Resolve to Absolve Yourself: 2012 Update

Happy new year, all, and while I took a bit of a blogging hiatus through late December, I’m looking forward to getting back on the horse and bringing you plenty of new articles as 2012 gets underway!

As always, I’ve got plenty of ideas and article concepts on the back burner, just itching to be published, based on what I’ve been seeing out there in the marketplace and from the job hunting experiences reported to me by my clients on an ongoing basis.  And again, whether in my own blog or via the new series of columns I’ll be authoring for the Seattle Times NWjobs section, my goal (not that I always achieve it) is to focus on fresh topics and subtle nuances of the job market that haven’t been written about and recycled countless times by other authors out in the career ecosystem.  In fact, the mantra I try to follow when I write is “If I’m boring myself, I’m probably boring my readers.”  Here’s hoping that will continue to be a fairly reliable guide to my efforts, going forward…

In a stunning move of hypocrisy, however, I’m actually NOT going to kick off the new year with a totally original post.  Instead, I want to repost a slightly edited version of an article I wrote two years ago, discussing the phenomenon of “unemployment guilt” and the degree to which I feel such guilt hampers the ability of many out-of-work professionals to continue leading happy, productive lives.  While it’s too soon to tell how exactly the job market is going to play out in the year to come, it’s probably a safe bet to say that plenty of Americans will continue to be searching for work longer than they’d like.  And that during this search, they are going to have to contend with all kinds of innately human emotions such as guilt, fear, and self-doubt until they land their next opportunity.

In fact, if my sources are to be believed, there’s a pretty good chance that many professionals in transition will continue to have inner conversations with themselves along the lines of:

1) “If I’m not job hunting each and every minute of the day, I must be cheating the process or not trying hard enough.”

2) “If I take a trip, go see a movie, or do something even the slightest bit enjoyable for myself, I don’t deserve it and am just being selfish.”

3) “If I spend a few extra bucks here and there, or treat myself to a few affordable luxuries, it’s tantamount to financial suicide.”

4) “If I wasn’t able to buy a wagonload of lavish Christmas presents for my kids this year, I’m a failure as a parent.”

5) “Given the amount of time I’ve been looking, and my inability to find a job quickly, there must be something wrong with me.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure.  Given the opportunity, I have a hunch many of you out there could contribute some additional self-talk themes to the above list.  My basic point, however, is that you can’t allow this type of self-criticism, blame, and guilt to paralyze your daily existence during a period of transition.  You’ve got to fight it.

If you allow this kind of mindset to set in, where you constantly feel your job circumstances are entirely your fault and you’re walking around with the weight of the world on your shoulders, 24 hours a day, it benefits nobody.  You lose, your family loses, and in a larger sense, everybody in your extended community loses.  Sure, you don’t have a job.  And no question about it, there are certain things in life that come with a price tag attached.  But never forget that there are still millions of ways you could devote your time, each day, toward pursuing goals that will enrich both you and those around you.  You may be between assignments at the moment, but you’re not suddenly a second-class citizen, unless you allow yourself to feel like one.  You’re fully entitled to enjoy yourself, accomplish great things, and live a terrific life along the way, even if you’re not currently drawing a paycheck.

So whatever pressure you’ve put on yourself as a result of your employment status, resolve to let go of some it as we head into the new year.  Lighten the load.  Ease the burden.  Muzzle those inner demons.  And recognize that there isn’t a single job hunter in the country right now who is utterly to blame, themselves, for the inability to find work.  The unemployment problems plaguing us are systemic ones, and societal ones, and every one of us is partially to blame for this reality based on the shopping/voting/house-buying habits we’ve indulged in for the past few decades.  And if the people around you, including your spouse, choose to belittle you because you don’t currently have a job title under your belt, it’s time to have a serious conversation with them about the subject.  Or distance yourself from them.  Amazingly, there are still millions of unsympathetic people out there who seem to still “not get” the fact that they could just as easily be in this situation as you, had the winds of change blown a little differently…

Is this a free pass to avoid running a highly focused, methodical job search?  Of course not.  Any serious job hunter still needs to have a solid game plan in place and do their damnedest, each day, to follow it.  But make sure to cut yourself a little bit of slack along the way, as well.  Control what you can and let go of the rest, as the old saying goes.  You’ll be a much happier person as a result, and ultimately, a much more effective job seeker as the people around you marvel about your upbeat attitude — and the constant array of cool things you’re engaged in while they’re slogging away in a cubicle each day.

Best wishes to all of you out there, as we head into 2012, and here’s to a fresh year full of positive career developments!


One Response to “Resolve to Absolve Yourself: 2012 Update”

  1. Self talk matters. I appreciate your reminder, Matt.

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