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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.

START RANT

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.

END RANT

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!

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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):

job_board_eight_hours

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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