Once again, it’s time for me to check in and rant a bit. I have to admit: I’ve committed a cardinal sin in blogging! I haven’t been updating my blog frequently and, for that, I am deeply sorry. Life can come at you fast and hard. Families grow, projects are reborn, priorities change, and stuff happens. The road that has taken me here has allowed me to take a step back and really see the big picture.
It’s no secret that this brutal economy has been unforgiving to many of us. I know I’ve had plenty of times where I was just hanging onto the ropes, hoping the elusive big break would come along. I’ve had even more occasions where I should have taken my own advice. Sadly, many Americans are using these times are crutch. Please, please, please do not fall into this trap. It’s easy to write things off as “bad luck” and externalize everything but that only keeps us from doing truly remarkable things.
The whole business about there being no jobs out there is hogwash. It’s just something people tell themselves to justify them staying at a job they hate or giving up on working all together. The truth is that most job seekers are not keeping their options open. You can’t be too picky in this kind of economy. In fact, volunteering your services for free may be the best move you can make. The trick is keeping your skills sharp, meeting people, and making a name for yourself. When you get the word out and make strong impressions, your name will spread out faster than with even a resume blast. So what do I suggest there? Go to business events/trade shows and join professional organizations. LinkedIn is a pretty good start but that’s a whole long discussion right there.
I’m toying with a rough draft of a book that will address this and many adjacent issues but the problem we have here is simple: people have lost hope. We’ve forgotten how to dream big. We’ve let the negativity of others bring out the worst in us. We’ve bought into lies and empty promises. The end result: we are jaded and don’t believe things can get any better.
The truth is that we all have great potential but it all starts with belief. That belief breeds hope and hope ultimately incites passion. If what you’re doing doesn’t make you passionate or you just don’t feel accomplished, you’re not living life, you’re just existing. But I suppose that last consideration is for another discussion… Let’s discuss some of the little things that help us get out of those bad spots in our lives, shall we?
Pardon me while I step off the soapbox. What I have here are some simple thoughts on re-inventing yourself, surviving tough times, and embracing the new rules of job searching. Let’s go through it step-by-step:
- Focus On Your Dreams. I believe that most Americans have forgotten how to dream. The average American feels that a good dream is one that is materialistic and full of the usual “get rich and famous” pipe dreams. The truth is that a dream should be much greater than that. A dream should be something so vivid and unique that you can’t lose sight of it; after all, if we all had the same dreams, how special would we feel when we all got to the same place? Dream big to keep you motivated and focused. If you are looking to get out of the corporate “rat race”, then your dreams must be even bigger. Once you have the ultimate goal or goals in place, it is much easier to figure out what stepping stones will help you get to where you want to be.
- Take Inventory. It’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming the world for your problems. It may very well be that you have an unusual set of circumstances and unfortunate adversity to face; however, you can’t control the unpredictable. You can, however, control your own actions and attitude. It takes a personal decision to determine whether you want to be driven by purpose, principle, people, or pressure. Once you make the decision to stop firefighting and become more purpose and/or principle-driven, take inventory of yourself and your available resources. While it’s always great to rely on your support network, consider all the skills, talents, traits, and assets you possess and figure out what you can fix within those things to better your chances of making a good impression on the people that can help serve as a catalyst for a happier tomorrow. Let’s face it: even if you are a self-starting, super-talented DIYer, we all need people to help us out at some point or other. It’d be a good idea to become someone worth being around, at the very least – ditch the negativity and self-pity so that you can project a better positive self-image (while not being a narcissist in the process, of course)!
- Revive Your Network. In our instant society, people have forgotten the little things that brought warmth to human interaction. Many of us favor instant messaging over telephone calls. Millions of cell phones around the world have become glorified text messaging devices. Some of us may not even remember how to write a letter, let alone how much a stamp costs. In the mix of things, we’ve lost touch with the world around us. The hustle-and-bustle of daily life has given us all a proverbial Get Out Of Jail Free card when it comes to “checking in” with colleagues, friends, and family alike; thus, everyone loses touch and nobody thinks to take the initiative to open up the lines of communication again. Sadly, the only time we remember old contacts is when we need to sell something (sometimes ourselves) or be introduced to “friends of friends”. For these very reasons, reviving your network is a key strategy but not something easily done. Ideally, you want to cultivate your warm network and expand organically but that takes time.. time you may not really have. If you’re like me and you have often been written off as M.I.A. or “on sabbatical”, you may want to just be honest about your current pursuits and intentions. People will appreciate that. Of course, one hands washes the other so, if you ask for help from your network, be sure to offer your own freely – it’s only fair!
- Find The Inside Guys. Usually, one’s warm market can lead to many key contacts but, in the case that it does not, finding the inside guys becomes more taxing. Truly, this should probably at the top of the list but you need the right attitude and a game plan before you can go for the money. Inside guys are those folks that salespeople refer to as “decision makers”. Anyone that has any pull in a company is someone you want to befriend. The painful reality here is that you can have all the credentials in the world but, without someone on the inside to vouch for you, you’re likely just going to become part of a faceless crowd that’s trying to squeeze into an elevator. You have tons of competition and the elevator only has a capacity of one person. Get to the inside guy and you can cut in front of the crowd and maybe even get on the fast track to a promotion and your dream job!
- Do Some Research. Whether you are a veteran in your field or looking to start something completely different, you want to do some research on your target industry or industries. This applies to those getting into business for themselves or looking to become a star player for someone else’s business. The competitive landscape changes daily, if not hourly. We all could use some personal revision every now and then. Now, you can’t always be ahead of the curve but you can be better prepared than those that simply “roll with the punches” or just assume that things never change. I recommend subscribing to free newsletters, bookmarking industry journals, creating professional blogrolls, and reading publications regularly. Many of these efforts are free and, if you do it regularly, you won’t be overwhelmed by all the changes and new trends out there. Surely, there are many businessmen out there that are one-trick dogs. Some of them are quite successful but their success is limited because they don’t take measured risks. With proper research, you can know when to hold them and when to fold them. The beautiful thing here is that there is essentially nothing a good search engine will not uncover.
- Make Some Calls. This goes back to human interaction and bringing back warmth to communication. Committing to a minimum amount of calls each day and ideally setting aside specific times each day for follow-ups is much more productive than spending all day blindly mailing people and applying to jobs online. The same goes for direct mail and public advertising – do not count on suh methods! As a general rule of thumb, mass advertising of any sort gets the least amount of results. When you’re a large corporation with millions of dollars to squander, a 1% ROI (Return On Investment) is fantastic but, when you’re the “little guy”, that’s not much to bank on. Stay productive by talking to movers, shakers, and decision makers; that is, talk to the people that are where you want to be or genuinely can help you get there. In some cases, this may include consultants and recruiters but be wary of self-proclaimed experts – use their counsel as a last resort! Most importantly, if you reach out to someone electronically or via some automatic/impersonal method, be sure to follow up with a phone call or a letter, at the very least. Remember your phone etiquette and all the things you dread when you receive a phone call from an unknown number…
- Go Door To Door. When all else fails or you decide to make things REALLY personal (in a good way), nothing beats going door to door. Dress to impress always applies but do not forget that you do not want to overdress nor do you want to be a slob. More importantly, you want to be mindful of body language or misrepresenting yourself. A little piece of me dies each time someone recommends that an applicant remove all his/her piercings, hide the tattos, or conceal their birthmarks. Really? If there are things that are part of the everyday you, you should not be masking them.
- Never Give Up. The old saying “you have to stay in it to win it” is very much true. Much too many people are quick to blame everything but themselves when a job search fails. The truth is, most people give up early in their job search efforts. It’s not uncommon for people to invest two or three solid weeks of effort into the job hunt before deciding that there just isn’t anything out there.
- Set Aside Me Time. It’s very easy to see the time in between jobs as a mini-vacation and that’s not necessarily a bad thing so long as you keep your priorities in check. It’s even easier for loved ones to see your lack of a job, project, or major endeavor as “free time”. For this very reason, you must make it a point to set up your hours of availability. This is a good general practice because it allows you a little time to be selfish and productive. You can also use this time to meditate, brainstorm, or just catch up on sleep. In fact, the latter is key. It’s better to take a power nap or two during the day than to pull all-nighters and reduce the quality of your work. That being said, my recommendation is to try to take advantage of normal hours by getting up early and syncing up with the rest of the world, even if you are a night owl like me. You’ll find that more people are available when you need them most and you’ll have more time to allow for unexpected interruptions, breaks, and the like. The key strategy here is to simply let those closest you know when you are absolutely, positively busy and inaccessible. In large households, this is quite challenging so try to appoint deputies, delegate responsibilities, and offload unnecessary busy work so that you can focus on the things that truly require your own personal attention.
- Live The Life. You’ll find that in just about any industry, business, role, or workplace there are common threads that bind successful people. As an example (and perhaps a silly stereotype), look at any executives and senior-level employees that you may know personally or through a personal contact. Chances are they all get together for major conferences, business mixers, seminars, workshops, and rounds of golf. They may also be members/contributors of /for the same organizations, country clubs, charities, etc. Once you develop an awareness of these things, you may come to appreciate more of the unwritten traits that give people status, credibility, and noteworthiness. In short, you have to fake it ’til you make it. If you’re a non-conformist, believe me, I can relate but the corporate game has some rules that are very hard not to play by (if you’re in it to win it).
- Visualize Your Happiness/Success. Meditation, whiteboarding, and journal-keeping are all great methods I employ to help visualize things. Perhaps you are not a visual person or you prefer more abstract things – that’s great too! What you want to do is make your plans as concrete as possible. Now you’re not just dreaming things up – you’re bringing them to life! This is where the difference between having a general idea of where you want your life to be and having a complete blueprint for your future comes in. Whatever tools work for you, use them. Sticky notes, giant calendars, PDAs, flowcharts.. The list goes on and on.
- Enjoy Yourself. While I did say having some time to yourself is great, don’t forget to take advantage of the fact that you don’t have a job to keep a stranglehold on your schedule. You have total control (within boundaries) so feel free to spoil yourself a bit and enjoy the things in life that you may have previously taken for granted. As long as you pursue quality things in your life and not just frivolous, fleeting moments of gratuitous fun, you’ll find that you’ll be much more refreshed and eager to get back to work.
These steps should help anyone looking for major change in their lives. I hope that, in my own personal pursuits, I can spread more inspiring messages. Finding your calling is tough. There are many things that I am passionate about so I feel spread thin at times. It happens. It’s better to keep busy than just sit idly by, I say.
I can’t reiterate this point enough: if you don’t expand your search and keep at it, you will not find a job. The simple reality is that, no matter how qualified you are, getting a [good] job will be a mission. It’s not just about how much time you put in but also about the quality of time invested. Pursue solid leads and avoid unnecessary busy work so you don’t burn out or delve further into “negative nelly” territory.
Good luck to all that have hit hard times. Hang in there. Better times are around the corner but you simply can’t lose hope!
P.S. In the midst of retyping drafts for this blog entry, I have encountered countless job hunters and magical solution providers. What did I learn? At least 95% of job seekers are doing traditional resume-driven job applications or applying online. Ironically, this approach maybe accounts for 5% of job placement in America today. Yowch.
Many sources I have consulted with point to this simple bit of common sense: if you want different results, do something different. Instead of going to the major job web sites or the Department of Labor, try local newspapers, business conferences, and the Chamber of Commerce. There are countless things that can be used in place of resume blasting. Don’t get me wrong: resumes still matter but, in a time when people can simply Google your name or look up an online directory to find out all your vitals, you need more tools in place to work for you proactively.
Another thing I will reiterate once again is this: working a job is not for everyone. Some of us are built to follow orders while some of us are natural-born leaders. While everyone may like to have freedom of having their own business, not everyone is truly equipped for such an endeavor. If you happen to be one of the few that is truly passionate and prepared for the world of true independence, the rewards can be great. Just remember: you always have to report to or work for someone.. to a degree, at least.
To my friends that have often been quoted saying “there are no jobs [in this town]”, I’m sorry if my article has offended you. I am not calling anyone out. All I can say is that, in the end, job hunting is a daily grind, a conscious ongoing effort, to reach for better things and improve yourself. You may not immediately find your dream job but, if you have set a realistic course to get there, the next job you find may very well be a catalyst for getting there.
The key here, above all, is to remember that this is about a whole lot more than finding a job. Fixing your life starts with laying down the right foundation: a positive attitude, a spirit of giving, and unmoving faith/belief. It all comes around full circle. People also need to realize that you have to try unconventional means to get unusual results. Traditional resume-driven and online job searches only account for a small percentage of placement yet they continue to be the most popular methods.
The reality of things is that we all have an online resume which is effectively the culmination of all our Internet activity. It’s scary how much people can find out about us after the initial impression is made. When inconsistencies arise, red flags pop up and people go running. This is how we burn bridges and lose allies. The big picture here is that there’s more to improving our lives than just finding a good job, launching a successful business, or establishing a solid career. True happiness lies within us. Fix what you can in your perspective and attitude, then reap the benefits of your labor. It may sound like a hippy belief but that’s the real-deal Holyfield.
P.P.S. According to the media, the recession is over and more jobs are being created than we have seen in a while. Yet unemployment rates continue to increase. I look at this as the usual pattern of things. There will always be ups and downs with the economy. I believe what hurt us most this time around was the preemptive panic and exaggerations. For this very reason, it’s important to note the importance of having faith or at least being very spiritual.
Perhaps your personal re-invention may involve a spiritual awakening or rebirth. I am by no means a chest beater or Bible thumper so I won’t preach to you and bore you to death. I will say that believing in the unseen and living a deeply spiritual life has helped me out of quite a few jams. Faith gives you a perspective that even sound logic and proven science alike can often fail to provide.
When you live a spiritual life, hope is abundant, every turn has good news, and self-reflection becomes much easier. When you believe that better things are around the corner and are thankful for what you do have, things don’t seem so bad anymore. Like I always say, it’s all in the ‘tude. Shift your perspective and your purpose becomes more tangible!
True wealth resides in being happy with what you have but never settling for less than your best or becoming complacent. Knowledge and wisdom are easily the greatest treasures one can ever attain, as are the alliances we forge with people that take interest in our true selves.