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How to go the distance. Think like a runner.

How to go the distance. Think like a runner.

I recently joined a running group who meet up twice a week to develop our running strategies, increase endurance and improve our personal times. 10 minutes into our long run one Sunday morning my coach, Duncan told me to slow down.“Wait, what? Slow down? Why?” The more I thought about it the more I realized his advice was directly applicable to career development.

1.   Pace yourself

On race day, inexperienced runners sprint out of the gates getting caught up in the momentum of the race. It’s not long before we see them huffing and puffing on the sidelines.

“… by starting faster than goal pace and putting “time in the bank” you’re actually burning through your available [resources] faster and you will almost certainly run out of fuel….”

Eager job seekers are the same. They want to get out of their current job or into a new job in a hurry. They are quick to move; time is of the essence. Sadly, this is how career missteps happen. They can be overwhelmed with emotion, make rapid decisions and occasionally take a wrong turn and end up doing severe damage to their career trajectory. It’s generally smarter to slow down and move with precision and determination.

2.   Focus on the top

Each Tuesday our group run hills (*shudder*). Before meeting Duncan, hill running meant running away from hills in search of long, flat stretches. Job seekers often approach their job search the way I used to approach hills. Avoidance: ‘Just get it over and done with and move on to the next thing.’

Instead, a job search can begin with an achievable goal and a plan to get there. Begin slow and work towards harder climbs. You don’t cold call your #1 choice-employer on day one of a job search, you are likely not ready yet. Instead, do what you can each week to work a little harder to achieve a little more. This enhances your strength and momentum. The positive results you gain will keep you coming back for more.

3.   Stay Motivated

Running with a group, under the direction of a coach can dramatically improve your commitment and desire to get out there. You have accountability partners, a support network and someone who can identify areas for improvement.

A job search can be daunting, especially since it can be a lonely, even isolating endeavor. Motivation is critical. A coach can help guide you, motivate you and keep you accountable to your career goals. Collaborating with a coach will help you to align your career aspirations with what you love to do making it easier to be invested and engaged in a job search.

4.   Build your endurance

Three times a week we train to get more comfortable running at our own pace. We learn to run longer distances at that pace; we find a rhythm that keeps our body and minds focused. It becomes the foundation of our race-day strategy.

“ To maximize your potential on race day, you need to become a master at pacing yourself…by learning the importance of pacing and fine-tuning your skills, you can improve your consistency and set new personal bests.”

When managing your career, establish your career brand (also known as value proposition). This is a clear, well-thought-out message you deliver on the value in hiring you. Become a master of this messaging. This is your ‘pace’; the foundation of your career path. When you know your brand you are disciplined to stay on track for career success. You are prepared to promote your talents, network with professionals, call prospect employers and follow up on opportunities.

5. Discipline yourself

Coach Duncan designed a plan for each of us to start 30 seconds slower than our regular pace. So if you regularly run 5:30/km, that day you would run 6:00/km. No one wanted to go slow. Not one of us (myself included).

Slowing down takes concentration. It’s methodical. It’s difficult to do, but the rewards are immediate. After purposefully slowing my pace that day, I ran further and faster than any week prior and had more energy at the end of the run.

“Not only do you train more efficiently, but the benefits mean you recover faster, and can, therefore, put in some harder efforts, rather than being chronically fatigued from ‘mid zone’ running.”

The same can be said about our job search. We are in such a rush to get to the next mark in our career that we forget to slow down. We need to step out of regular routine every so often and assess our career. Our mind and body want to propel us forward, so slowing takes patience and determination. When we move purposefully, we can go further and faster than our usual pace.

6.     Fuel yourself with the good stuff

“Think of yourself as a 24/7 athlete,” coach says. “What you put in your body has a direct impact on your next run.” When it comes to our professional lives, we have a tendency to fill our brains full of junk.  Instead, read business books, take online courses, and research leading-edge tools and resources that improve your candidacy and employability.

7.     Finish strong

On race day I implemented my coach’s advice:

“Pace yourself, focus on the top, stay motivated, build your endurance, discipline yourself to complete and finish strong.”

The same advice holds true for your career and job search. Interestingly, at the 2K mark, we saw two ladies in their mid-sixties with matching shirts that read:“It’s a run, not a race.” Career development is not a race, it’s a run. Enjoy the experience.

Related Categories: Career Clarity, Job Search

About The Author
Maureen McCann is an award-winning career coach, master resume writer, and master certified interview, employment, and career strategist whose clients include C-level executives, managers, and professionals in all industries including the Canadian banking, oil and gas, healthcare, IT, and government sectors.

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