Yesterday was the day of “stuckness” for several people. The primary theme was “I’ve done everything I can think of and I STILL don’t have a job.” The secondary theme was “I’ll never get a job.” And the tertiary theme was “I don’t know what else to do.” (Aren’t you impressed that I knew the word “tertiary?”)
What they’re really saying is “I’ve done everything I think is reasonable to do and I don’t want to have to do anything else. I should already have a job and since I don’t, I’m going on strike. This is too hard. I don’t wanna have to try something else. I know it won’t work anyway, so what’s the point. And I don’t think any of your suggestions will help. You don’t know it will work either, so why bother.”
Of course, they wouldn’t have called me if they didn’t want suggestions…so that is just despair talking and I refuse to give into anyone’s despair – because it lies. There is always hope. And suggestions of something else to try give hope. Hope fuels action. Action gives us a feeling of power and self-esteem, so necessary to keep going.
For me, this provides a great opportunity to help them move from being stuck into taking a new type of action. And actually I succeeded with each of them – a credit to them and to the tools I’ve learned to use as a coach. This stuff really works!
First they simply wanted and needed to vent, to hear themselves speak out loud about their frustration and fear and despair. How difficult, depressing, and demoralizing the search is.
They were more open to suggestions once all that was expressed and validated. I said “Yes, it is difficult. Yes, you have done a lot. Yes, I can understand your frustration.” Validating their feelings is really important to moving them into a new spot. Once they know it’s OK to feel the way they feel, they no longer have to hold onto them so tightly and can let them go. This leaves room for new information and new hope. We have to wipe away some of the despair in order to make room for hope that their difficult journey will come to a positive end.
I then reassured them that they would get a great job. It will happen. I cite my own 2 year job search that ultimately landed me in the job of my dreams, and give them examples of other people’s successful searches after long struggle. That’s the first component of building up some hope.
Next we went back to the Must Have List that each of them put together, to look again at the things they said they must have to be happy in work. And we went back to some of the questions and answers from a questionnaire I developed called “The Puzzle Piece Called You” in which we uncovered the issues, values and activities that really energize and excite them. This reminded them of what they love and what excites them, and their energy level instantly rose.
From that basis, I suggested a few areas of inquiry and networking they hadn’t yet tried. Of course, they all resisted and had reasons it wouldn’t work – mainly that they “knew” it wouldn’t work even without trying it. When I pointed that out, they all sheepishly admitted that they didn’t know it wouldn’t work, they just didn’t want to do it. That’s a different story!
I believe in the “leave no stone unturned” school of job search – as long as there is a new idea or task or area to explore and act on, I am not defeated. I am not done. There is hope, because there’s something else to do. I don’t know where it will lead, so let me take the action and see what happens.
- In one woman’s case, we looked at her volunteer activities and I suggested that she look for work in those areas. She hadn’t been willing to do that before – I’m not sure why but she was adamant about it. Now she’s looking in that area – she sent me a job posting this morning.
- Another woman and I reviewed jobs for which she’d applied and narrowed down her areas of interest into three main categories. I suggested she target some organizations and companies in those fields and start making appointments for informational interviews. Maybe there are no jobs yet, but who knows when there will be? This way, she’ll be a known quantity and stand a better chance of being interviewed.
- A third person was upset that a job interview process had been prolonged yet again, and despaired of ever getting to realize her dream of relocating. She used the phrase “defer my dream” which I jumped on as essentially hopeful. She can get work in her home town and continue working toward her dream. Her dream is not dead, it’s simply deferred. As one of my Twitter Tweeps says, “there are no unrealistic dreams, there are only unrealistic time frames.” And now she can focus a new round of action on getting work where she now lives.
- One woman doesn’t know very many people in the city to which she relocated and felt at a loss to network in her field. She wondered if she should just abandon looking in her field. I suggested that perhaps her contacts in other cities will know people in her new hometown. Also, if she feels there’s no future in her current field, perhaps she wants to explore new areas in which to work. She can look for volunteer opportunities to get experience in the new field, and see whether she likes it or not.
There were a few other people with whom I worked on exactly this topic. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s summer and a slow hiring season in the best of times. Maybe people don’t see the market opening up as hoped. I only know that there is always something else to do.
You don’t have to think of all the ideas yourself. This week, I realized how useful it is to have a coach – we’re able to detach ourselves from the emotions, draw on the experiences of so many other people, and provide inspiration, ideas, perspective and hope to job seekers.