Job Hunting in 2013: Resolve to Absolve Yourself!

This time of year is always a whirlwind, isn’t it?  Black Friday has come and gone.  The holiday decorations are going back into their storage boxes for another year.  And those wonderful-smelling Christmas trees are all now sitting outside on the curb, looking forward to their next incarnation courtesy of the recycling bin.  Heck, we even seem to have temporarily slapped a bandaid on the whole “fiscal cliff” fiasco for the time being, even if congress had us all biting our nails until the very last minute…

So what will 2013 bring for all involved?  Or specifically, in terms of the purview of this blog, what can we anticipate in terms of the job market and the robustness of the career development scene for all of you out there on the hunt for a new assignment?

Unlike most pundits, I’ll be totally honest.  I don’t have a clue.  I’ve read plenty of reports suggesting that the coming year could be one of continued economic malaise, in contrast to other stories suggesting there are some signs of economic life out there and that some positive market developments might be headed our way.  And if anybody just happens to have a foolproof forecast to offer, on Wall Street or anywhere else, I’m sure they’re keeping it to themselves — since they’re going to make a mint on it!

So as always, let’s focus on what’s within our personal span of control — such as our professionalism, commitments, and effort level — versus what’s OUT of our control, such as the economy and whether or not congress can even agree on something as simple as where to order lunch.  Along those lines, I want to repost a slightly edited version of an article I originally posted two years ago, discussing the phenomenon of “unemployment guilt” and the degree to which such guilt hampers the ability of many out-of-work professionals to stay confident, motivated, and balanced as they go through the process of searching for work.

Enjoy — and as always, feel free to chime in with a comment!

RESOLVE TO ABSOLVE YOURSELF

While it’s too soon to tell how exactly the job market is going to play out in the year to come, it’s a safe bet to say that plenty of Americans will continue to be searching for work longer than they’d like. And that such folks 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, there’s a pretty good chance that the majority of 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.  I have a hunch many of you out there could contribute some additional negative self-talk to the above list.  The key, however, is to not 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 network loses.

Sure, you don’t have a job.  And no question about it, there are plenty of things in life that come with a price tag attached.  But in your quest for your next paycheck, 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.  So whatever pressure you’ve put on yourself as a result of your employment status, resolve to let go of at least some of 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 entirely and utterly to blame, themselves, for their inability to find work — assuming they’re making at least some sort of effort to hunt for an opportunity.

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 focused, methodical job search?  Of course not.  Any serious job hunter still needs to have a solid game plan in place and to do their damnedest, each day, to follow it.  But it’s important to cut yourself a little bit of slack along the way, as well.  Recognize that you’re fighting a major headwind in terms of economic conditions, so you can’t beat yourself up, each day, letting guilt prevent you from living your life and experiencing whatever other joys the universe puts in your path.  Far easier to say than to do, I realize, but try to keep this principle in mind as you regroup for the coming year.

Best wishes to all of you out there, as we head into 2013, and here’s to a fresh year full of positive career developments!

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3 Responses to “Job Hunting in 2013: Resolve to Absolve Yourself!”

  1. Hi Matt, one of the most profound moments in my life was when my son said he liked me more when I was not working. The comment was made when I went back to work after 6 months off. The moral of the story is that the people who love us don’t define our worth by the work we do but by the quality if time we spend with them.

  2. Dana: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I couldn’t agree more about the importance of asking for help in this process. While you may run into a few bad apples out there who blow you off, or rebuff your request, in general I think people will be astonished at the generosity and supportiveness of most of the people they encounter out there. Of course, getting positive results in this fashion is predicated on one key factor — being able to clearly EXPLAIN your goals and the specific things you’re seeking help around! So if you’re a job hunter who is still fuzzy on that score, and don’t have a new year’s resolution in place yet, that’s a great place to start…

  3. Matt, I really like your thinking here and it’s refreshing to see someone say “I don’t know what is going to happen”. To add to your wisdom, my wish for 2013 is that job seekers ask for help. Ask directly, ask often and without apologies. People want to help you and others get joy out of seeing you succeed…even if you are a total stranger. Yes, it may feel awkward the first few times but you’ll get over that. Thank you and Happy New Year!

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