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.
There will never be more than 24 hours in a day. No matter how much we hope, wish or pray, it just can’t happen. The issue with casually brushing something off to do “later,” at an undetermined “better time,” is that it often becomes assurance it won’t get done at all.
For many people, procrastination seems like it is done unconsciously, but it really is a conscious decision or choice not to do something. When you make the decision to wait until later, you may have very good intentions. But unless you know when “later” is, the circumstances around whatever it is you are putting off can change. Delays can make an action more complicated or no longer relevant. Delays can cost you money and help you lose your credibility. If you are planning to follow up on a lead of any kind, waiting until later could turn into a missed opportunity.
For the most part, a delay is usually caused by a situation that could have been addressed differently or sooner.
Procrastination is a pet peeve of mine. It’s because too many times I witness people create considerable stress around a situation that just didn’t have to play out that way. I also witness people miss opportunities to get their foot in the door, have a conversation with the person they were hoping to meet or miss a deadline for applying for a once in a life time role. These delays rarely happen because something else of huge importance stood in the way or a crisis caused them. It’s more frequently because people simply choose to put things off. I’ve heard some really creative excuses, but for the most part, a delay is usually caused by a situation that could have been addressed differently or sooner. Many times the delay in doing something else suddenly becomes an issue and causes a delay in accomplishing what was really important. And so it goes …
As an example, it’s the middle of April as I write this, and I am stunned by how many people waited until this week to do their taxes. The need to do their taxes took time away from their marketing efforts, job search efforts and their ability to concentrate on preparing for upcoming interviews or conversations with key decision makers. (Is this really the first time you’ve ever had to file taxes? Is it a surprise that April 15 comes every year?)
Overall, this kind of procrastination sets someone up for a zero percent chance of winning and ultimately contributes to low self-esteem. It isn’t pleasant to hear someone complain about their unemployment or lack of customers at the same time we see opportunity slipping by because the complainer hasn’t followed up on leads we’ve given them. Letting the ball drop and complaining about the outcome is just not a good look.
The good news for anyone who has a habit of putting things off is that you can change your habit! If whatever you have been doing isn’t working, then try some very simple changes:
Use a calendar. Stop adding things indiscriminately to a “to-do” list that never gets done. Make a commitment for doing something and plug it into your calendar when you are really likely to be able to do it. Then do it!
Get realistic. Keep track of how long regular events, tasks, actions take so you are able to plan for the right amount of time to get them done in the future. Pay attention. How many times must you take the same route and arrive late to figure out that you needed to leave earlier?
Plan further ahead. There is some consistency with most people being aware of their next vacation time and being fully committed to being gone. Yet it’s funny that, when asking about a business or other less “fun” kind of commitment, the response is “I’m not sure what my schedule will be like.” If you can plan your vacation a year ahead, you can surely use the same process to plan for important meetings or completing delinquent projects.
Break big projects into smaller pieces. When you are faced with big projects (like taxes), plan ahead to begin working on them a little at a time. Don’t wait until the “right” time to finish something that requires 4-6 hours. It won’t happen. Planning 30 minutes to an hour, several times over a course of months, is much easier to manage.
Stop whining. We all have 24 hours. That’s it. Can’t have more. Whining only takes up more time. Start looking at solutions for the things that are preventing you from doing all that you want.