It’s never been a practice of mine to blow smoke up someone’s rear so they can feel better about being unemployed. My approach is a pretty pragmatic one. If you’re not working, aren’t financially independent and have full responsibility for taking care of yourself, then you need to make some money and/or get a job. For most people, their level of urgency is inherently driven by their financial circumstances. If you don’t have a source of income and need one, then waiting for a perfect job doesn’t really make sense. Your circumstances require urgent attention. Another reason to make a case for urgency is that, typically, the longer someone stays unemployed, the longer it takes to get reemployed. Like perishable goods, your value diminishes with time.
The goal here is easy enough to figure out, but a strategy is required, and your plan for reaching your goal needs to be carried out. Wishing for a job, hoping you will get one or only talking about what you want, doesn’t make it happen. Developing a strategy for getting where you want to be will lead to the development of your plan. Although the exact details may not yet be clear, you can start by moving random thoughts from your head into something tangible. First assess your finances and know what you need to earn and when. (Not what you want, mind you, what you need.) Then assess your interests, skills and marketability. If you don’t know how marketable your skills are, you can research this on your own or get help from a career coach or mentor. Next, outline some options and research the validity of each. This research needs to be planned with your end goal in mind. Break your plan into actionable items that can be accomplished each day and enter these tasks into your calendar. Then take action immediately!
Wishing for a job, hoping you will get one or only talking about what you want, doesn’t make it happen.
While you are conducting your research, other options outside of what you have considered may surface. You could receive suggestions about possible roles that have not yet been on your radar. Having a strategy and a plan can show you what generally makes sense. Although urgency is good, recklessness and desperation are not. Taking absolutely anything when it is not connected to where you want to go can lead you away from your long-term goals. If not connected in some way to your long-term goals, the wrong role can cause intense dissatisfaction that ultimately leads to more unemployment. There really needs to be a connection between your need for income, what you do about it and how it relates to your longer-term goals. If something very relevant, doable and immediate presents itself, you need to act right away. For someone who is serious about changing their circumstances, it means making hay while the sun shines (how corny is that?) and jumping on every strong lead as if it is the only one. Why? Because you can’t turn down work or a job that hasn’t been offered! Taking your time to respond may lead to a missed opportunity.
Focusing on how a role could in some way lead to perfect is far more productive than being stuck on the fact that it is not perfect. You may not be ready or marketable for your idea of a “perfect job.” Waiting around until one turns up is wasting time. It’s much easier to move yourself in the right direction once you are off the bench and in the game. (I don’t think I’ve seen any sports teams pull people from the stands and onto the field when it was time to press forward.) That means you need to be up, prepared and on top of each lead before the next 500 people respond. It means you need to turn over every rock and give every possibility your best shot. It is only after you get an offer that you have a choice about what happens next. Once that is accomplished, you can move forward with the rest of your plan.
If you think responding with “urgency” is a few days or weeks after you learn of something, think again. It’s always been a curious thing to me that unemployed people may sleep until noon and take Mondays, Fridays and weekends off when they are down to their last dime. It’s even more curious when they have broadcast their desire for a job to anyone who will listen but end up taking days to respond to an email from someone who has offered helpful information. If this sounds like anything you could be guilty of, please rethink what you need and what you expect. Your demonstration of urgency is far more likely to gain the help of others, and your excitement to respond to an employer’s need may put you ahead of the pack. Waiting until you are done with your long weekend or vacation, or procrastinating while you “think about it,” could make your response no longer relevant.
Finally, if you are simply stuck, get help. Don’t languish in your own confusion. The clock is ticking.
If you have cultivated the belief that only the “lucky” people get the best jobs, please consider how much power you have given up and the amount of time you have wasted by believing that getting a good job is out of your control. I’m not disputing the fact that it may be more of a case of who you know than what you know, but believing that all you need is that “big break” is missing the mark. Even the best opportunities can result in a big goose egg if the people pursuing them take their relationships for granted or assume that an introduction is all that is needed.
Your connections may facilitate your leapfrogging over other candidates, but all of their praise will not substitute for your being able to articulate your value…
There is considerable work to be done, even when you do know the right people. It is still critical to make sure you show up as the most qualified, likely to fit with the team, excited and invested candidate an organization considers, regardless of how you get there. Your connections may facilitate your leapfrogging over other candidates, but all of their praise will not compensate for your being unable to articulate your value or live up to the hype that came before your meeting with the hiring team.
It is striking to me how many people still believe that all they need is “to get an interview,” with little thought of their need for preparation. The mindset that all a person needs is a fancy resume to get in front of someone and the rest of the interview process will be a wrap, sadly, still exists. To my frustration, I regularly receive after-hours emails with this request: “I have an interview tomorrow morning. Can you send me some tips?” This out-of-touch belief that getting in front of a hiring manager and ad-libbing your way through the interview process will work is as outdated as dial phones and decidedly less effective.
Maybe this analogy would help: You have always dreamed of travelling by car across country to visit historical sites. It’s the first of July and you’ve suddenly been granted three weeks of paid time off beginning the following week. Would you wait until after you start your 6,000-mile road trip to check your tires and oil, water and antifreeze levels? Would you leave without a map or a plan of what you want to see?
This may sound foolish, but not more so than accepting a referral to the hiring manager for your targeted position at your organization of choice without having prepared for the impending conversation. Regardless of how many praises were sung on your behalf, you will still be required to relate your knowledge of the organization and its mission, illustrate your value using examples of your relatable experience and explain why you left your last job or why you are changing industries/roles/directions, if that is the case. Conversations about all of these points require thoughtful preparation and are unlikely to be handled successfully if you’ve waited until the night before to think about them.
It could be your dream job, which you exactly match, leveraged by a referral from your best friend who is the brother/sister/cousin of the hiring manager — and all of this could become moot in minutes if you show up ill prepared. In addition to blowing the opportunity, you run the risk of harming the reputation of the person who referred you and burning a bridge with someone who may be very important to you. If you are wondering who would do that, I’m here to tell you that I see it every week and can only shake my head in disbelief. To avoid experiencing a less than favorable outcome, make sure you do the most you can to research, prepare and practice in advance of asking for a referral of any kind. Make sure you are ready to shine and are representing your contact well. Showing up as the “perfect fit” for the opportunity in question is a win-win for everyone.
Let’s face it – although as humans we are each unique, in the workplace, most of us are dispensable. Keeping up with what is current or relevant is difficult for people in all sectors, industries and roles. Technology changes every day, which leads to changes in demand and/or processes, and ultimately, impacts everyone in the workplace.
Change is tough for most people and tougher for some than others. Finding ways to work through it, and with it, will typically contribute to more fruitful results than choosing to buck the system, when you are faced with something new. Some changes end up being minor enough for you to simply catch on and carry on. In those cases, practicing the new step, different process or new tool will help make it familiar to you and perhaps make your work far easier in the long run.
Resisting change ultimately wastes time and energy.
Resisting change ultimately wastes time and energy. If you have seen the handwriting on the wall, it’s pragmatic to figure out your next move before you are faced with irreconcilable differences. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away and waiting only makes it more difficult to gain the inertia to make the right next move. Use the energy you still have to work on the steps you can take to move yourself in a new and perhaps even better direction.
If what you do as a function is no longer needed, then it is possible that the handwriting has been on the wall in neon letters for a long time. It’s time to take the reins back and determine what you will do about it. If you have planned ahead, then maybe retirement is a sound option. For many of us, retirement has stretched into a hazy notion of life that may occur far into the future. Financial setbacks, health issues and family crises can really change the course of things. If working for pay is still necessary, there are steps you can take that will help limit the anxiety of making a change or moving ahead. Blaming your age isn’t going to change your circumstances. Embrace who you are and what you can do today – let go of what used to be. The following tips can help you get ahead in the process.
Pay attention to what is needed. Read industry periodicals or the news. Stay on top of developments in your field and the skills that are in demand. If your skills aren’t current, training/education may be an option, or it may simply be time to see where else your skills apply. Talk to people who are doing what you think you want to do and test your assumptions.
Adjust your brand. If you’ve been known as the big man on campus but intend to scale down, then scale down your brand altogether. Adjust your image to suit the intended audience. It is not uncommon for people to move into a later-in -life career that is not as powerful as they once were. Staying with the old image can overshoot what it is you want to do. Hearing “you’re overqualified” may soothe your ego, but it isn’t going to help your pocket book if you are not offered the position you have interviewed for. You need to SOUND excited about whatever it is you will be contributing to and you need to LOOK like you are the best in class to do it. Make sure your references, friends and family are able, willing and ready to speak to the “new” brand when people inquire. If you are starting something new and have things to learn, then show how willing, able and ready you are to give it your all.
Adjust your approach. If you are downsizing, then lighten your resume. Soften your speech. Don’t overshoot what you want to do – match it. More does not automatically mean better; it can sound like “too expensive”. If only two years of experience is required, then 20 is overkill. Don’t include dated, irrelevant years. Talk about the things you want to do. If you really don’t want to manage, then don’t dwell on when you used to manage. Focus on the skills that are needed to do the job. Having more of something unrelated doesn’t make up for the lack of the basic skills that are required to do the job. Make sure you can do what they need and that you are ready.
Adjust your brain. Stepping back can mess with your head if you let it. Don’t compare yourself with what you used to do or to others that are in a different place in their lives. Embrace the direction you want to transition into whether it is moving up or moving toward retirement. If you are starting over and still want to rise to the top again, then get excited about it. The process won’t take another 20 years.
Don’t take shortcuts. Throwing resumes at jobsites rarely works for people that are transitioning into new careers or different directions. Job posts typically are written with a “check-the-box” intent. Trying to match specific experience/skills can leave you trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Talk to people. Ask questions. Find out what is needed and act sincere about your interest. Working from the inside of the company with known advocates will increase your chances of someone learning just what a great fit you can be – even if all their boxes aren’t checked.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Make the most of your contacts and conversations. Just because the information you are getting isn’t providing you with “the answer”, collect the data and look at in in a new way. Don’t dismiss leads because you think a position is too low on the totem pole. Taking a stand against something that could lead to the right path could turn out to be irreversible later.
Let go and look forward. The past is the past. You are doing you in the here and now. Who can you grow into once you have overcome the challenge at hand? Figure out how conquering an adverse situation now can help you in years to come.
The other night, a client asked me if I was in my “Plan A” job. Loosely interpreted, his question meant, is my current work experience the vision of what I really want to do? My answer required thought and a much longer answer than “yes” or “no.”
The first point I want to make is that I don’t have a “job.” I do “work.” My work can be very rewarding and satisfying. I am able to have relatively flexible hours, and I work out of my home, which is ideal for a workaholic who also wants to enjoy life. Omitting commuting time and working around traditional office hours, I am able to get work done during hours that don’t get interrupted by traffic and office politics.
The real beauty, though, is in my entire work scenario. There are many things I am able to do that are not possible through a j-o-b. Probably the most important thing is that if I find the work I am doing or the people I am working with are wearing me down or draining me of energy, I am able to do something else with someone else almost immediately. I can also implement a new process without having to go through layers of bureaucracy. Sometimes the path for acknowledging that something is draining me takes longer than it should, and the solutions are not always immediately clear, but as I go into my 19th year, I can easily say it is getting easier and easier to simply say “no” and move on to anything else that is more enjoyable. I’d like to think that my days of suffering to make a buck are behind me.
it’s never a simple decision to walk away from bad business or complex, toxic relationships
That said, it’s never a simple decision to walk away from bad business or complex, toxic relationships that may have developed. It’s not quite as bad as getting a divorce (I’ve had experience with that, too), but it sometimes can cause many of the same conflicted feelings. Did I do enough? Have I tried everything to make this work? Do I deserve to be treated this way? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Do I have to settle? Owning a business may end up creating different handcuffs than an employment scenario, but it feels like I have more options. In most cases, it is only a segment of business or a person that needs to be left behind, or a new system needs to be developed to make some part of the work easier or more palatable.
There was a time when I was questioning what I was doing. After the first ten years, I was finding I had gotten into a routine I didn’t like. I recognized that something had to change, and unlike the many jobs I had easily quit, that wasn’t the solution. It required my identifying exactly what was at the root of my zapped energy.
Working as a subcontractor for another company had produced a regular paycheck, but it sucked up considerable time in the middle of the week, and it was difficult to schedule other work around it. The work itself was somewhat satisfying, and the actual end users really seemed to appreciate my efforts, but the company I worked for was unappreciative and continued to make more demands without an increase in compensation or any recognition of the added deliverables. Walking away from this extremely draining, time-consuming contract (that paid little) was my first step. I finally let it go and just had to trust that I could continue doing similar work for people who cared. Almost immediately, my business doubled.
At 15 years, I had stopped bouncing out of bed in the morning looking forward to tackling the next thing. As I examined what really drove my decreased enthusiasm (it felt like depression at the time), I found some pretty clear culprits. I hate the ridiculous amount of detail involved with operations. Data entry, marketing, tracking dates and invoicing are some examples of the tasks that involve managing endless minutiae. Other issues, such as constantly having to nag people to remember commitments and working with people who showed little respect or appreciation for my time, really brought me down. Although these points were easy to identify, the process for changing things took a while.
It finally became clear that for me to focus on the fun stuff, I needed help. So my next step was hiring an assistant to take on the truly annoying administrative tasks I face each day so I could invest energy in what I enjoy most. It wasn’t a magic fix, and it took time to learn which things were easy to turn over and which things I might as well do because it took far less time to do them than explain each. Anything with nuances that could change from time to time were better left on my plate. The more static processes or marketing that was separate from my work have been off-loaded. Not everything that supports my work has been turned over, but I have definitely been able to free up enough time to dedicate to the fun stuff. The changes have been gradual. As I see more ways to off-load things, I am also able see a ray of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. My work energizes me once again.
The message I want to send out to the universe is: if you are doing work you don’t like, figure out why. Finding a new job may not be the answer. Finding new/different work or changing how you do the work you are currently doing could be the change that saves you from a fruitless job search. You may find that you can build on a foundation you have already laid and move forward outside of your current role. The clues to what will make you happy will transcend employers, jobs and venues. Take the time to think bigger and further into the future. And of course, I can help you with that.
If you have felt powerless over your work, career or life in general, it might be time for you to look long and hard at your goals and how you approach them. Creating your own personal and professional goals, and establishing a process for accomplishing them, protects you from going completely into a ditch when you hit an icy patch in the road. Having a framework that requires only tweaking rather than rebuilding from scratch when things change will set the stage for you to recover quickly should the bottom fall out of your situation.
It is certainly possible that an employer can influence your path when a company changes course, and market conditions or customers’ needs (or lack thereof) can also cause an abrupt change in direction for the business owner who takes their eyes off the ball. Nevertheless, although challenging, you can learn to refuse to allow outside influences to keep you from attaining your goals or living your best life. Bumps in the road occur, but that doesn’t mean you are powerless.
It’s important to take the bull by the horns and commit to what you want. Setbacks may prevent you from achieving your goals in the time frame you had originally anticipated, but they don’t need to cause you to give up on those goals entirely. Blaming the economy, your employer or your customers won’t get you anywhere. Taking stock of what you need to do and establishing realistic timelines for accomplishing the necessary tasks to move forward will put the control back in your hands.
Here are some basic guidelines for ensuring you can stay on track:
Write out your goals. This is information you need to see every day. “Keeping it in your head” is a surefire recipe for forgetting what is important when temporary setbacks distract you.
Commit. Assign realistic timelines for accomplishing each goal.
Be realistic. Examine the timelines you have set and review all of your other commitments required on or by the same dates. Don’t cut off more than you can chew.
Break them down. Break the larger goals into achievable objectives. Establish timelines for each of the objectives you need to meet that will ensure you are on track to achieving your goals.
Write everything down. Think through each objective completely and identify every task associated with accomplishing it. Don’t assume anything. Unless you identify exactly what needs to get done and when, you run the risk of missing critical components that will move you forward.
Review your schedule in advance. Be aware of your commitments. Don’t pile on tasks that aren’t likely to get done because of prior commitments.
Be flexible. A critical piece to ensuring you will accomplish your goals is being able to adjust to the real- life events that pop up and can derail you. Move timelines. Rearrange activities. Don’t drop everything and turn your quest into a losing proposition by attempting to hang on to a plan that can’t work.
Own your reactions. Put your catcher’s mitt on and field the curve balls that get thrown your way. Avoid choosing “victim” status when external influences cause you to change your plans. Rethink your priorities and adjust your timelines.
Be accountable for your progress. Make sure you are getting all of your tasks accomplished in the prescribed time frames to allow you to move forward with the next objective. Identify a method for monitoring your progress that will keep you motivated to do what you need to do. Avoid making excuses for not getting things done and learn to reassign tasks that are not completed for days/times when they can be accomplished. For example, you might want to draw up a contract with yourself or enlist an accountability partner who will hold your feet to the fire. Or do both and share your contract with your accountability partner.
Every year people make resolutions that are distant memories by the end of February. Don’t fall into the same old pattern. Make a commitment for what you want in your life and make sure you are following through with the actions required to get you there. You have the biggest stake in accomplishing your goals. Shouldn’t you be the one to be accountable for that?
You may have found the past year has been riddled with indecision and apprehension regarding many important issues: the economy, jobs, politics, healthcare, and government spending, to name a few. The list could go on forever. This past year left many people feeling somewhat out of control. In response to everything that was up in the air in December, you may have made a concerted effort to create goals for the New Year that only you can control the progress on. Before we get fully underway in the New Year, it’s a good idea to identify last year’s personally painful points and set up remedies for this year. The following are some questions to ask yourself. Did you:
- Start out with good intentions but found out your resolutions fizzled by March?
- Make promises but didn’t keep them?
- Find yourself with unmet goals?
- Remain at the same dumb job?
- Make excuses throughout the year for why things didn’t change?
- Feel powerless to change your circumstances?
If you experienced any of the issues listed above last year, then decide now to face things differently this year. It’s up to you to choose how you will respond to obstacles that prevent you from achieving your goals. Here are ten tips for improving your outcomes this year:
- Make a commitment. This year, make yourself accountable. Break your goals into objectives, set due dates and develop action plans to accomplish your goals.
- Flex to demand. When circumstances change, reevaluate. Don’t continue with the same old plan if it is no longer applicable. If an urgent opportunity arises that allows you to reach a goal sooner, adjust your schedule and make the time to address it. Don’t let something pass you by because you were functioning under the same old SOPs (standard operating procedures).
- Avoid complacency. Don’t allow yourself to get comfortable. Just as old, broken in shoes can end up leading to foot, back or knee pain, staying in the same state of mind or circumstances can lead to more severe repercussions. A career can be stalled, a reputation damaged and skills decline. Make sure every day is committed to moving forward and out of the same old rut, no matter how comfortable it has become.
- Keep up the momentum. Have a plan for each day, week and month. That doesn’t mean sticking with something come hell or high water. Have a plan so you know where to direct your efforts and monitor it weekly to make sure it is still relevant. Keep looking forward. Find a progress buddy to help you remain accountable.
- Stay healthy. Don’t wait until something happens before you pay attention to your body. Engage in healthful activities and eating habits. Take precautions to avoid illnesses that occur from lack of attention. Get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat healthy foods and make sure you have some sort of plan for exercise that you will sustain.
- Don’t take no for an answer. If you have been turned away, rebuffed or passed over, then think of another approach. You can’t change another person’s actions, but you can change your own. Analyze what happened and try something new. Don’t let someone else decide what you can or cannot accomplish.
- Get comfortable with change. Change impacts everyone, every day, everywhere. You can’t hide from it or avoid it. If things aren’t going the way you want, don’t make excuses. Change your strategy, change your thinking or change your reaction.
- Pay attention. You don’t have to believe everything you read, but reading nothing only causes you to be unaware. Insulating yourself from the reality others are facing can cause a disconnect when meeting new people or pursuing new opportunities. Be aware of current events, industry changes, area growth/decline and popular issues. The more aware you are of what is going on around you, the more you can participate in general conversations.
- Engage. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, people lover or people hater, people and conversations will be contributing factors to what you do and where you go. Learn about others’ needs and wants by asking questions and showing interest. Amazing results may follow when someone believes you actually care about them.
- Get over yourself. If you have hung on to a perception of yourself that no longer works, examine why. You might laugh when you hear celebrities refer to others as being “relevant” (or not), but honestly, have you looked in the mirror? Our own unrealistic perceptions of ourselves can prevent us from achieving our goals as much as having a positive, honest, realistic perception can help us achieve them. Which would you choose?
If these tips motivated you to change even one thing going into the New Year, please let us know!
Tags: career, career goal, Career management, career plan, career planning, goal planning, goal setting, goals, job hunt, job hunting, job search, managing priorities, managing time, reach career goals, time management