My husband and I launched a new hobby last year: sailing. If anyone reading this article knows about sailing, they know that the lifestyle is replete with challenges. Our most recent (and current) challenge has been the breakdown of our boat’s motor, critical to getting in and out of the harbor. It recently occurred to me that the mystery of how to repair the sailboat motor might resonate with job seekers, and thus also my esteemed career strategy colleagues, as you manage the fears, anxieties and frustrations of your job seeker clients.

Job Search Often Requires Hours of Mind-stumping Retooling

Often, prospective resume and job search clients approach me in an aggravated mode, having spent days, weeks or months in what feels like wheel-spinning motion, feeling their job-search strategy is broken. My husband and I have been battling the broken-motor problem since the end of last sailing season, but most heartily since March of this year, when we were able to de-winterize the boat and begin retooling various parts: carburetor, distributor, fuel tank, etc. Each time my husband retooled a part (often, after hours of back-aching work spent stooped over the engine), he looked at me hopefully, turned the key and kerplunk, it didn’t fix the problem.

As with fixing a persnickety engine, job search often requires hours of mind-stumping retooling only to find, hours or days into the execution, that the job search strategy still won’t turn over a new job interview or job or at the least, it won’t stimulate an effective job lead. Instead, it feels to the job seeker he is investing time and resources into a black hole.

Modeling my job seeker clients, my husband and I have tapped various professional resources to try to get our boat engine running again. As when career bumps detract from once thriving careers, our boat engine’s demise stalled our sailing life, all at once making us feel stranded on our dock.  So we called upon service experts specializing in just the type of motor we have (Atomic 4, fuel engine), paid for new parts and advice, tapped our local marina’s service department aspiring for an appointment with a master mechanic (is a waiting-in-line issue during this busy boating season; plus, we have a specialized engine versus the more-common motorboats that Midwest marina mechanics tend to prefer working on). Still, after all this, the engine is fettered with what seems to be a systemic mechanical issue.

We feel we have thrown money and time upon more money and time only to find the problem to be amorphous and unending. Our patience wears thin.

This process has further upped my empathy for job search clients intent upon navigating the winds of a stormy job-search climate, where effectively communicating their value proposition, ferreting out their unique personal brand, planning the perfect networking strategy, appropriately and impactfully networking … and so forth unceasingly fill their job-search prep and execution lifestyle, often with what appears to be little positive result.

What I Tell My Job Search Clients to Quell Frustration:  Reason to Hope

As a result of my motor-boat problem, some solutions and tips that I have gleaned for my job-search clients and prospects, follow:

  1. Don’t give up. As for my husband and me, our boat motor will either get fixed … or it won’t. Either way, we will not quit sailing. For example, recently, we adapted our harbor exit and reenter process to allow us to sail a full day in 85+ degree, sunny weather, exceeding our earlier expectations, when consumed by our broken motor. Similarly, in a job search, you may need to circumvent what’s blocking your progress and find another way to get into the job-interview harbor. If that means that you are going against the grain a bit of what mechanically feels like the right fix for the problem, take the risk and just do it (don’t dwell).
  2. While you are trying new tactics and strategies to get the wind in your job search sails, as you are opening new channels in which to sail through to an interview, also be thoughtfully planning new ways to fix that broken job-search engine for the long-haul. This plan may include better, ongoing job-search maintenance as well as investing yourself in niche experts that really know their stuff — though you may be an expert in your career profession; e.g., project management, finance, sales, marketing, technology, human resources, operations, etc., you likely will never be a job-search expert unless you become a full-time, trained professional career strategist.
  3. When immersed in the problem to the point of being emotionally wrung, unplug. Find a smile, find laughter, step away! Come back later refreshed and renewed. It WILL pay off in the long run. You will either find a whole new way to address the same problem, or you will deflect the problem, and plot an entirely new job-search course to navigate the choppy career waters.
  4. Invest in yourself in a meaningful way. Don’t just throw good money after bad in job-search services. For example, if you are hunting down a great resume service to partner with, be bold; be prudent, be hopeful. Spending $200 for a value-proposition-focused career document probably won’t cut it! This dynamic document is intimate, detailed and tailored and is your public relations voice. Don’t shortchange it, as the repercussions will put your search right back into choppy waters or beach your job-search boat entirely.
  5. Does all this sound specific, but at the same time, a bit vague? Yes! But as in all of life, job search (as well as sailboat maintenance) is an art that is fluid, creative, pragmatic, results-oriented and risky. This risk is not without rewards: Just keep on tacking, adjusting your sails, finding new wind, plotting and adjusting your course to ensure you navigate toward the rewards, which, over the long haul, most definitely will outweigh the risks.

Originally published in Career Alliance Connection, Career Management Alliance’s member newsletter.

Explore posts in the same categories: Career Encouragement, career strategy, Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

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  1. Good advice! I’ve talked to many a job-seeker who needs to “retool the engine” to get back into the water and search unchartered territory for the perfect destination. My similar analogy to this is riding a bike:

    Thanks for sharing with us, Jacqui!

  2. Hi Jacqui,

    From one die-hard optimist and water-lover to another, I loved this post.

    Your advice is right on, as you have to look at the job search as something to navigate, fall down, get back up, try again, fall down again and finally find the right “wind” (like my sailing word?) or JOB.

    Great post 🙂


  3. careertrend Says:

    Thank you for relating to the retooled engine analogy of job searching. Your bike-riding analogy and blog is ‘spot-on’ – is almost like you channeled your creative processes to me when I wrote my sailboat parallel. I especially like the part about “if it (opportunity) feels right, pursue it with fervor.”

    I knew you’d ‘get it’ — optimism is hard work, but you make it look easy. And yes, I love your use of sailing terminology – you go girl! Your fine blog also offers job seekers great tips and encouragement at


  4. Deb Dib Says:

    Jacqui, this is really usable advice and sorely needed by today’s frustrated, disheartened, displaced jobseekers. Reframing is such a huge help, and you’ve shown so well how to do it. Thanks, I’ll be passing this on to my clients.

    ~ Deb

  5. Great post. Job search has become so specialized and geotargeted. You must really spend the time to seek out quality sites. If you find a useful site check back often as they generally get updated frequently.

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