Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back to Business

I taught a workshop earlier this week for a group of 25 unemployed professionals and managers called Getting Back to Business. Its focus was how to conduct a disciplined and professional job search with the underlying assumption that those who do the most sophisticated and authentic job searches are most likely to be re-employed the quickest.

We focused on the usual topics of being organized, seeing the job search as a marketing campaign, understanding how to network appropriately, and so on. As we worked our way through the session, and continuously responding to the very prevalent, “I’ve tried . . . and it hasn’t worked . . . ,” I realized a couple of things that was making the process challenging for these folks.

The first thing I noticed was that, as smart and accomplished as the participants were, many of them were simply going through the motions of the job search. In other words, they were diligent in doing it “by the book”, but only a few recognized that a good job search is a process of continuous learning. So instead of applying what they learned from each experience and encounter, I felt the most of the audience was following that time worn definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The second thing I saw was an intense level of anxiety, much of which resulted from where they were putting their attention and efforts. They kept talking about the sorry state of the job market and their efforts they talked about were often centered on trying to get people “out there” to respond to their continuing requests for action. What most were not seeing was that they needed to put their attention on what they had control over: The attitude they brought to the process, the choices they made at any given moment, and putting their energy and efforts in taking one, small step at a time.

There’s no doubt that a job search can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We all know is lousy, but there are always things each of us can do to mitigate that reality. With the right mind set and focused action, the transition process can actually be a time of great energy and profound learning. Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Aching Back

I’ve been out of work this week due to a back injury I sustained last weekend. My doctor recommended applying heat, taking muscle relaxants, and going for several short, slow walks each day. The good news is that my back is slowly healing. The bad news is that I have earned no income this week because I am paid as a contractor and when I can’t show up to do the coaching, training, and consulting that is my profession, then I don’t get paid. As one might imagine, my anxiety has risen throughout the week.

I tell this story for two reasons. First of all, anxiety is part of everyone’s work life these days and though it’s not in our power to eliminate or even control it, we can use our anxiety as a spur for taking steps toward the future. So, even though I had to postpone my coaching and training sessions, I used the time to get to projects that I had been wanting to work on, as well as getting caught up on some things that I had gotten behind on. So, even though I had zero cash flow this week, I did get many things accomplished that I would not normally have gotten to.

The second reason for relating this story is that my rising anxiety pushed me into making some marketing and networking calls that didn’t feel quite so urgent just one week before. So, even though I was somewhat immobile, I made a several calls to set up informational interviews, made lunch dates with two people who I’ve wanted to meet with, and even found time to re-connect with a colleague from more than 20 years ago. He and I will be meeting in the next month to talk about possible collaboration on a new project.

I cold easily have let my anxiety get the better of me, either preventing me from doing things or making me feel sorry for myself. Admittedly, I’ve had several moments of each during this week, but rather than wallowing in it or berating myself, I’ve simply allowed myself to feel the anxiety, take a few deep breaths, and then get back to work. And that’s how it goes. Most of us are experiencing our own high anxiety and we always have choice about how to respond to it. I choose to take the active path—how about you?
Best wishes.

Mark Guterman