Regrets. We all have them. Those who say they don’t either haven’t really lived or are lying. For the job seeker, especially one who is looking for the first time in many years, regret can be a smothering presence, like the in-law who came for the weekend but ended up moving in.
The search process itself can accentuate the feelings of regret for the job seeker, like trying to update a resume for the first time in many years. What did I actually accomplish the past ten years? Now that I look at it, I really haven’t kept pace with the changes in the industry. I knew I should’ve moved on years ago. Why did I allow myself to get too comfortable?
And let’s talk about job interviews. Nothing can spark a torrent of regret like being told by someone, especially if they’re considerably younger, that you just don’t have the skills and experience they’re looking for.
I was a history major so I would never say that the past doesn’t matter. It certainly does, especially to the extent lessons from the past can inform better decisions today. But there’s a difference between learning from the past and hoping for a better one.
To dwell on our regrets is to live in the past. We attribute our present circumstance and temper our hopes based on what we’ve done before. When we say “if only I had done this” we aren’t actually taking charge of our future, we are wasting time and energy hoping for a better past. And as we all know, there ain’t no changing it.
There’s a children’s safe house not far from where I live. If you ever go there to donate toys, books, clothes, or anything for the kids, the old but boundlessly energetic nun who runs the place will grab your hands and insist that you pray with her. The words vary but she always includes the line, “the past is in the past, put it in the trash.”
I couldn’t think of better advice for the job seeker. Whatever happened in the past, whatever things you wish you could change, put them in the trash. Hoping for a better past will bring you down and distract you from focusing on the things you actually can control. By all means acknowledge your mistakes, but only for the purpose of improving your future. Don’t tell yourself “I wish I did…”; rather say “I’m focused on XZY because experience has taught me…”
In the end the attribute the job seeker needs today more than ever is belief. Belief that we can make things better. Belief that our future can be bright. Belief is grounded in hope. And hope is never wasted, as long as we keep our eyes on the things to come.