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with Jessica Loftus, Ph.D.

Popcorn and Job Hunting

Guest post by Jack Murray

Who wants popcorn?

Dad never had to ask us, kids, twice. After all, what kid doesn’t want popcorn? For that matter, what adult doesn’t want popcorn? Indeed, no true “snackoisseur” could turn it down.

Some of my fondest childhood memories center around popcorn. After watching TV a few hours on the nights my Mom worked, Dad would always crave a snack. So he offered to pop a batch of popcorn for my younger brother, baby sister and me. Upon hearing our squeals of delight, Dad dug out the big, cast-iron pot from the cabinet in that little kitchen of our humble home on Preller Avenue in our home town of Worth, Illinois.

Popping the Corn

He poured the corn oil to cover the bottom of the pot and fired up the stove before adding a layer of golden kernels to the oil and placing a lid on the pot.  Within the watched-pot-never-boils minutes of silent anticipation, the smell of sizzling oil heating filled the kitchen. Then sounded the long-awaited pop of that first kernel bursting into a fluffy, white puffball.  A few more seeds pinged against the pot lid as the aroma expanded. My favorite part was the fireworks finale of exploding kernels, raising the pot’s cover, signaling the popcorn was ready.

After Dad salted the finished product, he gave each of us a bowl of the white puffy snack to enjoy with a glass of ice-cold cola. The sweet, bubbly chilled soda was the perfect complement to the warm, salty popcorn, which made us thirsty.

The thing about Dad’s popcorn was that it left a lot of “old maids,” or un-popped kernels, in the bottom of each bowl. I dug into the popped corn with relish until I came to the warm, salty old maids, and ate them, too. They were crunchy, golden brown, and tasted almost as good as the fluffy popcorn flakes.

Pop Goes the Job Search

Memories of making popcorn prompt me to think of my current job search, which has recently consumed most of my time and energy. Who hasn’t gathered the ingredients of a resume, cover letter and job leads and heated them with the enthusiasm of submitting applications only to encounter a long, discouraging silence.

While waiting, it is easy to wonder if your ingredients and efforts will ever produce the desired result. But then Pop! You land an interview. As soon as that interview is over, Pop comes another one and maybe another. Pop, Pop! Then there is a job offer you don’t want, followed by a job offer you might accept. Then pop, pop, pop, there is a flurry of interviews and offers, leaving you torn between a couple of choices. Thinking that nothing else will pop up, you make your choice. Invariably, the fireworks finale of opportunities always seems to burst after you accept a job offer, leaving you with a bit of job searcher’s remorse.

To avoid the worry that the job you accepted is an “old maid” of unfulfilled aspirations, you drink the sweet, chilled cola of hope and positive thinking. During the honeymoon phase of any job, everything looks buttery smooth and delicious even with a dash of anxiety about starting something new. The real old-maid test comes after you become familiar with your routine duties. Hopefully, you relish the new job as much as those old bowls of popcorn. Otherwise, it’s back to making another batch.

Popcorn and Life

Perhaps, the process of making popcorn offers a more general recipe for life. Gather a few quality ingredients, heat them to the right temperature and practice some patience and positive thinking. Then reap the rewards of puffy popped kernels, making the best out of the old maids, and start a new batch if the current one doesn’t satisfy your appetite.


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Popcorn and Job Hunting

Jessica Loftus

Jessica Loftus has worked as a licensed clinical psychologist and national certified career counselor for more than 20 years. She currently offers counseling sessions via telehealth in Illinois. Her website,, outlines steps for making a career decision. details. See her retired blog, "Pet Ways to Ease Stress,"

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APA Reference
Loftus, J. (2020). Popcorn and Job Hunting. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Jul 2020
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