Alligators in Boston Syndrome

People react to a job search in a lot of different ways:some are excited, many are a bit anxious, some see nothing but opportunity, and yet others get frozen by analysis paralysis.

Wikipedia defines this as a situation in which “the sheer quantity of analysis overwhelms the decision-making process itself, thus preventing a decision”.

I prefer to call it the “Alligators in Boston” syndrome.

It works like this: instead of taking positive action, such as writing a resume, a student might choose to spend excessive amounts of time imagining every possible barrier to a successful job search.


The Alligator Epidemic

I experienced the syndrome recently.

A student had walked into my office wailing, “I can’t write a resume! What if a hiring manager actually liked it, and called me for an interview?! What if the company was headquartered in downtown Boston?! I might have to walk through the public garden! There’s a lagoon in the middle of it!”

“Well,” I said, “the lagoon is quite lovely this time of year with swan boats and…”

“But there could be ALLIGATORS in there,” the student shouted!

Now, I’m a Florida girl. I know alligators. Those critters are native to the warm waters of the southeastern United States. Boston winters are too cold for them to survive here.

As I calmly told this to the distressed student, he had asked me, “Can you be  absolutely positive that no alligators will ever be found in the lagoon?”

I stopped to think before responding. “Well, I can’t be absolutely certain.” After all, a guy recently spotted a prehistoric sturgeon in the Charles River.

“Aha! I told you so,” the student had pointed out. “There ARE alligators in Boston!”

With this fact now settled, the student happily hunkered down to the business of analyzing a hundred different ways to avoid getting eaten by an alligator in the Boston Commons.


Alligator Searching vs. Job Searching

While I can’t predict the chance of finding an alligator in Boston, I can be sure that there is a zero-percent chance of success for a job search that never gets off the ground.

How can you tell if you suffer from this syndrome? If your job search has far more analysis than forward motion, you just might have it.

Nike has the right idea: JUST DO IT.

Write that resume, network, get out there, and make it happen. Otherwise, you may well find yourself up to your neck in alligators, even if you don’t live in Boston.





Marilyn is the Assistant Director of Graduate and Alumni Career Services at Bentley University. She has the uncanny ability to quickly discern strengths and differentiates, and turn them into strategic career plans. She is passionate about equipping graduate students and alumni with cutting edge skills. Marilyn has a great deal of corporate experience, primarily in the technology, biotech and healthcare industries. She is a long-time user of social media (she was mentioned in Fast Company’s “Most Influential People Online 2010”), and holds degrees in Psychology and Public Administration from The Florida State University. As a child, Marilyn immigrated from Cuba, and, today, remains active in Boston’s Hispanic business community.

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