Finding Humor in Your Depressing Job Search (or the bad economy, or whatever)

April 9th, 2014

Here’s some fallout from my 2014 April Fools prank (where I laid myself off, even though I’m the sole owner of JibberJobber)…. on my LinkedIn Group I got this message:

Sorry– I do not see the humor; if the economy and employment levels were decent…well maybe. But not when so many people are in real pain and suffering after 7 years of this “great recession.”

My reply to her, and the group:

Karen, sorry. This was my story (kind of) 8 years ago, and it turned out to be a massive blessing. I talk to unemployed people (usually JibberJobber users) daily, and I know the pain and hurt and suffering… both because I lived it and because I hear it every day. I choose to use humor in my life to help me get through hard times…. nobody has to, but I’m not going to sit around and mope and be somber, essentially empowering the suffering.

No one has to educate me on the real pain and suffering of job seekers.  You see, I was there, but that was during an awesome economy.  During a crappy economy (like that of the last seven (give or take) years, if you can’t get a job you can at least blame the economy.  People might say “when the economy picks up…”  But when you are out of work during a great economy, and can’t hardly land an interview or an offer, there is seemingly nothing to blame but you.  That means a lot of self-finger-pointing, wondering how messed up you really are… which leads to unnecessary and unhelpful pain and suffering in abundance.

The bigger issue, for me, is coping with challenges and trials.  How do you do it?  I tend to gravitate towards humor.  Not always, of course… but I’ve been doing this long enough (8+ years, since I got laid off in January of 2006), to know that there will indeed be an end to unemployment.  That might be because you get a dream job, or you get a “step job” (that is a job that is a stepping stone as you continue to look for your dream job), or you start your own business, or you adjust your expenses and simply retire.  I’ve seen this happen many times over the last few years.

I’m convinced that dealing with our temporary situation in a healthy way is critical to getting out of our healthy situation.  Let me give you two examples:

Coping Strategy 1Let’s say that I cope with stress by eating crap.  So, I’m unemployed and stressed, and I eat at McDonald’s three times a day.  Sodas, fries, high-fructose-corn-everything.  I’m coping with my pain and suffering, and while I plop stuff in my mouth, I feel better, for a second or two.  Between meals I throw down some chips, and have a big cup of soda by me at all times.  I indulge, and it’s good to have no rules on my eating.  I think about going on a walk around the block, but my ankles and knees hurt too much… so I’ll do that “later.”What will that do to me?  From personal experience I know that I’ll physically feel like crap, I’ll probably be more moody, and my clothes will get tighter… this only makes me feel moodier and more depressed.  That’s okay, I’ll cope by eating more crap.

Guess how my next face-to-face networking event is going to go?

I will want to be invisible.  And I’ll probably be jaded enough that I’m not going to have the right conversations which could lead to introductions.  People will smell blood.

Coping Strategy 2

Contrast that with eating much healthier, and exercising. Let’s say I have healthy food around me, in abundance (this doesn’t mean I have to have money or a paycheck, I simply make better choices when buying food).  I eat at least one green smoothie a day (the way I make them, they look green but taste like a fruit smoothie), I drink lots of water, and eat things like soaked almonds, brown rice, etc.  Instead of feeling like I can “cheat” to “cope,” I am now addressing a physical/mental/emotional issue by feeding my cells (nutrition) instead of focusing on feeding my belly (satisfaction).

I feel great, physically.  I take time to exercise, whether it is walk around the block or walk a few miles, do yoga, squats, pushups (even against the wall or stairs), etc. My clothes fit better, I sleep better at night, I feel fit and I have more energy. I can think clearer and have more fun networking.  People want to be around me, they even gravitate towards me (or at least I don’t feel like they are trying to get away from me).

Coping Strategy 1: eating what my tongue wants me to eat, without boundaries, and my stomach feeling satisfied a lot.

Coping Strategy 2: eating to provide nutrition to my cells, as abundantly as I want, with the right foods.

The question: what are the fruits of either strategy?  Which strategy is better for the short-term, and which is better for the long-term?

So let’s go back to my humor thing.  For me, I gravitate towards humor.  Finding humor in things helps me put things in a different perspective that is, many times, easier to understand.  It helps people I work with find perspective, also.  When I’m in front of 100 job seekers, you better believe there is a lot of laughing.  Probably some tears, too, because I get very raw and real.  But there is humor throughout the presentation.  We don’t get enough laughing when we are in a job search, and no one wants to touch our delicate situation with a ten foot pole… but I do.  Because even after eight years, I still consider myself a job seeker.  I am you. I am with you.  And I know there is a time to let your frustrations out, and I’ll be a shoulder you can cry on, or an ear you can vent to, but I’m not going to go in front of my audience and start crying and venting for the entire time.

Laughing releases good brain chemicals (practically natural narcotics).  Why not let job seekers laugh?

Maybe my coping strategy (laughing and humor) is different than your coping strategy (medication, nutrition, hobbies, reading and movies (escapism), soduko, doing the dishes, lifting weights, running, etc.).  I’m not going to list them and say which are better than others, but I will say this: LOOK AT THE FRUIT.  What are the results of your coping strategy?

Does it put you in a worse place, or does it prepare you to do the hard things that you need to do in your job search?




Yeah, so… I’m not laid off. April Fools! (the backstory)

April 3rd, 2014

Read the post to see why maple syrup :)

Tuesday was April Fools. An announcement on the blog said Jason Alba was laid off.

That, my friends, was an April Fools joke.

I mistakenly scheduled the blog post for the day after about a week ago, without realizing that 4/2 should have been THIS post.  So here’s some of the before and after of JibberJobber’s April Fools for 2014:

In 2011 I wrote a really fun April Fools saying we would lay off the boss who laid you off.  It was really quite funny, and had a bunch of JibberJobber users, people who were in-between jobs, who said SIGN ME UP!!  Even after knowing it was a prank, they still would have loved to have their bosses laid off.

I skipped the next two years because I was too uncreative to figure something out, but around last April I had the idea of me, the guy who talks about layoffs all the time, the guy who owns his own company, and talks about income security, so “no one can take away 100% of your income,” and all of that stuff, to actually be laid off… from his own company!

About a week ago I wrote the draft and passed it by two people: the owner of a PR firm, and a resume writer.  Both of these people are very precise and know the power and impact of a post like this.

Oh, I also printed off a copy and had my 13 year old son run it upstairs to my wife.  He read the headline and got very, very somber, and I think he almost got teary-eyed.  He just came to the realization that something very grave happened… I didn’t mean to make him feel like that, but I couldn’t let him in on it until my wife read it.  She said it shocked her, too, for a bit, then realized it must be for April Fools.  I said our son “was almost in tears…” and she said “I was almost in tears, too!”

“Great,” I thought, “this is going to work :)”

As I slept on it for the next few nights, I wondered what impact this would have, and if I should soften up the message.  The private equity guy was an idiot, and the way I portrayed private equity and VCs was not favorable at all. I also bashed on job boards, and their lack of value for job seekers. I even included the company that paid $1B for… that’s a company I don’t necessarily want to make mad.

Would this have a negative impact on my business?

Would announcing my layoff to users who really don’t know me, or my sense of humor, have a negative impact on them, and give them a reason to have doubt about JibberJobber?

Could I take these risks, just for a bit of fun on April 1?

Obviously, I decided to.  And I think it is okay…. so far.  Hopefully I haven’t done or said anything wrong that is irreparable.

A big part of the prank, in addition to the blog post, was to change my LinkedIn job dates to end in April, and create a new Job:


Notice all of my current stuff is under Previous, and there is no Current… and, when I changed my current title, LinkedIn replaced my cool Professional Headline with that title (I wish they wouldn’t replace it without asking).  I even had a cute :( in my new title.  In the actual job I put the link to the URL of the blog post, which if you read, you’d probably figure out it was fake:


So what was the result?  As of right now, over 20 comments on the blog post, which is more than normal.  11 tweets, 39 LinkedIn shares, and 32 Facebook likes/shares, also more than normal.

The comments are pretty funny… someone said my mom’s comment was the best (“Do you need to move back in with us???”)… I’m not sure if Alex new it was a prank, Fred Coon’s comments made me laugh because of his wit, Deb and others tip-toed around this just in case it wasn’t a joke, Rabbi (and others) jumped right in offering help and emotional support, and Niall declared a ban on maple syrup exports from Canada until the “injustice is righted”!

You guys are awesome… !

On LinkedIn I got dozens and dozens of messages… I got a lot of LIKES on my new title, and a number of “CONGRATULATIONS!”  Someone wrote and said that LinkedIn should be smarter about this – when someone loses their job and changes it to an obvious downgrade in title/status, LinkedIn shouldn’t off a LIKE option.

That makes sense… who would really LIKE or CONGRATULATE someone if they lost their job and are clearly not happy about it.  I had a frowny face…. why like or congratulate?

The last time I changed my job, a few months ago (just to update my profile), I had dozens of people who congratulated me… even though these were minor tweaks and were essentially the same titles as before.

I got a lot more responses on LinkedIn, because of the title change, than comments on my blog… again, people having very supportive and kind comments.  At one point I almost felt bad for leading people to believe I was in a hurting place.

Oh, let me address one last thing: “who would really LIKE or CONGRATULATE someone if they lost their job and are clearly not happy about it?”


I do it all the time.  Not every time, but there are times when someone tells me they lost their job and the only thing I can think of is CONGRATULATIONS!  You and I both know it wasn’t the right job or company for you, and you hated it, and there was no more opportunity… I know how much it sucks to get let go.  You take it personal, you second-guess yourself, you go through a range of emotions, doubt and depression can set in.

BUT, for many people, including myself, getting laid off was only the nudge I needed to leave a bad situation, which was a choice I wasn’t ready to make on my own.  Getting laid off was the beginning of a journey to much better things for me, and I’m convinced that it can be a journey to much better things for many people.

So, while I offer my empathy, I also offer encouragement that in fact this can be a time to say CONGRATULATIONS!




The Discouraged Job Seeker and an Interesting History of the “Career Path”

March 4th, 2014

On Friday I posted The Job Seeker’s Secret Weapon: MENTALITY, which I think is a really important post for all to read.  I referenced “a guy” that sent me an email that kind of triggered that post.  I sent him a link to the post and he had a brilliant response.

No amount of massaged economic and unemployment reports can compete with the reality of what has happened to “careers.”  I think there is tremendous opportunity in the changes, but that doesn’t take away any pain that we, from baby boomers to Gen Z, have to live with.

With “the guy’s” permission, I’m posting the email in it’s entirety.  Please take a moment to read what I thought was a brilliant message to me – to brilliant to just stay tucked away in my own inbox:

Hi Jason,

Thanks again, it really does mean a lot.  It was a great blog.  You captured the essence of my feelings extremely effectively! Very cogent.

Somewhat related, as a point of reference or context:  I notice more and more, on LinkedIn, the number of GenX middle tier tech-managers like myself, seemingly out of work.  I think the phenomena is bigger than it appears on the surface. Of course, I am biased :-)

Note: the following is a stream of consciousness “rambling babbledeegook”. Please do not hesitate to ignore/delete it.


The fact remains: During the entirety of the 1990’s, MANY techies (my age) were able to forgo classical higher education, because the demand was *so high* for network and systems engineers, program managers, and others across the broad scope of the “tech industry”.  We were so busy building the WWW, it did not occur to many, a college degree would one day (soon) become a bullet proof glass ceiling.

In an ironically fickle way, those of us (as described) with a strong sense of ownership and responsibility were hit much harder than those who weren’t as “professionally honorable” (they typically remained in lower Individual roles)…and here is why: Many of us climbed half way up the ladder into the mid-range of management; necessarily losing our tight grip on technical skills to broaden our scope. This is necessary to manage the synergistic boundary where strategic demands meet tactical implementation…

But, when the labor force took a huge hit after the turn of the century, suddenly, there were a LOT less jobs for those of us senior enough to have moved (half way) up the food chain….

Now fast forward a few years, to the end of the first decade of the 21st century: The juxtaposition of all those prior elements, in combination with human nature (middle age, building families)… resolves into a painful mid-life professional crisis that is….quite legitimate.

In hindsight, migrating above the day-to-day trench warfare of Individual Contributorship during the DotCom days, was not much more than a professionally brutal reminder of the Technology Caste system (at least here in Silicon Valley) we live within.

The lessons learned:

  • Get a degree… I don’t care what its for: just make sure it is from a reputable institution.  This can be a REAL limitation if you wait until it is too late (financially).  Note: I fall into this last camp
  • See a shrink:   Getting educated in “you” is a HUGE benefit:  You are a mess inside…Understanding *WHY*, will REALLY help keep your ego and emotions in check, when you are tested (like my cisco failure)…
  • Read up on psychology:  Understanding that everyone else is a mess inside as well, and that everyone else has the same physiological needs as yourself (wanting to be safe yet significant, and all the mechanisms we invent to attain this, for example)
  • Deal with boring:  Understand that you cannot see the adventure lying in wait, just over the horizon (out of view)…Watching that professional “pot” boil is certainly boring..but the steam eventually bubbling off can be harnessed to propel your career: IF YOU PLAN FOR IT.
  • The concept that every job is TEMPORARY is absolute GOSPEL.  PLAN FOR REPLACING YOURSELF OR BEING REPLACED….THE MOMENT YOU LAND A JOB is the MOMENT you need to update your CV and start looking for the next one.  There is not a single company that can legitimately “look out for the best interests of its employees” at all times:  You ARE disposable; get over it, accept it….and plan for it. prep to harness the steam.


Positive Mentality is challenging when you are starting at the bridge…not to consider the precipice it spans, but instead to consider its ability to provide shelter for you and your family.  That said, one of my favorite all time quotes is from Winston Churchill, and for the most part, I am known for being a stalwart proponent of his advice: 

“Never, never, never give up.”

I had to read that email twice, but really appreciate the perspective and the learning points. This is something I would give to my kids!



Going to use a job board this weekend? Read this first…

January 31st, 2014

I wish someone would have told me this (and then explained it):


I know you can get a job using a job board.  It happens all the time.  But there are other, and perhaps better, ways to find your next gig.

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The Long, Cold Winter of your Job Search

January 16th, 2014

After I got married I lived in an apartment with my wife in Pocatello, Idaho.  We started our married life in May and were going to be in Idaho for about a year (we thought).

Winter came.  Idaho winters are cold and brutal.  It wasn’t as bad as the people who lived a couple hours north, but it was way worse than I wanted to experience.  I didn’t spend many winters in cold weather, so going through my first Idaho winter made me wonder why in the world people lived in that horrible weather.   That was almost twenty years ago, and I’ve had many winters like that since then.

A few years ago, after I tried to understand vegetable gardening, I had an epiphany.

Winter is a time when plants and trees get a chance to take a break.  Soil gets to take a break, and even regenerate.  Animals take a break.  Everything takes a break!

I came to learn to cherish this time of taking a break.  Self-reflection and quiet.  Peace and pausing. It is a time for gardeners to plan and prepare.

I was able to see what I thought was bitter and dreary as something necessary, and a part of the cycle.

I’m going to draw a relationship from this analogy to your career (job search, unemployment, etc.).  I’m not suggesting that you NEED to have a period of winter so that you can grow, regenerate, etc.  I want you to figure out how to do that even when you are happily and gainfully employed.

But I want you to think about your period of unemployment differently.  Instead of hating it and wanting it to end, like I did with my Idaho winters, what can you do to live through this time happily?  My time in Idaho would have been different if i didn’t let that time rule my attitude.

You can get through your job search quicker, sure.  There are things you have control over (unlike the weather).  But what can you do right now, during a bout with unemployment, to enjoy and learn and generate and regenerate and prepare?

Some of you should rethink your education and skillset.

Others will contemplate big career changes (new industry, new roles, etc.).

Others know you want to stay in what you were in, but realize it’s time to reconnect with industry contacts.  It’s time and YOU HAVE THE TIME.

I’m not sure what your career winter will be, but what I’ve learned is that if I have to do it again, I’ll look at it differently, and take advantage of the time better.

How about you?

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Job Search Depression, Job Search and Your Marriage, Job Search and Religion… And Simple Discouragement in a Long-Term Job Search

January 10th, 2014

I had something completely different to write about, but I’ll save that for Monday.  I just got a comment on a 2006 blog post titled I Smell Blood.  This is one of my all-time favorite blog posts (and is a Favorite Friday post).  I want to respond to the comment in this blog post, and will break it down so I can insert my own thoughts and links.

Please leave your own comment if you have something to add, and please share this with your LinkedIn and Facebook networks.  There is a lot of pain and discouragement out there, and we need to be more helpful, patient, loving, and building.

I’m taking the liberty to offer my unsolicited response to Joey’s comment because (1) the comment is now online for all to see, so it’s public, and (2) he said at the end that he appreciates any wisdom (not that I’m wise, but I’ll try), and (3) I think putting it in this post will help many, many other people.  Joey’s comments are in the boxes, mine are after each box:

“Woke up ANGRY this morning about my situation…”

I hear you Joey.  I didn’t consider myself a very emotional person but I was angry, discouraged, sad, and all kinds of other feelings during my job search.  The lows were really low, the highs were really high, and it was a roller-coaster that didn’t have much in-between.  Don’t define yourself by the emotions you feel during the job search.  It’s natural to feel these emotions, but if you allow them to define you, you will derail everything.

“and completed a google search containing job search AND depression and a related article came up, this really hit home.”

My first post on job search depression was titled Depression Clouds Everything.  This was a huge realization for me.  It needs to be discussed more. I thought I was alone in my loser-feelings during my job search, but going to job clubs and networking with other job seekers really helped me rise above the clouds and see I wasn’t alone.  It also gave me a network of people I could talk to who I finally felt understood the issues and challenges I was dealing with (instead of the superficial articles on AOL and MSN).  Here are other posts I have written that mention depression…

“So many times I have “helped” and continue to help others, volunteer, and try to give back and play it forward…however after 8+months no luck!”

Ah, the whole “givers gain” idea.  I networked (very poorly), and hoped and expected goodness to come out of it.  I got nothing except discouragement.  I encourage you to continue to help and give and volunteer, but completely do away with the “what am I going to get from this” hope.  When I voluntarily gave up hope that giving would help me get a job, I realized it was giving me something else.   Giving (volunteering, etc.) gave me stuff I wasn’t looking for and didn’t recognize while I was still hoping that all of that would lead me to a job.  I finally realized that by giving and helping I was getting peace in my heart. I was getting personal satisfaction by helping someone else out of a hellhole.  I thought of the families that were affected by helping people.  Sharing hope and helpful tactics made me feel important and appreciated, even if people didn’t say thank you.  It was the one thing I could do to have purpose again, and it was refreshing to my soul.

“I started going back to church several months ago which has helped”

That’s good – find it where you can.  Not having a day job is a great time to reflect on life and purpose and direction.  Take advantage of this time and immerse yourself in service at church, as this might help you expand your network. More importantly, if you find hope and faith and have a change of attitude (as per the I Smell Blood post that you commented on), people might think “Joey is ready for an introduction to my friend.”  As long as we are hurt, though, people are not going to be ready to open their network to us.

“and continued working out”

Again, take advantage of this time to take care of yourself, physically.  Too often when we have a day job we neglect our bodies.  Learn about your body and the food and exercise that helps you be sharper and ready for the day.  I get plenty of messages from people who land their “dream job” and find they don’t have any time to workout.  More than that, I personally think working out is a huge boost to you because of what happens chemically when you work out.  For me it has been a survival tactic to just get through certain days.

“as jobs for someone with my experience is slim in and near my sleepy little town.”

Perhaps you need to something completely different.  If you want to stay in your field, can you find work remotely (and still live in your town)?  Or, is it time to leave the sleepy little town?  Word of caution, this is a HUGE decision, and the grass is certainly not greener anywhere else.  Even in bigger cities people are having a hard time finding meaningful employment.  Maybe it’s time to leave your field and do something else?  This is where a good employment counselor (not a coach) would come in handy.  This person should be able to help you figure out “what you want to be when you grow up.”   My book, 51 Alternatives to a Real Job, created so much interest because people are sick and tired of the new job, which is less fulfilling, less stable, less rewarding, and highly volatile.  Just maybe you are ready to look at a different way to pay your bills… which might mean you take a major leap of faith and offer products or services, from your own business, and take 100% responsibility for success and failures.  It’s scary, and there are a 100 reasons to not do it, but the alternative doesn’t look so hot either.

“My marriage is also taking a toll even though I try to do as much as possible to handle all household duties.”

This is a very tough time for a marriage. I wrote this raw post: The Spouse’s Role In Your Job Search. You can print this out for your spouse with the idea that you need to have an open and frank discussion.  Maybe I’m off-base in that post, especially for your marriage, but the communication needs to happen.  The job search was a black hole in the history of my marriage, and I wish I would have been more communicative.  I would suggest that “handling all household duties,” though, might not be in the best interest of your marriage.  I find that doing dishes and laundry gives me a quick sense of accomplishment, but if you spend too much time doing household duties you might be unintentionally sabotaging your job search.  Make sure you communicate boundaries and expectations of household duties.

“Not really sure what to do next or were to turn.”

There is a lot of junk out there, isn’t there?  It looks to me like you are getting help from great places. If I were to do it again today I would spend more time volunteering at job clubs and looking for networking meetings to go to, even if you have to travel a bit to get their.

“My pastor said that having and keeping HOPE means that your best days are ahead of you (I have to remind myself daily).”

I like that.  Have you read anything about how having a vision affects your thinking and chemicals? It’s amazingly powerful.  I was hopeless in my job search, and when I finally got the idea for JibberJobber, I got hope back in my life.  Darkness turned to light, and I recognized a reason to live and move forward again.  I don’t know what your “JibberJobber idea” will be, but when you find it, you will know.  Search for this diligently and obsessively.  The results of finding it are life-changing. Here’s a post I wrote on hope in the job search: Finding Hope In The Job Search: The Lifeline.

“He also mentioned that new starts begin with new thinking.”

I know it’s hard to get to that thinking when you are depressed, but I hope some of the stuff I shared above will help you on that journey… ?

“As I continue my search for what on earth to do next while attempting to keep it all together…I dearly appreciate this forum as well as any wisdom that can be shared.”

Thank you – come back often and share your thoughts, as it will help many other people.  And, share these posts with everyone you can, including your pastor, who touches many lives.

“Thank you!”

My pleasure, thank you!

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