Is Your Fear Of The Future Hurting Your Career Search?

You’re not afraid of the future. You look forward to an upcoming movie and you plan your next vacation immediately after returning from the current one. You

Is Your Fear Of The Future Hurting Your Career Search?

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You’re not afraid of the future. You look forward to an upcoming movie and you plan your next vacation immediately after returning from the current one. You pre-order a book from your favorite author 10 months before it’s published. You enjoy that lottery ticket with dreams of what that $300+ million could do for your life.

But wait a minute! Your boss asks you for a one-on-one meeting next week and you don’t sleep well any night before the meeting. Your resume is five years old and you ‘just don’t have time’ to spend time updating and improving it. You have an interview scheduled for a new job next week and you’re almost paralyzed with worry:

What will I be asked? What should I wear? How should I answer that question about my strengths?  My weaknesses?

The Distant Future Is Often Just A Dream

The futures we’re comfortable with are often ones with which we’re familiar. We know that favorite author’s style, perhaps even details of the characters in a series. There’s comfort in the anticipation of what the future holds for our fiction detective or lawyer. We’re buried in information about our upcoming vacation, with brochures, videos, stories from our friends.

Again, while we anticipate the adventure of a first experience, maybe even some big surprises, it’s still in the comfort of much that is known. And that $300+ million lottery jackpot, it’s such a “distant” future in many ways that our future is often just dreams. We don’t seriously plan for that future. Unfortunately the stories of many lottery winners prove the failure of “just the dreams” and the lack of planning.  That dream job, even that next job, appears to be viewed in a similar fashion by many.

View Your Career Search As A Journey

In the 19th Century, many Americans followed the Horace Greeley advice to “Go West…” They set out in wagon trains for an unknown future. Parts of it were certainly unknown; but parts were known. The goal was clear: an opportunity, today we’d call it entrepreneurial, for freedom, a better economic environment, for ownership of land. But as the wagons rolled west, the men were aware of their skills for farming, or cattle-raising, or carpentry, or…

The parallels for today’s career seekers should not be ignored. You are looking for a better opportunity, perhaps more freedom, or more ownership, or more engagement (think about how “engaged” the families on the wagon trains were in their journey) – and certainly greater economic success.

One Major Difference: The Scouts

The wagon trains of the 18th Century had two key differences – two things that today’s career searchers should consider. First they had a Wagon Master, the leader with a key vision of the future, the goal, and the skills of making important decisions along the way. You’re the Wagon Master for your career. But you may not be prepared, or have much practice, in being the Wagon Master for your career. Have you learned the importance of formulating a vision for your career?  Have you learned – and practiced – evaluating alternatives and making decisions?

The “scouts” for the wagon trains road out ahead of the wagon train, collected valuable information over the horizon, and presented their information to the Wagon Master. Seasoned scouts, who made multiple trips, had expert insights into the terrain and the resources available throughout the journey. They also:

Road out quickly and came back with current information. A slow scout has little value. Explored multiple directions – or possibilities. Gathered qualitative, not quantitative, information. They didn’t know the exact depth of an upcoming river, or the exact width of a passage. But they reported if the river was “too deep” to cross safely or if the passage was “clearly safe for the wagons to pass through.” Did not make decisions – they provided information for the Wagon Master.

Futurist Joel Barker and learning guru Elliott Masie have each proclaimed the value of having scouts to explore the future. Masie suggests that we should identify five scouts and meet with them regularly. He suggests we should have a scout for technology, global, faith, plus one from the retiring and the youngest generations. He recommends meeting with one’s scouts monthly.

Each of these scouts has value for your career search. But the successful career journey requires additional scouts:

A “Career Opportunity” scout to monitor the rapidly changing job world. Your “Career Opportunity” scout should work in parallel with your technology and global scouts. A “Resume/LinkedIn” scout to advise you on your content, style, and the rapidly evolving world of visual and video resumes. An “Interviewing” scout to coach your and help you practice your answers, and help you monitor the rapidly changing world of video and “Skype” interviews.

Having scouts and treating your career search as a journey will significantly reduce your fear of the future because you’ll be better prepared for those difficult parts when they appear – and better prepared seize an unexpected opportunity.


Jim Schreier

About the author

Jim Schreier is a management consultant with a focus on management, leadership, including performance-based hiring and interviewing skills. Visit his website at and


Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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