When I’ve encountered a client who is stuck in her job search, the problem is almost always that she is stuck in the past. Rather than focusing on the future, such people frequently fixate on why they were let go from a job. For others, they are still employed at a bad job. They say they want something new, but do little to make it happen. Instead, they waste their time reliving what went wrong, imagining a world that will never be.
In a recent article in Psychology Today, Peg O’Connor, a professor of philosophy at Gustavus Adolphus College, points to two words that kill our progress: “If only.” When we use those words, we’re getting lost in regrets rather than looking forward and working to make things better. O’Connor does say that some people can use this word to change their behaviors. However, for most people, “if only” is a waste of time and energy. It’s a much better strategy to set a goal for where you want to be and work hard to achieve that goal. As Satchel Paige put it, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning suffered a serious neck injury a few years ago. The experts said his career was probably over. Manning believed in himself, worked hard in rehab, and has had two great years playing in Denver.
The experts said Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson was too short. His arm wasn't strong enough. Wilson believed in himself, and he has turned his team into a consistent winner.
Believe in yourself.
One of my clients, we’ll call her Sue, worked for the same employer for over 30 years. A month ago; without any warning, she received a layoff notice. At first, she didn’t know what to do. HR wanted to negotiate a severance, but Sue asked to wait for a day or two. She knew that she was upset and could make a bad decision or say the wrong thing.
Sue went home and thought about her options and what she wanted in severance. She negotiated in a calm, professional manner, which helped her get a slight increase in severance. More importantly, she met with people throughout her company to say how much she appreciated working with them. At the same time, she started networking. Within a week, several of her co-workers had become willing partners in her job search.
As I’ve often written, networking is important, but it is only one part of a good job search. Sue started doing something she had never had to do before: looking for work online. She figured out how job boards worked, posted a LinkedIn profile, and started bookmarking companies she wanted to work for. Less than a week after being laid off, Sue did enough research to be confident that many employers were looking for her skills.
The most important thing Sue did had nothing to do with a computer or networking. She kept a positive attitude about herself and the proper perspective about her layoff. She controlled what she could control and didn’t waste time mourning a job with a company that didn’t want her. Rather than looking backward, she kept her eyes and her mind pointed forward. She will be successful because she is asking the right question: What’s next?
Many people who are out of work or looking for a new job feel stuck. Everything they hear on the news is negative. Whether the topic is business or politics, the news never seems to be good, which is odd. Over the past couple of weeks, the following has occurred.
The S & P 500 has hit record levels.
Gas prices are down and headed lower.
Hiring was over 200,000 for October.
These stories, if they are discussed, are overwhelmed by negative noise. I’m not looking for happy talk news. But reporters who claim to need to tell “both sides” don’t tell us that there is anything positive happening in our economy.
How does this negative drum beat affect working people? If all we hear is negative news, we are less motivated to look for work. We apply for fewer jobs, if we apply at all. It’s hard to get up the energy to network if there’s no hope. If we get interviews, we approach them in a negative mood, certain we’ll never get the job.
Be realistic about the job search. That means taking both the good and the bad into consideration. My first suggestion to get around the bad news mood disorder would be to take most news programs for what they are: Entertainment. They focus more on personalities and hot topics than real factors that affect our lives. For example, the unemployment number might be discussed as a negative trend, but few news shows discuss what lies behind the number or what we can do to improve the situation.
The second thing I would recommend is to keep your situation separate from bigger issues. Most of what we hear on the news is macro economics. The success or failure of your job search has no impact on that subject, and the scary numbers have little to do with your fate. Stay focused on your life and what you want to achieve. Listen to the news, but do so with a sense of perspective – and a sense of humor.
One of my clients is facing a layoff. She’s been with the same company for more than thirty years. For many people, such a transition would be devastating. My client has kept a positive attitude. Through networking, she’s gotten an interview in a new industry. The transferable skills she’s used in retail environments will also work in banking. Her challenge will be to convince interviewers that she can make the transition. The first step is to be flexible enough to think you can make the change. The next challenge in the interview is to convince the employer that you can do the job. It’s never easy. However, many workers make such transitions every day. Give yourself more opportunities – stay flexible.
I've been blogging less frequently because my schedule's been packed. I've also been trying to follow one of my favorite sporting events, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Today was an upset day with two #15 seeds beating two #2 seeds, one of which, Missouri, was picked by several experts to win the championship.
How is all of this relevant to looking for work? The #15 seed is not supposed to win. These teams beat the odds by having faith in their skills and not quitting on themselves. That is also the formula for a succesful job search. Don't quit on yourself.