I’ve been spending the past few months searching for my next job. Throughout that time, I’ve found myself evaluating different jobs and employers in distinct modes of “possibilities” and “destinations.” Applying for a job means treating that job as a possibility. Accepting a job offer means treating it as a destination. There is a grey area in between, and that liminal space is where I get in trouble.
While these two modes can be helpful, they also require conscious management.
When I show up for a job interview, I shift myself into “destination” mode. I put myself in the prospective role, interact with interviewers as though they were my actual coworkers, and speak with indicative verbs (“I will do this”) instead of subjunctive ones (“I would do this”). I consciously put myself into “destination” mode because it both shows my interest to the employer and helps me evaluate the job. It’s like turning a rough wireframe into a high-fidelity mockup.
I do find it difficult to switch back to “possibility” mode, though. It’s jarring. At times, this has been done to me, like when an employer declines further interviews with me. And I think that contributes to my difficulty. It’s almost like… keeping myself in “destination” mode helps me feel in control.
But it’s not real control, only a false sense of it. Instead, the resistance to moving from “destination” to “possibility” contributes to my “loudest and latest” bias, where the most recently-discussed opportunity is the one that feels the most important and most likely.
So I have to be careful.
I’m narrowing in on a few possibilities, and one of them will soon become my destination. This space is uncomfortable and I feel an urge to escape it. An urge to collapse the wave function of possible career moves into a definite next job. Any job. After a disquieting summer, I feel myself grasping for certainty.
Weird Coffee Person James Hoffman has said something like “comparative tasting is how you learn to taste anything”, and this phrase has been on my mind a lot over the past few months. Comparing possible jobs has been really useful for narrowing in on exactly what I want.
For example, a few weeks ago I was speaking with one company and was really excited about the possibility of joining them – only to realize when speaking to other companies that it wouldn’t actually be a good fit.
If I’m being honest, the desire for certainty that I mentioned earlier has clouded my judgement a bit. I’ve learned to be aware. But comparing actual prospective employers against each other has helped me hone in on what I actually want.
My last post, where I discussed my thought process, ended with me reflecting on how broad the possibility space was:
I haven’t narrowed my decision at all. In fact, I now have more possibilities to consider than ever!
Now, months later, I have narrowed down my scope. I couldn’t have done that without actually speaking to employers and putting myself – temporarily – into “destination” mode.
(Companies do this too, by the way, when they interview multiple candidates for a single role.)
I hope this all makes some kind of sense. These phrases and metaphors have been bouncing around my head lately and I’ve felt an increasing urge to get this blog post out before all the possibilities collapse into a single destination. Because I think that will happen soon.