to the barber, mostly because of the discomfort of alcohol after a haircut. One day, the barber asked if I preferred witch hazel or alcohol. The asking changed everything because now there was a choice. It changed my narrative – and I don’t hate going to the barber anymore.
Feedback can serve the same function in the job search, exposing you to choices you didn’t even know you had.
2. Feedback Holds a Mirror Up to Ourselves
As one version of the story goes, Babe Ruth’s girlfriend had make him look into a mirror for him to see his tongue was signaling his curveballs to batters. We all need that mirror in our face from time to time. Feedback provides that mirror, forcing us to consider all the possibilities.
3. Feedback Can Accelerate Job Search Results
Many of us keep our job searches secret from friends and family members. Why we do this is a mystery. It’s another one of those MSU syndromes Miller discusses in his book. But referrals are some of the best ways to get hired, and we can only get referrals if we talk to other people about our searches.
4. Feedback Breeds Deeper Relationships
Many job seekers make the mistake of aiming for quick, straightforward results with the least amount of effort in the least amount of time. However, taking your time to find people who can offer constructive feedback will result in significant partnerships – partnerships that may lead to jobs down the road.
5. Feedback Compels You to Compete
Professional athletes pay for negative feedback by hiring trainers and coaches. Follow their lead: Get help from career coaches and consultants. The competition for jobs is too fierce and unpredictable. Without guidance, you may not have what it takes to really compete.
Far too many job seekers fail to seek any feedback at all. Career counselors, coaches, and consultants are resourceful. Instead of relying on vague feelings of obligation, they know what really works and why. They keep up with the latest trends in hiring, talk to hiring managers, and see how their clients find employment.
One other thing career professionals will do is help you crush the false narratives inside your head. MSU only impedes your success in your job search. Get ride of it by seeking feedback.
Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, the host and producer of “The Voice of Job Seekers” podcast, and the founder of the blog by the same name.