I’ve been unemployed for over a year. I’m discouraged, depressed, and having a very hard time getting motivated to look for work. Do you have any suggestions to help me get my act together?
First let’s get something straight. You are worth far more than any amount of money! It is unfortunate that as a society we often define people by their job titles and income level because those are truly a poor measure of a person. In that same vein it is also difficult to be in the position of wanting to work and not having the opportunity to do so. Being unintentionally unemployed can erode one’s self worth faster than a Ferrari on a closed track. Our goal is to close this gap between the way you are feeling now and feeling like the powerful person you really are so you can get your mojo back.
Step 1: Dump the emotional baggage.I bring this up because I hear employer and economy bashing frequently when I give career talks.It is best to start a job search is with the understanding that no one owes you or, anyone for that matter, a job. Any emotions directed towards previous employers or the current job market should be limited to that of gratitude. ‘Gratitude for opportunities’ is what makes legal immigrants four times more likely to become millionaires than those of us born on US soil. Anytime your trip down Memory Lane heads towards the Tar Pit of Despair, reroute it to remember that most people in the world believe you are living in Candy Land.
Step 2: Find your ‘amazingly competent self.’ Emotions are energy. People notice the energy of another person before anything else about them. We all have different aspects of ourselves including our loving self, our mad self, our depressed self, and our amazingly competent self.Employers like people with great energy so keep your energy upbeat. Search your memory banks and remember the last time you felt competent even if it was when you were three and learned to tie your shoe for the first time. Start your morning by picturing yourself that way. Engage your sense of humor. Be fun to be around. Stay current on industry trends and, most importantly, stay connected.
Step 3: Practice your pitch. You may have been laid-off or you may have quit your job. Regardless rewrite your history so that you were in charge of your time away. For example, I suspect on some level you chose not to work this year. Surely there was some company that would have hired you to do something even if it was McDonald’s or Walmart. You chose not to work there and thus this past year on some level you intentionally did not work. Don’t shy away from owning the choices you made – embrace them. On your resume reoord this past year as one of personal assessment. Describe it as a time setting personal and professional priorities. When you discuss it use this type of language. “I chose to take the company’s lay-offs as an opportunity to do the do some reassessing in my own life. I spent this the year re-evaluating my priorities, sorting through what is important, and focusing my core strengths. Here is what I can offer you that other candidates cannot.”
Step 4: Get on the field and out of your house. Our brains are wired to learn by practicing so guess what? You must practice to get good at the job search. Even those with the best batting average strikeout but they at least get up to the plate. Give yourself permission to pitch yourself and make mistakes. Make a list of companies nationwide for whom you wish to work. Think of a bullseye and put the top 5 companies in the center of it. Then start calling companies on the outer perimeter, or five point zone of the dart board, and work your way into the center. The emotional stakes should be low to at the beginning. A professional headhunter will make up to 100 calls per day. They get told ‘no’ most of the time. You are a headhunter for yourself. Tell your ego to take a hike and let your amazingly-competent self with a Teflon shield take over.
Step 5: Keep focused on the positive. The United States is one of the best countries on this planet to find work. Millions of people are dying, a few literally, to move here so they too can have the opportunities you do. Think like them. View the world like them. Take advantage of every opportunity. If no one will hire you hire yourself and go find some clients. Entrepreneurship is the backbone of this country.