Category Archives: unemployment

Waiting for the bounce – surviving long term unemployment

Bounce

“The harder you fall the higher the bounce

There is quite often less sympathy for senior people impacted by job loss.  A general feeling pervades, perpetuated by the media that the 6 and 7 digit golden parachute exit packages we hear about in the press are the norm. But that is simply not the case.  Not all individuals who have had successful careers are exempt from pain.  In fact the further the drop  – the harder the fall and very often there is no bounce at all .

Rachel is quadri-lingual  with a double masters in International Law and Finance. She had a successful career in the financial services sector until she was dealt three bitter blows in close succession: redundancy, a serious car accident and the need to care for an elderly parent who required two major  surgeries. She has been off the job market for 5 years. Today she works as a baby sitter and is applying unsuccessfully for sales assistant positions.

Oliver had 15 years’ experience in international marketing before he lost his job in 2008.  He has tapped into his network for some ad interim positions but currently can barely cover his costs.  He lives on state benefits, can no longer afford to run a car and sold his house to move to a lower cost area. His savings are depleted and his marriage broke up with the strain.   He struggles to get to sleep and also to get up in the morning (or even afternoon).

Gerry was summarily dismissed 18 months ago for alleged poor performance. Within 30 minutes his professional reputation was shattered with no prior warning,  he lost  his company car, health insurance,  school fees support, his phone, his lap top, luncheon vouchers and gym membership. His wife’s income as a mid-level communications manager covers about 25% or their  bills.  He settled out of court for unfair dismissal,  but 20% of the payment covered his legal fees.  Their house has been on the market for five months with little interest.  He’s taking antidepressants.

How long is a piece of string? 

When a senior job seeker first hits the job market one of the first questions he/she will ask is how long will it take to find  a new job? Frustratingly  there is no single, correct answer.  The answer will depend on:

  • Level and salary  – there are simply fewer jobs at the top of the pyramid.
  • Skill set  – how populated is the market?
  • Sector –  how buoyant is it?
  • Geographic location  –  ditto.

So for those job seekers with a very special skill set, or equally very common skills,  at a senior level,  focusing on a very narrow geographic reach,  the answer could  easily be 9-12 months, perhaps longer. If there are additional barriers  (old-fashioned CV, no online presence, reluctance to/ or weak network)  then it could take longer.    It is this frightening realisation that causes the onset of job search panic and a flood of non strategic activity. This generally is unsuccessful and followed by the onset of deepening demotivation and depression , which increases with the passage of time.

Quite often there can also be an immediate onset of avoidance tactics including: self medicating, disrupted sleeping patterns, isolation from family,  friends and networks, busy-ness – unfocused non job search activity, usually on the internet, food issues (over eating/under eating)  and so on.

man-frustrated

 So what can anyone do in what seems like a hopeless situation. The key message is to do something differently:

  • Re evaluate: career goals,  passions and values. Have they changed?  So many millions of people have lost their jobs in the last 5 years it no longer carries the same stigma as it once did.  Many find that they don’t want to carry on along the same path.
  • Reality check  – how are things now? How far are you from your goals?   Do you need  temporary medical support? Do you need professional job search input?   I see a high number of execs with inconsistent levels of success converting outplacement packages to cash believing they can transition themselves on the cheap.  This generally is not a wise move. Later on,  budget can be a genuine restriction,  but never before has there been such a wide range of  excellent free or low-cost advice. If what you’re doing isn’t working – that is a message to try something new. But also many find their goals have simply changed and the loss causes them to reconsider  their futures.
  • Re-frame your current strategy what needs changing? What options to do you have? Can you volunteer to extend your network and gain new experience ? Very often pride, not only budget can be a barrier.
  • Re-consider the role of pride:   For many not having a job title is tantamount to losing  part of their persona and the thought of attending a networking event with no business card can be a major psychological deterrent.   Now, use your USP instead’ “John Smith Tri-lingual MBA,  15 years Brand Management experience” .     Many also don’t like to put in the calls to their  “Go-To” Top 10  connections in an emergency.  Call them. If you have maintained your network they will understand.
  • Re-position :  Has your CV been tweaked to cover a gap? Have you composed a cover letter to explain the absence? What  are you doing to stay up to date? Have you re- formated your CV so that the dates are not highlighted to draw attention to the gap? Are you fully aware of your transferable skills? Do you have a functional CV? Even though that might send out a signal that there is something not quite right to any savvy head hunter  or recruiter, at least you have the chance to present yourself.
  • Reduce expenses :   This is the hardest part  for those who are  used to generous salaries. Ask yourselves if there is anything that could be cut,  using Skype or WebEx  for phone calls, even public libraries to save on heating bills. Gym –  walk. Car – take the bus or train.
  • Reserves: the modern lesson is that we are now told we need to save 40% of our salaries. Most of us don’t or can’t do that.   For any on that career  ladder on the way to the top – this is a takeaway lesson. Observe and learn.

What else could you suggest?

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Please mind the gap

Has a prolonged recession softened hiring managers’ attitude to periods of unemployment and a gap in a  CV?  Perhaps not…

mind the gap

Almost exactly 4 years ago to the day  in December 2008, I was walking through an eerily deserted Canary Wharf in London. It should have been one of the  busiest shopping weeks of the year, but the full impact of the banking crisis was being felt and the shops were empty with up to 75% price cuts in many.  The worst fears of the financial pundits were yet to materialise as many  in non-related sectors were sucked in to one of the biggest economic downturns  for 80 years, generating a massive global domino effect on employment.

Has the scale of this calamity changed the views of hiring managers to the plight of  candidates who have been unemployed for a period?  I talked to a group of people who share their perceptions 3-4 years down the line as they continue to deal with the fallout.

 Michael – Arts graduate June 2009  U.K.  “Instead of a feeling of achievement and elation the whole class was anxious. All through our final year we had seen the economy tank and prospects looked grim. Only one of our class mates had a job and that was with his father’s advertising agency. I did 3 unpaid internships in a row in galleries and agencies supported by my parents.  I finally got a job in a start-up but the conditions were border-line exploitive and the manager was a bully.  I’m now working in a fast food restaurant as an Assistant Manager and although I’m acquiring great skills (I manage a team of 8 and deal with all the HR issues) I still get comments that it’s not a “proper job” when I go for interviews in my field and struggle to account for my “career” choices.  Portfolio careers seem to be more talked about in the press than in the real world! So  although I’m not unemployed  – I may well have been.  I don’t think there is that much sympathy. Work ethic doesn’t seem to count for much”.

Béatrice – Recruitment  Manager France – ” I was delighted to get pregnant with my second child born in August 2008. When I returned from maternity leave in 2009  there had been a hiring freeze because of the crisis, the department cut by half and completely re-organised. My old job had been re-distributed with the only role remaining a junior administrative job.  I accepted a redundancy offer and was unemployed for nearly 2 years. Explaining that period is very difficult in interviews even now,  especially when it follows maternity leave. People in jobs forget really quickly that unemployment rose to 10% in France in that period and is still a huge problem.”

Ricardo – ex Marketing Director Italy  – ” I had a successful career in marketing and brand management in fmcg sector. In February 2008 I was head hunted to lead a team in an SME company supplying the construction industry which gave me a place on the management committee.   I started in June 2008 , but by  April 2009 the marketing budget was slashed to zero as the order pipeline dried  up and I was made redundant.  Initially I tapped into my network and was able to go for interviews,  but although I was shortlisted I was never selected. The feedback was that it was related to salary and that I was too expensive and over qualified. I tried down grading both my salary and CV – that didn’t work either.   I slipped into depression and struggled to find the motivation to face the  world.  In 4 years the only work I have done is small consulting projects.  I am divorced and wanted to stay in Italy to be near my children but am now internationally mobile.  I seriously worry that I may never work in the corporate world again.”

My own observation is that “copy-paste” hiring is  still generally the preferred selection process for many companies. In a supply led market the  harsh reality is that most hiring managers have a huge choice of candidates and easier access to them. It’s not so much that they mind the gap – it’s really important what you do with that time and how it’s presented on all platforms.

What advice would you give?

Can you risk not having a career strategy?

Why strategic personal branding  is vital to career management
At the end of last year ,  I wrote about my experience adapting to a dramatically changing culture  and new methodologies in my own field of executive search and career coaching.    Although the central  theme,   slightly egocentrically,  focused on my own challenges and  frustrations of dealing with the  concept of  high on-line visibility, now a.k.a.  Personal Branding,   there was actually a key, underlying core message . The need for strategic forward thinking and preparation.

What is clear now is that we all need to develop and maintain on an ongoing basis,  a personal brand and career strategy , regardless of our current age or place in our careers.    

Why?  
The recent recession has highlighted  not just unemployment trends, but  shifts in workplace employment and recruitment practises.  Some companies have  been forced by economic circumstances to re – engineer their policies to reduce their salary bills and employment costs, just to stay afloat.   Other organisations have simply used the downturn as an opportunity to introduce workplace  flexibility to  instantly enhance  bottom line results . 

Job loss has slowed down going into 2010, but job creation still lags  behind.  Permanent positions in companies  have been reduced and are unlikely to return to previous levels.  Fringe activities such as outsourcing to low-cost employment areas  and the reduction of  a permanent workforce to what Business Week calls “Perma-temps”  is on the increase and now becoming mainstream . The growth in interim assignments at a senior level  is also rising, attracting not just the early retirees who wanted to do a “spot of  consulting “,   but senior professionals  with  no other source of income.  

 In 2009,  according to the UK Office for National Statistics  there was a 31.5% rise  in unemployment for people over 50 ,  so at this age , there is a one in six chance of being out of work,  compared to Gen X  where  the  unemployment rate increased by  21.6 % .   However, even  if you do have a job  David Autor of MIT , suggests that the chances of  older,  more highly educated professionals  being employed in  lower skill level positions has  also  increased.  At the  other end of the spectrum, Gen Y struggle to get even unpaid internships.  Their unemployment figures have hit 18%   with predictions  that they will not be fully integrated into the workforce until 2014 with all that implies.

This means that competition for permanent positions in strong, stable organisations will  continue to be fierce, long after the recession is officially over.  At all levels.  The need to raise our visibility and generate a personal brand as part of a  planned career strategy will be more important than ever.    

Be strategic
Brian Tracy  suggested ‘ Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self-development) in order to guarantee your future ”  The reality is that most people don’t do that in terms of their career.  They might take golf lessons or learn to paint,  but  the average person probably spends more time planning an annual vacation  and invests more money maintaining  their  cars, than  planning their careers.  So because they are unprepared,   any crisis ( redundancy, firing , lay-offs, promotion disappointments)   produces a flurry of activity,  not  specific or focused , but usually frantic  and urgent.  Deadlines  become short-term, limited to weeks or months, rather than anything longer term.  CVs are dispatched and uploaded, networks contacted, headhunters emailed  and sometimes  in extremis,  even career coaches sought out.  We would never think of taking off  on a  road  trip in  an  un-maintained car ( at least not once out of college),  yet we constantly look for jobs with un- maintained careers and wonder why there are difficulties!  

Avoid brand prostitution
 @TomYHowe:    suggested in response to my post “I think therefore I exist…Wrong , think again”   that on going brand management  could lead to   “Life as sales”     and he is indeed correct ,  if not  applied strategically.  There’s no reason why it should involve on- line soul selling and become brand prostitution. That would come dangerously close to some of the publicity stunts  I mentioned required to market celebrity scent.  

Return on Relationships
Nor does it necessarily mean as  @wpbierman:    amusingly quipped,  becoming ego related:   “I am being followed – therefore I am”.  Behind that funny one-liner there is for me  an excellent thought, that once again comes back to strategy. I am definitely in favour of return on relationships and for me the key message is what   Rory Murray   describes as  ” maximising your reputation in the marketplace through the effective use of your network of contacts for mutual benefit“.   

Measuring success only by the volume of connections/ followers/friends  can be misleading.  Lisa Brathwaite covers this concept beautifully in her post  suggesting that some  of the so-called on line experts can be some of the poorest users, simply because they do not engage.

But for job seekers and headhunters alike there  is a great deal of strength in a weak network.    It is the new, global Rolodex and  why I think it’s important to start developing that visibility and personal brand as wisely,  strategically and as early in your career as possible,  as the competition for permanent jobs hots up . 

Why? To stand out in a crowded market place 

  •  to make sure you appear in on-line searches run by people like me.   That’s how you get noticed
  • To build up a strong on-line presence and reputation. This is what differentiates and extends your reputation  and how you get those calls from people like me.
  • Build up  a strong  network as part of an ongoing career management  plan.

 That’s how you avoid crisis and improve your job search chances.

Thanks to WP Bierman,  Lisa Braithwaite,   Rory Murray    and Tom Howe

 

Boomerang Kids – The New Executive Stress

The main challenge is to find a balance between supporting and enabling

A number of executives have  listed  in recent coaching sessions one of the major sources of stress in their lives as the return to their previously wonderfully empty nest, of unemployed adult offspring. In the vernacular Boomerang Kids.  This is not my area of expertise at all,  other than having a newly graduated son facing a desperate career  market and either unemployment or unpaidemployment (aka internships). The reality is that the thought of any part of his life  (or person) being centred on or  close to my sofa, actually fills us both  equally with horror. But it might happen yet if his best efforts fail.

After multiple mentions in coaching sessions and friends talking endlessly about the same topic, it was clear that some  in-depth  research was required.

This is what I found.

The kids
In 2007, 55 percent of men and 48 percent of women aged 18-to-24 lived with their parents, and certainly those numbers have only grown since the recession hit. In the UK, the most recent labour market survey shows unemployment growing fastest in this age group with employment prospects for the class of 2009 the worst in over 25 years. In the US The Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders under age 27 has is at an all time high since 1983. In addition to a difficult job market, students are graduating with higher debt levels than ever before, with the cost of living outstripping entry-level starting salaries, which have been driven downward (happily for employers) by excess demand they are unable to make their rent money.

Not unsurprisingly kids are returning home to reduce costs. This is damaging to their self-confidence and threatening their budding sense of independence. Young people with high achieving parents are stressed by their inability to meet their parents even unstated expectations. They struggle with the notion that they may have to downgrade their own ambitions and take lower level jobs, as companies have their pick of top graduates from elite universities. In some cases depression kicks in. Factor in  that the kids of baby boomers have been sheltered from hard times and this is possibly the first serious recession which has impacted them. During the last one in the early 90s most of them were less than 10 so can’t be blamed.

My observation  from personal experience, is that they feel anxious, overwhelmed and vulnerable about their long-term abilities to support themselves in the way they had hoped to  ( i.e. have been used to) and with some there is also a certain sense of righteous entitlement. They now exhibit all the usual symptoms of stress. I hear stories of web loafing ,  Laurent Brouat’s great phrase for sitting at the computer, doing nothing productive and  busy-ness , my less great word for being busy when you’re  really not  being productive  at all; erratic schedules (late mornings and even later nights) TV marathons, erratic eating and so on.

The parents
So what is going on for Mum and Dad at this point, my beleaguered executives, as Junior heads home? Any one or all of a number of things.

For the most part this is one of the most stressful period of their lives. If they still have a job they are under severe pressure, or possibly at risk. Otherwise they are unemployed with everything that implies. Pension pots are reduced, their property has decreased in value. Costs are rising. Any plans to downsize and travel in retirement are looking like pipe dreams and the future has become a black hole of anxiety. They might even now have to defer retirement. When in more buoyant times they could have funded their returning child to some degree, that will now put a strain on the family budget. A young adult is now living, or even taking over, their home and creating tension which is percolating into their professional and even marital lives.

For senior executives used to managing teams and being in control, they now have a “team member” who somewhat inconsiderately is not responding at all, or if they are, it’s in a non business fashion.  My C level  execs are contending with door slamming,  feet on coffee tables, pouting and petulance without being able to call HR to fire the kid. Sensitive issues  they would deal with correctly and constructively in the office escalate in the family environment. Two executives reported serious stand offs with their child as tensions  rise. Tendencies to helicopter manage the young person’s job search efforts or activities intensify as does the stress.

Managing transition
The bottom line is that Gen Y and the Boomers are both in transition – but just not the ones they hoped for. Mum and Dad had planned to move effortlessly into their well deserved golden years and Junior was all set to blaze a glowing trail along the career path of choice. Instead, both generations are dealing with stress and anxiety not just about their present lives but their futures too. Result = massive tension and discord.

So is there a solution?
Of course – but the ideal way according to the experts if not always easy and centres on not reverting to the traditional roles  as the carer and cared for, which is what we tend to do in our role as parents. It actually does involve a more business style approach ,including negotiating and agreeing clearly defined ground rules and boundaries.  Pretty much like in the office – but easier said than done at  home for many. It obviously also varies between cultures – in some countries young adults traditionally stay at home longer. So the litmus test is presumably is it a problem?

The main factor according to Diane Viere  a specialist in setting boundaries for adult children, is to learn to make a distinction between “enabling”, doing something for young adults that they could do themselves and ” helping”  them,  i.e.-supporting them constructively on their road to independence. She also advises us parents to beware of the need to control – something we are used to doing in our professional lives.

How to do that?

Close the bank of Mum and Dad:  It may be tempting to bail your kid out financially and protect them with all the luxuries and security of the family home, but this will not help them in the long run. It fails to teach financial responsibility and as most actually want to be independent will end up damaging their self esteem. The best solution is to support them re-structuring their debts thus giving them life skills. It is inadvisable for parents to co-sign credit cards, leases or other loans. If your child misses payments,your credit rating could be damaged. Make a formal contract with them if you need to.

Don’t sacrifice your own financial future. Decide how much you want and can afford to help. Some parents provide more financial support than they can actually afford. One executive I deal with who was the guarantor on her young  adult’s rental agreement found that her son had defaulted on his payment for 6 months. It was Mum and Dad who scrambled around to find the cash, cutting into the pension fund to prevent legal action. Young adults have many years to build their financial security, while you may be only a few years away from your retirement date. Ironically, if you are not careful, you could end up depending on your children for help in your old age.

Home does not = hotel: Insist on responsibilities, which may include paying rent and/or payment in kind, such as taking on household chores. This can often be negotiated. One method is to ask the returning child what he or she believes would be reasonable rent. This is also the area, when not clearly laid out, that can result in the most misunderstandings, as adult children return to old habits of expecting to be taken care of.  If the returning adult is old enough to stay out late, drive a car ( possibly yours) and have adult relationships – they are old enough to take out the trash and cook dinner.

Set out guidelines: covering curfews ( I  am no stranger to the young adult clock and trust me,  it’s not like mine!  ) visitors ( ditto – or like me you may find kids in your kitchen having breakfast at 3 in the afternoon ), smoking  (it is perfectly acceptable to have a house rule ) vehicle usage. Another professional runs a tight ship in the office and was frustrated because her graduate sat in front of the TV all day and refused to do tasks that he considered demeaning ( cutting the grass or washing the car). Mum however did this when she got in from a 10 hour day in the office.

Agree a schedule:  one young grad I recently coached started his day at 0930 and  seriously,  was genuinely taken aback when I expressed surprise at  what  looked very much to me like a lie-in. After coffee, his day kicked off at 1000.   This is not the real world. They need to be up, dressed and good to go in job searching mode for 0900. Looking for a job is their job. It’s about self-discipline and structure. Not only  does it help with getting a job,  but structure and action do reduce anxiety. This is  all hard to monitor if parents work, but a goal I urge entry-level coachees to strive for.

Encourage goal setting: encourage the grad to set him or herself realistic and achievable goals (remember all those SMART/SOLVE workshops you attended as a manager) . Recognise achievements without being indulgent.  They are not in kindergarten. Getting out of bed and making coffee does not count!   Encourage physical exercise , volunteering,  plus social and professional networking.  Gen Y are light years ahead of us in technology, but are sometimes reluctant and inexperienced when it comes to physical actual networking.

Set a deadline: Kids should not be given an open-ended invitation to move back home. A deadline is important; it enables you and your child to measure the progress he/she is making towards becoming independent. If your boomerang kid has a job, perhaps the deadline could be based on a date: After X number of months, he or she will have saved enough to meet X, Y, and Z financial goals and then can move out. If your child is unemployed, perhaps the deadline is based on finding a job or paying off a certain percentage of debt.

Charge rent: Even a nominal amount is advised by the experts, so the young adult feels he or she is contributing something. It’s a good idea to write up a rental agreement and stick to the payments on a regular basis. Whether you do this on a scientific basis of a percentage of actual bills or on a felt fair basis is up to you, or simply operate a barter economy. Chores for cash.

If your Boomerang Kids are unemployed over a  long period without success in their job search, then seeking professional support is a must. Most countries operate programmes for young people  within the community. If they are graduates  they may still may be eligible for support from their alma mater colleges.

With all these strategies firmly in place, the executives should then be able to get on with their own lives… right? .

Watch this space!

Mind Management: Beat Negative Thinking

Every day I coach incredibly talented, successful people with amazing skill sets, backgrounds and experience. But whether they are entry level, mid career or CEOs with long track records, many struggle to market themselves in the right way. One thing most have in common is without exception, they self -sabotage and block their own progress, not so much with what they do directly – but what they think. These thoughts not only control the outcome of any actions, but equally significantly, can also be at the root of inaction, lack of engagement and follow through. This is particularly hard to track if we develop strategies for seeming to be active (” busy-ness”) when indeed the opposite is going on. There is a lot of truth in the old adage “mind over matter”. Or mind matters!

Mind fabrication
I’m not talking about people losing sleep over being losers or useless. That would be too obvious. These thoughts are much more passive, pernicious,subtle and insidious, so ultimately more damaging. They are small disruptive internal messages that insinuate our sub-conscious thinking and keep re-playing in our heads until we believe them and ultimately act on them. We don’t know why, or sometimes that these notions are even there. My son has a great phrase “drowning in my own thoughts” to describe those negative messages, which pop up when we least want them. Worse still, they provide an invisible, sub- conscious structure for our decision making processes but just as importantly for our lack of decision making.

I had a Skype call with a guy based in London this week who wanted some job search support. No problem. During the conversation he mentioned several times ” being out of work for 2 years” and a need to explain a ” 2 year gap on my CV”. I scanned his CV. I checked and double checked. Nothing. Eventually I asked him when this 2 year gap had started. He replied December 2008. Okay.. we’re now July 2009 – how was that 2 years? That thought was a complete mind fabrication !

Self sabotaging
At some level he had persuaded himself that his mid career decision to take a 12 month MBA course was ” opting out” and therefore a period of unemployment, so he would need to defend his position with recruiters and interviewers. I have no idea where this pressure came from, that is complex and we only talked for 45 minutes. I just saw the outcome. Another approach could be that he had taken a brave risk, left a great job in a top company to strategically develop his career. It required leaving his own country and moving to a foreign one, adapting to a different culture and learning another language. His graduation coincided with the height of the credit crunch. That was the fault of a group of out of control bankers and a global trend in mindless consumerism. Nothing to do with him. Not only should recruiters not see this career enhancement step as a negative, but they should recognise it for what it is – a great series of achievements. (GC I hope you’re reading this!)

Re-frame with questions
So if you feel that anyone doesn’t understand you, start asking them some relevant questions to check they have insight into your situation. In this case they might be monolingual or mono cultural and lived in the same town all their lives. If they can’t see what you’re about – perhaps you need to change the type of recruiter you’re choosing to work with. Negative thinking is at the root of most self sabotaging coping strategies: procrastination and perfectionism to name just two. We all do it because we fear what other people will think of us and ultimately we fear failure. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. No one is unique, everyone goes through this at different times over different issues and even outwardly successful senior people have doubts at times.

Write things down
So how can you tackle that? Simple. Write the thought down. When written down a thought becomes clearer. Let’s pick one and track the subsequent underlying thinking that might be churning beneath the surface and needs to be teased out. This is a very typical negative thought process that I work through with many people on a weekly basis.

Track the message !
ORIGINAL THOUGHTHmmm… I should apply for that job” write that down and then track in writing, your subconscious ,internal negative dialogue which might be something along these lines:

**But.. wait… if I send in my CV, they might call me .. **and I won’t know what to say … **then I’ll make a complete idiot of myself on the phone and maybe in the interview… **then they’ll know how useless I am..** then I won’t get the job .. .**then they might tell everyone….**then everyone will know I’m stupid and laugh at me.. **then I’ll let my whole family down… ** then I won’t get any job anywhere, ever… **then I’ll never work again… then I’ll have no money so I’ll be bankrupt … **then I’ll lose my house .. *then my wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/kids/goldfish will all leave me forever.. **then I’ll be on benefits/welfare or living in a box … **then everyone in the world will hate me…then Hmmm … OK…. I just need to go to the supermarket/pub/shower …I’ll send the CV off after dinner.

Sound vaguely familiar? So how do you deal with this?

Look at the facts
Ok, now write down some opposing thoughts. Look at the facts. Realistically just by sending off your CV, what are the chances of you living in a box, with everyone thinking you’re a fool and everyone completely hating you? Right.. Absolutely ZERO. You indeed be might be mismatched for the opening or your CV is not strong enough, but that is quite different. Why? All those things can be changed. There is quite often underlying wisdom in humour and as the joke goes everyone doesn’t know you. Keep a job search log so you can’t convince yourself into thinking that you’re active when you’re not. Facts talk.

Reality check
The reality will be that the most damaging outcome is nothing. Your CV will not be selected by the ATS and you will sink into job search oblivion. Nothing is not good. So any action or activity from that process, even the messages you don’t want to hear, are learning experiences and not negative ones.

What have you learned from doing nothing? That you you need to act now, otherwise the whole process repeats itself .

The recession’s silver lining: FunEmployment:

Creative or abusive?
 
 We are now heading towards the summer and those that can afford a holiday are looking forward to a break. Some are nervously awaiting half year results. Companies in all sectors are trying to find ways to reduce their salary bills, to synchronise operational activity with reduced customer demand. Some have made straight lay offs and redundancies, others are able to be more creative. Organisations from BA and KPMG to smaller companies in addition to forced lay offs, are offering employees voluntary extended vacations, sabbaticals,and reduced working days or weeks. The hope is that when the economic upturn does kick in, they will not have lost the pool of talent that has taken years to recruit and train.
 
Transition
 
 In the past 6 months as a coach I have seen individuals transition from grief, shock, panic and despair, through adaptation and acceptance, but increasingly (in the last weeks only) to the slight beginnings of optimism, even from those who had to deal with the out- of- the- blue shock of losing their jobs. This is not to detract from the reality of everyone’s situations. I am absolutely not doing that. Pensions and property values have been slashed the world over, bills still have to be paid and life savings are dwindling wherever you live. Out of work young adults are returning to the family home, with other unforeseen consequences, plus a myriad of other things too numerous to mention
 
Shifting responses
 
What I am saying is despite all of these clearly negative experiences, it is amazing to observe a shift in response. People still claim, somewhat surprisingly, to see an unexpected “silver lining” in their circumstances.
 
 Benefits
 
 I talked to an HR Director in the hospitality sector last week and he maintains that the response to his company’s offer for employees to voluntarily reduce hours or take extended vacations has been very positive. “Employees seem to be jumping at the chance, even to take an unpaid sabbatical.” he stated.
 
 I wondered if my observations were regional. To test the water I put a mini-poll out on LinkedIn and found that the international responses did actually coincide with my own personal and local experiences. Yes, there was residual anger and unease about the future, but for most people there had been some very positive outcomes. Those that have opted to take reduced hours or were forced out of the job market, have now found that once they cut their cloth to match their new, reduced budget, they are enjoying a slower paced life. So what are the overall benefits can individuals see in this dark cloud?
  • people have more time and energy to spend and share with their families and partners or nurture other close relationships
  •  people enjoy waking up in their own homes and eating proper meals
  • some are travelling – perhaps on a budget, but getting to see new places now they have time
  • others are studying, renewing old qualifications or learning new skills
  • some are volunteering
  • almost all said they were focusing on their health dealing with weight or exercise issues
  • many said they are taking up the hobbies they had always wanted to, or picking up old ones
  • others are enjoying the extended vacations or sabbaticals – they had simply never been able to take the time out of the office or workplace before
  • some are working from home or looking into new business ventures
  • many said they hadn’t been happy in their jobs anyway


 
Paul, a Customer Service Manager from Minnesota had his working week reduced to 4 days in January wrote I initially panicked, wondering how we would survive financially. But then I realised I had been working 50 hour weeks, maybe more for years. With a 32 hour week ironically my hourly rate is probably higher than it has been for a long time! ”

Christophe, was laid off in the chemical sector in Belgium earlier this year and as a gifted linguist is using his period of unemployment to add to his skill set by learning Dutch. He is also supervising the remodelling of his house himself, something he really enjoys, but would have previously outsourced to an architect simply through of lack of time. The upside of Michael’s period out of full time employment is feeling fitter, healthier and weighing in 14 pounds lighter! He is spending time with his wife and kids, as well as playing some golf. With a long career in the IT sector he is working from home as a consultant and looking at joint ventures and start ups.

Shawna from Oregon describes herself as recovering workaholic. ” For me, being laid off meant the opportunity to not be in an airplane all the time, the chance to work on home improvement projects that were too big to do when I had a full time job. …. “She explains how she wanted to get beyond the pain points ” I typically chose to feel that since I don’t want to regret the things that happened, I can always use the events to learn from and get stronger. That doesn’t make the event positive or negative – it just means I re-tell the event as a positive so that I can work with it, instead of against it.”

Marina from San Francisco added “If I had not been laid off recently I would have missed out on some wonderful and necessary things. 

Will this feeling of enjoying the moment last? I have no idea. One discussion the recession has generated is the perennial chestnut of work/life balance. I think we have all been profoundly changed by what has gone on around us – hopefully for the better. It will be interesting to see if when economies do pick up, whether we will have learned any useful lessons, or we will all drift seamlessly back to our old ways.

It seems that a year ago, we might have had more money in our pockets but perhaps we were less well off in other ways. Somehow, are we seeing that now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Job Search: Action Does Overcome Anxiety

  
I frequently hear clients telling me of their struggles to let people know that they are now unemployed.

Small things like writing an end date on their CV or LinkedIn profile, for what is now their old job, are very challenging. Responding to the inevitable questions in networking events “Who are you with?” or “ What do you do?” leaves them feeling profoundly inadequate and nervous. Adjectives they use to describe themselves are “ stupid” and a “loser” .
 
In the words of Nina Ferrell “No pronouncement about you has value unless you agree with it.” But when those thoughts are internal messages coming from YOU – how do you manage your mind to maintain motivation? Fortunately, your reaction to anything is one of the few things you can control and here are just a few strategies to help put these experiences into context:
 
Reframe the experience: 
 
 Examine the facts
  • How many people are unemployed in your country, region or sector? You are one of many I would imagine, so the odds are stacked against everyone. When unemployment levels are at over 9% today there is no stigma to being without a job.
  • You are “ stupid” or a “loser” – lets look at this. One dictionary definition of stupid is ” marked by a lack of intellectual acuity”. What are your educational levels? What has your career and personal experience been to date? How would you describe anyone else, a neighbour or a colleague, with these levels of achievements, either academic, personal or professional? Where on the spectrum would you put “stupid” ? I imagine – nowhere. You are simply between jobs and in transition. Actors call it “ resting”, an excellent phrase.
  • Look at those same achievements and understand and acknowledge what you are good at. Keep a log of that list and read and update it regularly.

Turn transition into a positive experience

  • Look at your skill sets and identify areas where you could enhance existing skills, or gain new ones: learn a language, do an on-line course, do voluntary work. How you are responding to this “resting” period will be useful later on.
  • Use the time to formulate an action plan and set new achievable goals
  • When you achieve these goals –acknowledge that success, write it down and reward yourself. Remember this is a numbers game and initiative is better than inertia and action and activity overcome anxiety or angst .
  • Keep a log of your job search efforts so you can see in quantifiable terms exactly what you are doing.
  • Monitor your progress. Ask for feedback in case you need to do something differently.
  • Stay flexible and open minded.

Learn from previous experience

Look at the other challenges in your life and how you dealt with them. The skills that you had then and called upon, are basically unchanged ( unless there are health issues, which should be dealt with separately) and therefore still in your “tool box ” So you should be able to carry on using them.

Which challenges impacted you most?

  • How did you deal with them? Can you use those skills again?
  • Did you seek support? If so from whom?dentify and log your negative thoughts and see if they have appeared in your internal dialogue before. If they do, what are they? You will be able to see the ones that reoccur most frequently – check if there’s a pattern, and try to identify the ones that you are most anxious about. Acknowledging the existence of these thoughts is the first step at dealing with them. If you find this difficult, imagine advising a friend or colleague with the similar thoughts. Write down what you would say to him or her.     

  • What did you learn about yourself and others?
  • How did you inform yourself?
  • What made you feel more positive about the future?
  • Have you ever supported anyone else through a similar situation?
  • What did you say to them?

Log your negative messages

  •  Sit down and challenge the negative thoughts that you have identified. You have them written down so examine every thought on that page. Now look at each one rationally. Ask yourself where you would place these thoughts on a “reasonableness scale 1- 10”? What actual evidence is there for and against? If you have a thought ” I am never going to work again… ever” spend some time researching economic trends and re-frame your thought in the light of what experts are saying.

Take care of yourself

Now especially it is really important to look after your physical health and emotional well -being. Eat healthily, exercise and keep an eye on any symptoms of stress.

But if you do struggle with anxiety over a long period, please do consider seeking professional career support, consulting a doctor or a counsellor.

But above all remember “There’s no failure, only feedback. No mistakes, only outcomes” Thomas Hardman