Friday, October 30, 2009

The New Normal

As the national unemployment rate approaches 10%, I see increasing numbers of people who are becoming resigned to an economy where 9-11% unemployment may become the “new normal.” As this plays out in our work and lives, I see growing fear and anxiety, shattered dreams and confidence, and find it a continuing challenge to help people feel hopeful about the future.

It is, however, a “normal” reaction to feel discouraged during times like these, whether this comes from being bombarded by news of layoffs and budget cuts or by having the real experience of conducting an active and smart job search and seeing nothing positive come about. So, it should come as no surprise that so many are feeling hopeless and even helpless during these times.

As a coach, I wish I could help people easily and quickly move through these emotions and on to a successful conclusion of their journey. Unfortunately, all I can do is remind my clients and anyone else reading this, that by staying in the game, focusing on the process, and keeping a positive frame of mind, eventually (probably later rather than sooner for most of us) the problem will be resolved.

The challenge to stay disciplined, to be both patient and persistent, is probably the key characteristic that distinguishes those who are successful in a job or career change. They find a way, no matter how they might be feeling, to get up each morning and “go to work,” even if they are fairly certain that the work of the day will have little or no positive results. They recognize that by taking one step at time, moving a bit each day, that the cumulative effect, the body of work, so to speak, will start creating momentum. The problem for many of us is that we give up before the momentum kicks in and can do its work.

Here are some suggestions about how to work your way through the new normal:

1. Write a personal mission statement—for some this might be very concrete (I want to have a job as a . . . . by . . . at . . . salary) or it could be more esoteric (I want to help others to . . . through . . .). Read it regularly and let the energy of your mission motivate you to action.

2. Create a flexible structure that has steps/tasks to do each day. Do your best to complete those tasks.

3. Find a buddy, partner, or good friend who can act as a guide, mentor, and who has your permission and blessing to give you honest feedback, as needed.

4. When stuck or confused about what to do next, stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “What’s the smartest thing I can do right now?” Then do that thing.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman