Unemployment, the Economy, and Work You Love

HOPE by DieselDemon
HOPE, a photo by DieselDemon on Flickr.

With 7.9% unemployment nationally in early November, this is a tough time to be looking for work you love.

Even during the best economic times, the search for your vocation challenges you emotionally. It requires you to mend holes in your self-confidence. You have to keep stirring up energy when you’re tired and want to relax.

But if you’ve lost your job you may need to take whatever work you can find. You’re scared. You come to feel that you must settle and will not be able to move into your true career after all.

So let’s clarify something: claiming your career usually happens in stages.

Do you believe that people jump from no work or boring work to something ideal? Let go of this belief and the pressure it puts on you. Instead, keep clarifying what you want. The clearer you are, the more you’re able to look for a job with at least some of the things you want.

Once you’re in that job, see if you can build on the parts you like to create something that’s closer to your best fit. You’ll find tasks that you not only do well but also make you shine because of how much you enjoy them. Take every opportunity to practice these skills.

Think about what your organization needs and then demonstrate how your talents can solve its problems and increase its productivity. Jobs can be surprisingly flexible. Point out to your boss how you can help the company more by moving into what you love to do. You’ll probably be able do so.

Each step you take to improve that survival job makes you realize that you really can create the career you want. Each step gives you valuable experience. Each step shows you that you’re really not at the mercy of outside events. Even in this economy you can still have work you love.

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Your Career and Your Relationship With Money

Spending Money by 401(K) 2012
Spending Money, a photo by 401(K) 2012 on Flickr.

The beliefs and feelings we hold about work are intertwined with our attitudes about money. What a complicated soup! Many of us feel that making a lot of money is more important than practically anything else, certainly more important than something as abstract as “happiness.” Others stay in a job earning far below their potential and maintain a vague sense that they don’t deserve wealth or that money is somehow a bad thing.

Where do these attitudes come from and why do they have such a hold on us? Generally we form our beliefs when we’re children. We soak up messages from the adults around us, especially the unspoken ones. Before starting kindergarten, children already have a strong sense about money, richer people, poorer people.

Even if we change our opinions about money in adulthood, strong feelings that get instilled in childhood are deeply rooted. And few things touch on our feelings as powerfully as money. This is especially true in American culture, where money holds a central place and we evaluate each other by how much of it we have.

What beliefs did you develop about money at a young age, and how do they affect your current career position? You can get insight about this by thinking and writing about a few questions:

  • What did your father believe about money? Your mother?
  • How about your aunts, uncles and grandparents?
  • The kids at school — who was well off, who wasn’t, and how did you feel about each?
  • Was your community middle class? Affluent? Poor? A mixture?

In the coming weeks we’ll be looking at the story of a woman named Cheryl, whose early lessons about money had everything to do with her career. Cheryl’s family members were outspoken about money and wealth, and their actions spoke even more loudly. And they certainly had their opinions about work.

We’ll join Cheryl just after she is laid off from a career that has been draining her energy. She’ll move from there kicking and screaming to an exploration of what she really wants to do with her life and a new sense of freedom.

The Job Interview: When Your Last Job Done You Wrong

P47A by Symic
P47A, a photo by Symic on Flickr.

Now we’re going to talk about a most important rule for job interviews: never ever criticize your former employer.

I don’t care if the organization lurched around like a ship of doom with no rudder. I don’t care if your boss teased small caged animals.

Never let me hear that you’ve badmouthed an employer.

This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people slip into this when they’re feeling nervous. Especially if you were let go, you want people to think that the other party was to blame, not you.

You may well have had to quit to keep your sanity, your health or your integrity, and you hate to think that a job interviewer would see you as a flake.

You can get around whatever happened in your last job and come out looking like a mature person if you speak respectfully about your former employer. Talk about how you came to realize that you and the organization were not a good fit. Talk about how you’ll be a better employee now because of what you learned from the experience. Just be careful not to say too much.

Your interviewer is not stupid; he or she will read between the lines. They know that organizational weirdness happens a lot.

They’ll also be impressed by your composure and know that if they give you a job, you won’t go around someday telling everybody that you work for a bunch of losers.

If you did play a big part in the conflict between yourself and your former employer, you need to figure out what happened and take responsibility for changing. We usually have some role in a relationship that ends badly. Figure out where and why your behavior was less than optimal. You’ll then be able to authentically speak in a balanced way about why you left or were let go.

Kvetch about your former employer with your friends, unless they’re already sick of hearing about it. Then let it go. Walk into the job interview fresh, feeling optimistic about the potential for good things to happen. And if I see that former boss of yours, I’ll blow a raspberry at ‘em and let them see how it feels.

Comments, please: How have you gotten past a bad experience with an employer?

A Manifesto

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

The Job Interview: A Relationship

You might feel anything between mild jitters to flat out dread as you anticipate a job interview. You may wonder if you’ll sound stupid, if you’ll stutter, if the interviewer will approve of you as a human being.

But a job interview isn’t an evaluation. It’s a relationship.

Both of you need something. You are there to negotiate whether it sounds like your valuable skills and energy will help them accomplish something that’s important to them.

You are peers. They wouldn’t be talking to you if they weren’t impressed.

“But will I live up to expectations?” That’s the wrong question. What’s more important for you to ask is: How can I add something positive to this person’s day?

Pay attention to the emotional climate as the two of you talk. If you’re intrigued, that’s a good sign. Do you like this person? Or not so much? Do you feel some excitement? Does the interviewer seem to feel some excitement? Or, is something not quite right?

You really don’t want to give them the wrong person for the job. That would serve no one. Do that and you’ll find yourself stuck in a situation that drains your energy. You could be off doing something that suits you, and doing it well. Instead, you’d have to do work you’re not cut out for. That would wear down your confidence and you’d start to feel that you really don’t have too much to offer. At the inevitable next job interview you’d feel even more insecure.

You also wouldn’t be giving them what they deserve.

You will have a relationship with the person interviewing you, maybe brief, maybe long term. This meeting of two people is what is important, not trying to package and sell yourself.

Take this opportunity to extend good will to this other person, not so that they’ll like you and give you a job but because they deserve it. You deserve the good feeling you’ll get by giving them the little gift of wishing them well.

Please comment!

Good Strong Self Esteem

Flower & pot by Vijay Sonar
Flower & pot, a photo by Vijay Sonar on Flickr.

Most of us grapple with self esteem to some degree. During a career search process, your self esteem may take more of a beating, especially if you’re looking for work because you were downsized or laid off.

If your self-esteem is low, how do you get more? How can you feel good about yourself when you don’t feel good about yourself?

Self esteem comes naturally and without effort as you develop the ability to see yourself clearly. At your core, you are wise, powerful, and in possession of many talents. At your core, you know you’re ok. More than ok. This is still true even if it doesn’t feel true. Bringing this to mind builds your self esteem.

If you don’t feel very wise, powerful or talented at the moment, think about all the amazing things your body and mind know how to do. Something within you knows how to heal up a cut on your hand. You knew how to crawl and learn language when you were a baby. You keep your body going by breathing, digesting your food, and growing your toenails without even thinking about it. That very brain of yours that can drive you crazy worrying about your work situation also brings you pleasure by processing information and instructions at the speed of light. How could you do anything except admire this person?

Your body, mind and spirit are very capable of figuring out a career path for you that will let you love your work, pay your bills and bring you meaning. Trust yourself. Trust your wisdom. Trust your creativity.

If you want to do something concrete to build your self esteem, get out your paper and pen (or get on your keyboard). Here are a few things you can write about that are guaranteed to make you feel better about yourself. If these ideas seem trite to you, too bad! Do this exercise anyway!

  1. Make a list of at least ten things you’re grateful for. Ideally, fill up the page with these things.
  2. Fill up a page writing about the amazing things your body and brain automatically do without your trying.
  3. Write about some kind and generous things you’ve done.
  4. List at least 20 things you’re good at doing.
  5. Write out what your family and friends would say if asked what your best qualities are.

Please share with us in the “Comments” section about what effects these writing exercises have on your self esteem!

Facebook: Profiles and Pages and Business — Oh My!

Posters Vintage by Camila Leite Oliveira
Posters Vintage, a photo by Camila Leite Oliveira on Flickr.

Wait — I thought Facebook is the site for watching cute cat videos, reading political rants, and generally having fun. But, you say, it can also be a non-intrusive way to promote a small business? And many Facebook users actually seek out business information there because of how useful and fun it can be?

Let’s look for starters at the difference between a personal Profile and a business Page. To be able to talk with other people and share those cat videos, you must first create a personal Profile. You share a little information about yourself, find some Friends, post your status updates and you’re good to go.

If you have a business, you can create a business Page to communicate with current and potential customers. You don’t say much or anything about yourself here, but rather talk about your products and services. In fact, a Page is the only place you can promote them. If someone tries to use their personal Profile for business purposes, Facebook might delete their account.

A good example of a business Page comes from Zingerman’s, one of the most popular businesses in my town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. If you go to their Page, the first thing you’ll notice is all the scrumptious (and beautifully photographed) pictures of their food. Lots of people comment on their Page about their famous sandwiches. Scroll down and you’ll see announcements for upcoming tastings and events.

If you have a business Page, you’ll want to encourage people to visit regularly. One way Zingerman’s does this is by printing photos of people wearing their t-shirts.

Zingerman’s may want to fix something — if you click on the “Welcome!” box directly below their top photo, you get a “Page Not Found” message. Oops.

If you’d like to see other examples of business Pages, go to the Search bar on the Facebook site (to the right of the Facebook logo at the top) and type in some keywords — shoes, pastries, whatever you’d like to see.

Comments, please:

Do you have a Facebook business Page? If so, tell us about it and please send the link!

How do you think a business Page could help your business?