I’ve observed that it is often the case that the first step toward getting a new job is making time to begin the search process. Separating from one’s existing job is very difficult. Based on my experience and that of many friends and colleagues, it’s far easier to complain about my job than to take steps to leave it. It’s a known quantity and I know where I stand, even if it’s really uncomfortable. A new job is simply an idea, a dream, ephemeral and possibly elusive. Beginning the search often feels like stepping into nothingness. My motivation has to be really high for me to take that action.

What I love to see is people beginning the conversation about finding more rewarding work. Complaints are a great sign that someone is getting ready to move on. A psychological truism is that we humans are motivated by pain and pleasure. We move away from pain and toward pleasure. When the pain is sufficient, we will move away from it – even if there is no tangible, guaranteed pleasure in sight. At this point, we simply hope that there is some pleasure awaiting us. Hope itself is more pleasurable than the pain of continued suffering with hostile co-workers, a miserable boss, really boring work, ridiculous hours, a horrible physical environment, an out-of-control commute, a demoralizing culture, low pay, or some combination of these factors. For many, the statement “there must be something better than this” is the beginning of the job search process.

Once you’ve had that initial internal conversation, there are then tangible steps to take. Action is called for. You need a new resume. You need to look for job openings. You need to apply for jobs. You need to write cover letters. And allof a sudden your brain goes: Whoa! Not so fast! This is too much!

Here’s where one’s motivation gets tested, for there are many reasons to put off taking those steps: “my job is so demanding, I can’t find time to do my resume!”, “why do I even think there is anything better out there?”, ” and “I can’t commit to a time frame for leaving because my schedule is not my own” are excellent and often-used objections. All of those things make sense, and yet…they are simply fear in disguise. When I contemplate stepping into nothingness, I become afraid and balk. It’s so normal!

The problem is that I’ve already begun to move into that nothingness. Once the inner conversation has started, it must be concluded one way or another. And if I’m really unhappy, I am motivated to continue taking actions. The pain is worse than any of my fears, allowing me to allay those fears long enough to take the next step.

Using a career transition coach is a great way to jump start the job search process because they can help you set and meet your job transition goals. That’s why it’s clear that someone is ready to leave their job when they are able to commit to a coaching time. Even the sometimes frustrating exercise of trying to schedule a mutually agreeable appointment time serves a purpose. You’re engaged in the struggle to put yourself first, to focus on your needs instead of your employer’s demands. It’s part of the overall process of separating from one’s current job. And that separation is the beginning of all successful job searches.