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Job Search Outside the Box by Peter Weddle

New research to be published shortly in Psychological Science reveals that the connection between our minds and bodies is much stronger than previously known. The best way to be more creative in a job search, therefore, is to behave the way we want to think.

Researchers at the University of Michigan and New York University have now finished a series of tests to evaluate the validity of a frequently used aphorism. When we want to be creative - to do something that is original or innovative - we often tell ourselves to think "outside the box."

Among the tests they conducted was one involving word correlations. One group was asked to come up with alternative word associations while seated in a 125-cubic foot box, while another was assigned the same task while sitting outside the structure.

The results were startling. There was a strong correlation between the location of a test participant's body and their mind's ability to be creative. In other words, when a person is able to step outside of real world boundaries, they are more likely to come up with original ideas.

What's that got to do with a job search?

In today's difficult job market, doing the same old things in the same old way is the kiss of death. Instead, we have to think outside the box when deciding what to do, where to look, whom to contact, how to do so, and when. Since everyone else in the job market is making those same decisions, the more original our answers, the more successful we are likely to be.

Stepping Outside the Box

Many of us inadvertently put ourselves into boxes in a job search. Among the most prevalent are our:

  • Computer
  • Circle of first level contacts
  • Hometown
  • Last job

How can you physically step outside these (and other) boxes in order to think more creatively about how to conduct your job search? The research suggests that, as with real estate, there are three keys to success: location, location, location. You have to put yourself in a different physical location with the intention of looking at issues and ideas from that new perspective.

For example, if you only network at social media sites and only with people you already know, get out of your PJs and attend a meeting of the local chapter of your professional association with the explicit intention of connecting with people you've never met before.

Or, if you've limited your job search to the kind of job you had at your last employer and in the town where you now live, take a trip to a different locale and use that unfamiliar environment to push you into looking at jobs that apply your talent in a different way or in a different industry.

Making those kinds of changes isn't easy, I know. Nevertheless, physically stepping outside whatever box you're in - and we're all in one or more - can erase your sense of limitations and energize your sense of possibilities. Make that change and you'll also put another aphorism into effect: you'll be getting yourself out of a rut.