Job Seekers: Do You Want It All (or Just a Job)?

Hierarchy of Needs

Sometimes a parent gets a gratifying clue that the lessons cast before the kids was actually heard and understood. It’s hard to understand why my always sage advice would not instantly sink in, but that is the way it is. My parents would call it payback…I never listened to them either. Several years ago in answering my son’s perceptive “What’s going on Dad?” question I somehow blurted out that I had a career decision to make and didn’t know what to do. His response was “Well, what are the next steps beyond that? Is it just a job or a career step?” Damn! He was listening! I heard my words coming back to me through his mouth and that was my answer. It also reinforced the notion that it is always easier to give unsolicited free advice than to actually do it.

What is a career anyway? If it is only about making money, satisfaction can be fleeting and tentative. Of course basic needs must be met, but if this is not building a foundation for a more complete person then life and living can be tedious. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who formulated the theory of a hierarchy of needs beginning with a foundation of basic psychological needs and culminating at the top with the need for self-actualization. The struggling artist cannot paint just for art’s sake and skip the steps leading up to it or she will not survive to see the dream come true. Food, safety, security and intimate human contact are necessary to arrive at the feeling of self esteem necessary to accomplish the ultimate goal.

A career is the accumulation of events exercised on a daily basis that creates a progression through ordered steps toward accomplishing a life goal. A career may consist of multiple jobs that often overlap each other to sculpt a career out of the clay of life. Everyone is different and there is no secret sauce for success…except for the fact that establishing personal goals and looking for the right path is a common theme. The danger of allowing a “job” to overshadow the “career” is apparent when suddenly there is a realization that there is no balance in life. If we cry out for work/life balance then we are seeing a sign that something is wrong.

A simple formula for success in a job search involves:

  1. Visualizing the view from the top of the pyramid and translating that into a career goal.
  2. Recognizing the current level on the pyramid and studying past steps that succeeded or failed.
  3. Acknowledging that getting stuck on any level because of the apparent urgency of a need may be a false signal of success.
  4. Accepting that multiple “jobs” may be needed to do it all.
  5. Accumulating skills and providing meaningful accomplishments that are complimentary to each other.

Are there other key steps? I would be interested in hearing stories about overcoming obstacles to reach the pinnacle of a career. Like mountain climbing, there is always another peak to conquer.


Image credit: Maslow Psychology Chart nikdoorg / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Five words…

    Recognizing and overcoming internal obstacles.

    We’re our own worst enemies…

    • Cyndy Trivella on October 5, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Nice post Tom!

    I think fear often times comes into play when people are on the job hunt. I have seen many people jump onto the first thing presented to them, which turned out to be a bad decision in the end. Rather reminds me of the saying “a drowning man will grab onto the tip of a sword.”

    I, also, think that if someone is out of work long enough (what that time span is will be different for everyone), they start to distrust themselves and start to drink the hateful Kool-Aid doled out to them by the companies that reject them for employment. Like, “If enough people say it, it must be true.”

    IMHO, we humans have fragile egos and in the case of an already vulnerable job seeker, the thought of being subjected to experiences like rejection, dismissal, being denied, and being ignored are just more than the mind can handle.

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