Persistence is a big part of success. Whether you're looking for a new job or trying to change careers, it's easy to find negative advice. The Internet is filled with experts who can give countless (bad) reasons why you will fail. However, if you're doing the right thing and you believe in yourself, success is almost always possible (See The Dip by Seth Godin).
Thomas Jefferson captured this idea in these words: "When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."
Martin Luther King is a great model for anyone who wants to change careers. King was a minister and could have stayed in his church. He would have done good work and helped many people. However, he had a higher calling. The minister became a champion for civil rights, and he changed history.
King's own words are invaluable for anyone looking to change careers or make any major change in life: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
I changed careers when I turned 40. That was 14 years ago. There were plenty of starts and stops, interviews that felt like a waste of time. Finally I found a place to start my new career. Several of my clients have had similar experiences. As Dr. King said, "faith" is the key. If we believe in ourselves, we'll see the "whole staircase" and find our new path.
A client came to see me just before Christmas. He was a college sophomore looking for an internship. I asked where he wanted to be an intern. Without hesitating, he rattle off the three top companies in the field where he wants to work. He called me today to say that he’ll begin an internship with one of those companies this May. How did he do it? He studied the market and demonstrated that he had what the company was looking for. More importantly, he had enough faith in himself to try. Yes, college students and recent grads are in a tough job market. However, those who are smart in how they look for work can still be very successful. The first step is to look in the mirror and tell yourself: I can do it.
I’m not a fan of Tim Tebow as a quarterback or a preacher. However, the young man has some outstanding qualities that anyone looking for work would be wise to imitate. First, Tebow doesn’t stop because things don’t go his way. He has tremendous faith (I mean that word in a non-religious sense) that he will succeed. Second, Tebow seems unaffected by some of the most vicious criticism I’ve heard in 35 years as a sports fan. Finally, he is a winner – 7-1 since taking over as starter for the Broncos.
What can a job seeker take from this example? Keep faith in yourself. Don’t get down when other criticize you. Win! This all sounds simple when put in words. Every job search is a struggle. Having faith in yourself and standing up in the face of rejection is part of finding a new job. We need to stay strong and stay focused on the win.
Do I think Tim Tebow have a long career as a quarterback? Probably not. But his attitude will lead to success in some other field, probably coaching. Whatever you think of his play and proselytizing, let his confidence and courage fire up your job search.
[“Sabbath” is Career Calling’s Sunday feature that explores how work impacts all aspects of our lives.]
The Work of Faith
Whether or not one is religious, Easter is a good day to think about faith – and how it works in our lives. For many people, religious faith defines their lives. All of us – even atheists – use faith as a tool in the work of our lives.
In the most simple definition, faith is the act of accepting something without evidence or certainty. In personal and professional relationships, we often act in faith that our partners will do the right thing. We don’t know what challenges or opportunities the future will put before us. The company that was home for 20 years surprises us with a pink slip. The husband or wife who would never cheat is caught in an affair. The can’t miss investment misses.
Faith disappoints as often, maybe more often, than it rewards. Even so, we can’t live without it. John Lennon said, “Life happens while we’re busy making plans.” The plans are what we hope will happen. We adjust to the disappointments and move on. Sometimes, the sadness is too deep and faith turns to anger or despair. We’ve all met people who can’t let go of the hurt. At it’s deepest level, this sorrow manifests itself in suicide, which Albert Camus called, “an act of the heart,” the heart that has lost hope.
About a year ago, all of the wise people told us the sky was falling. We were entering a second Great Depression. So far, these wise people have been wrong. GDP is positive, the stock market is back at pre-crisis level, and this month there was finally a net gain in jobs. During the real Great Depression, FDR challenged American with the words, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear is faith turned inside out. Rather than believing things will turn out well, we convince ourselves that the worst will happen. The media loves to play on fear and bad news. It’s an easy story to tell – and sell. Believing in something or someone is much harder because it requires strength to weather the disappointment and the hard times.
The most important person we need to have faith in is ourselves. Can I do this? Am I good enough? Do I deserve this? We all ask these questions. Winners are the people who find the strength to answer themselves with a firm, “Yes.” They fail, and they fall – still they get up and push forward. Their strength is based on a confidence in themselves and the future.
The late Studs Terkel is a great example of a person who kept faith in himself and the world. Studs was a leading personality in TV’s early years. Then disaster struck. Terkel was caught up in the communist witch hunts of the 1950s and blacklisted from TV. He returned to Chicago and spent many years on the radio, conducting intelligent, probing interviews with artists, thinkers, and politicians. In the 1960s, he began to write books based on interviews with normal Americans. Fame found him again. He won the Pulitzer Prize and was honored as man of letters. Terkel died recently, having lived into his nineties. He never stopped writing, and told interviewers that he wanted this line written on his tombstone: “Curiosity did not kill this cat.”
Terkel’s spirit and life embody what Emerson called “self-reliance.” This virtue in not simply the ability to take care of yourself, rugged individualism. It is more deeply a self-understanding that has its roots in faith in something bigger than the individual. Each of us has the genius and spirit needed to live a happy life. It’s not a matter of luck. It starts with work – and faith.
As Tavis Smiley says, “Keep the Faith.”
Here are some links to material about Studs Terkel.
The Chicago History Museum’s Site on Studs Terkel
A video of Studs Terkel being interviewed by William F. Buckley
Lake Effect News, a wonderful blog that covers the North Side of Chicago, has an interesting post about Saint Cajetan, the patron of those seeking jobs. Cajetan was a priest who lived in Italy during the 16th century. His mission was to help the poor and mentally ill. He even founded a bank that was an alternative to lending practices based on usury (You know, like credit card interest rates). A local church in Edgewater will hold prayer services asking this saint for his intercession. Is prayer the answer? For many, it is. What can it hurt? We all need to hold to our faith, especially in hard times.
To learn more about these services and read the article, click here.