Memes come and go quickly on the internet, but there is still wisdom to be gained from one that made the rounds a few years ago.

‘YOLO’ stood for ‘You only live once,’ and it was mainly used to inspire people to try new activities, from taking a cooking class to skydiving. Others have used it to justify dangerous or illegal acts of stupidity. As someone once astutely observed, it is the carpe diem for idiots.

That said, within the context of job search and one’s career, the spirit of YOLO should not be lost or ignored entirely. In the course of my day job, I meet and speak with numerous candidates in various stages of their careers: from the budding post-grad to the wily veteran. Next to candidates not knowing what they want to pursue as a career, a common theme I encounter is the underlying yet profound regret of not chasing one’s ideal job or passion. Unfortunately, the majority of professionals are dissatisfied with their current job and careers yet choose to do nothing about it.

Besides being a headhunter, I occasionally play the role of job coach and counselor. And there are a lot of people out there who have scars, disappointment, and frustration from staying the course with a bad job, company, and career path. It's easy to choose the status quo and not make a much-needed career change for various reasons: it’s too risky; the timing isn’t right; it doesn't pay enough, or it is just too late for a course correction.

Unfortunately, candidates make the Big Decision only after being laid off or hitting rock bottom. By then it can be too difficult to make a change.

The point of this blog is you shouldn't have to wait that long. And if you do, every action and career decision you make that prolongs the inevitable and takes you away from your ideal job is one that will make your course correction that much more challenging.

The butterfly effect on your professional life is greater than you think and shouldn't be underestimated. The cumulative skills, experience, and subject-matter expertise you gain as a professional will shape your growth, career path, and ultimately your prosperity and happiness. Every job you take will either position you for success or brand you in an undesirable way.

If you are currently on the cusp of a major career decision, make it count. Step out of the mentality of thinking tactically. Do not take a job to simply pay the bills or because it falls into your lap. You can't do anything about the jobs you've held so far, but moving forward you can determine the kind of career you want to have and strategically base your decisions accordingly.

When it comes to how you make a living, your mental calculus should ultimately include how to move the needle of happiness. What do you want to do and where do you want to be? If you are genuinely unhappy or dissatisfied with your job, start taking your career seriously and have the courage to pursue your dreams, whatever they may be. Life really is too short to grind away at a job or company you don’t enjoy or that treats you poorly. The change will do you good. And perhaps you will make one recruiter smile knowing there is one less disgruntled candidate out there.

Get great ideas and the
latest trends in search and placement.

Signup for our free 360Sonar newsletter