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.”
In the April issue of Psychology Today, Joann Ellison Rodgers reports on new psychological research on anger. Traditionally anger has been seen as a negative emotion that hurts both mental and physical health. Rodgers cites several experts who have found another side of anger. They argue that anger can lead people to make changes. People who are upset are more like to try to change something.
This article made me think about many of the clients I’ve encountered over the last ten years. Of those who were currently employed, most had some grievance against their company or boss. Since the Crash of 2008, many clients have made me share their anger by telling stories of increased workloads that are reward by salary freezes or cuts. One of my recent clients is a production manager who also has a sales function. Last year he put in extra hours to help the company where he has worked for more than 10 years. While maintaining all of his production duties, he also doubled his sales numbers. He expected to receive a bonus at his annual review in December. Instead, the owner told him “times are tough” and cut his pay by 10%. That made him angry enough to look for a new job.
His story makes me angry as well, which is why I’m telling it. Too many people are working too hard and not being properly rewarded. That’s why many workers in the U.S. are very, very angry. Hopefully, they will come together and change things to make their lives better.
Writing in the February issue of Psychology Today, Carlin Flora explores “slashers,” people who have two careers at the same time. For some people, working two jobs is a great way to get through hard economic times. For others, it’s a strategy to ease into a career change. Others use their slash careers as a way to balance the job that pays the bills with the kind of career that feeds their passions.
What does it takes to have two careers? Flora says that “hustler personalities” are best fit for this role, since it often involves marketing one’s skills. She also says that good time management and organizational skills are need to balance both responsibilities. The article profiles the following types of slashers: computer geek/comedian, corporate recruiter, water aerobics instructor, PR coordinator/horror writer, and investment banker/bird trainer. These combinations tell us that people can balance the 9-5 with some other interest that will feed their minds and, in some cases, help fill the wallet. Think about “slashing.” It might be a new way to manage your career.
The August edition of Psychology Today features an interview with Seth Godin. I frequently refer readers to Godin’s blog, which offers concise, thoughtful musings on careers and communications as well as marketing. As Seth puts it, “My job is to point out things people already realize but help them understand them is a different way that gets them to take action.”
One of Godin’s biggest insights is that it is O.K. to quit or fail. Too often we live fixated in a “school” model that makes us afraid to try new things because we don’t want to make a mistake. We need to do the opposite, moving beyond the fear of our “lizard brain” and accepting challenges that fit our skills and gifts.
There is one section in the profile in which I take issue with Godin. He criticizes companies that hire “compliant” employees based on their resume, “a sheet of paper saying how compliant you are.” He says companies should hire people who make a difference, a quality he describes in his most recent book, the excellent, Linchpin. A good resume does exactly what Seth is looking for. It demonstrates how a job seeker will bring value and make a difference. A good resume will show, in Seth’s words, how a prospective employee is “indispensable.”
In all of our communications, we can take a lesson from Seth’s books, blog, and his call to communicate through interesting stories. He explains to the interviewer his concept of using original words and phrases to catch a reader’s attention and generate a new kind of thinking: “The only way to get talked about is to make interesting products – purple cows.” In our career management and job search strategies (and resumes), we need to present ourselves in a way that sets us apart, a way that plays up our indispensable purple cowness.