Friday, April 2, 2010

Whining Your Way to a Meaningful Job Search

I recently facilitated a job search strategy session for a group of 15 mid and senior level professionals and managers. It began with a great deal of complaint about how bad the job market is and how it’s probably going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. After a fair amount of ranting, a couple of participants commented that the “whining” was counterproductive, as well as being annoying to listen to. Once that was acknowledged the whining shifted to a whole other level: Even when I get my next job, it will probably not be what I really want . . . it might pay less . . . it might not be a long commute . . . and so on.

Before long the whole group realized that the energy they were expending in whining was feeble and a-not-very-effective way to connect to what they hoped their next job or career would be like. So, we began to discuss how their whining was distracting them from their efforts to express their values, their desires, and what they really wanted. This lead to a discussion about how they needed to reframe their story from a lament (I hope I get something . . .) and a complaint (I’ll take anything at this point . . .) to a coherent and authentic statement of what is important (This is who I am . . . , what I can do . . ., what I want . . .) and then make necessary adjustments and compromises from there.

They began to see that experiencing the job market as a victim (and hence the continuous whining, as in, ”Why don’t they ever return my calls?”) was counterproductive and started to recognize that a more powerful stance was to see themselves as co-creators of their future. For some people in the room, this was a relatively easy shift—they saw that their previous way was ineffective and, being pragmatic, they could justify making a change; others were at a stage of readiness to hear a new message and were open to considering that there are other ways to conduct their job search. Nearly half the group, however, stayed stuck in their whining and being a victim, and even though many examples were offered to contradict their positions, many became louder and more adamant in their whining.

The bottom line is that each of us always has choice in the matter of how we look for work or change our careers. We can do it the way we always have done it, and “hope for the best,” whining all the way. Or we can step back and look for new options and possibilities, and choose a different path to achieving our goals. By the way, when the session ended, most were still whining as they left the room.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman