I’ve seen an uptick in emails and phone calls in the past week or so as many people “resolve” to find a job or quit a job in the New Year. As always, I am eager to jump in and help anyone who is seeking to make positive change, yet I remain couched in realism. According to a report by the University of Scranton, only 19% keep their New Year’s resolution two years out from their initial pledge.
There is no doubt that the will to seek new gainful and rewarding employment is there, but it is the “way” that is often obfuscated — which is what leads to our confusion, frustration, and eventual derailment. Like achieving any major goal (for example, other popular resolutions such as getting out of debt or attaining a certain level of fitness), laying solid groundwork, planning, realistic expectations and dedication are imperative to success.
I encourage everyone to “dare to dream” but keep in mind — if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
See below on some thoughts on how to get to work.
1. If you do not have a job, get a job.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but stay with me. You are a much more attractive candidate to a potential employer if you are currently employed. I had a professor in graduate school who would always encourage those of us feeling frustrated or suffering from writer’s block that “something beats nothing.” It’s true.
I have counseled dozens of recent grads who call me from their chaise lounge poolside at their parents in mid-August whining about how they don’t have a job yet after graduation. The same goes for older sweatpants-clad adults I speak to in between crying and binge-watching episodes of House of Cards. What are they doing aside from sending out scatter-shot resumes, calling me, and pitying themselves, and/or relaxing?
Most of the time? Nothing. Or, at least the wrong things.
So, follow my professors advice, and do “something.”
And by doing “something,” I do not mean a made-up internship at your mom’s best friend’s real estate practice. I (and many hiring managers) will smell that a mile away. And it doesn’t smell like roses.
(Spoiler alert: it smells like crap. Because—it is.)
Give me someone who has the gumption to hop behind the stress, multitasking, and customer service Thunderdome of a cash-register, bar, or fast-food order desk instead. That is work. Batting your eyelashes as you “shadow” your aunt doing showings of million dollar homes is not. I always say you really “have not lived” until you have been a bartender, waitress, or worked retail. I have done all three, and they were absolutely invaluable experiences I still draw upon today.
Try to keep your nose down for me as I explain this a little bit more. Retail and restaurant work is often easier to come by and makes a fantastic bridge as you seek something more permanent. You will make more money than you will on unemployment or fetching lattes at Aunt Bunny’s office as an unpaid intern. Additionally, many companies such as Starbucks, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and UPS offer part-time employees benefits — which is great news if you’re over 25 or cannot or wish not to be on your parent’s insurance for another reason.
I am not saying you cannot get great experience from interning with a family member or friend, because you can. I am encouraging you to not immediately write off positions that many people sadly deem “beneath” them. That is because 1.) They are not beneath you (or beneath anyone for that matter) and 2.) These positions provide ample learning opportunity and 3.) Offer pay and benefits. And finally, who doesn’t benefit some by getting out of their comfort zone? (More bluntly put — get over yourself and stop being so precious). Also, who knows? Maybe this will be your calling and you will stay happily employed ever after.
2. “It’s My Life.”
It’s now or never… and I ain’t gonna live forever…
Jon Bon is right; it is your life. You only have a finite time to make it what you want.
One of the largest objections I hear is “But my Mom wants me to…” and “But all my friends are doing…” and “Well, my cousin really like doing…”
Good for effing them. For them. This is about you. Being beholden to and letting someone else preside over your important decisions is a surefire way to hamstring yourself in getting what YOU want.
Out of college, I went to work in real estate finance because that’s what everyone was doing in the middle of the decade when the financial markets were so red hot. Everyone wanted a piece of the prestige. You were square if you wanted something else. La di da.
I stood in my hotel room on a business trip in September 2008 and watched the collapse of Lehman Brothers. I decided that day to go back to graduate school for a degree in something completely unrelated (and never let groupthink make my important choices again).
In 7 Steps to Quitting Like a Winner, I talk about getting in touch with your values (what’s important to you), passions (what you love doing), and talents (what you’re good at) in a meaningful way.
Do not do anything until you do this. Use this as your square one, your true north. Get in touch with you before you begin to throw spaghetti against the wall brainstorming what kind of job you may want.
Your loved ones are most likely well intentioned, but trying to steer you into a career path primarily serves their intentions — not yours.
3. Tell people.
Sing it from the mountains a la Maria in The Sound of Music. If you do not have a pastoral Austrian hilltop, Facebook, LinkedIn, email, and the phone are great ways to let people know the oh-so-talented-you is available for hire.
Many people I speak to feel shame in the fact that they are un or underemployed. Layoffs, firings, and difficulty finding traction after graduation are situations everyone can relate to and understand — and as result, want to help. Do not let shame win by lurking in a dark corner, telling only very few of your predicament.
Be intelligent when you reach out and network with others. Articulate your interests and abilities clearly (see #2) and state what you’d like plainly. Fifteen minutes on the phone to discuss entry-level options for working in biomedical engineering? An invite as a my guest to the next Urban Land Institute networking happy hour with an introduction to a few colleagues in architecture business development? Sounds like someone who knows what they want and is in control.
“Can I pick your brain?”
Sounds like a wiener. I dread talking to you. And I probably won’t. Actually, I definitely won’t.
4. Get your papers together.
Gotta make that paper, Boo Boo. I also talked about in 7 Steps. All the advice in the link above stands, but I’ll elaborate since our purposes here a little different.
When you send out that resume and cover letter, do not do it like a bot. This means, you will need to make a separate, thoughtful cover letters for each (and I mean each) job, and maybe tweak your resume a little too.
I know this may sound tedious, but if you are only applying to jobs where you see yourself long term, that truly align with you, it should not be coming out to more than five or so per week.
I have many clients say to me in our first conversation, “But I’ve sent 657 resumes! And I am still at my mom’s house sleeping in a race car bed!”
Yeah? They were probably all really generic, and sent scattershot out of desperation and thereby looked like crap and got passed over.
Slow. Down. Think quality over quantity. Your good, heartfelt intentions will come through much more clearly.
Finally, KEEP IT ONE PAGE! I often delete resumes for junior positions that are more than one page, or at least automatically look at them with an attitude of “Who’s this effin kid? Psh.” I read on to see things included such as prom committee, babysitting jobs and JV sports.
I know removing certain accomplishments can feel like “killing your children,” but when you cling to things that were marginally impressive seven years ago, it shows a message that not much else has gone on since.
5. Be realistic and manage expectations.
Again, let’s think quality over quantity. You want and deserve something that lights you up. It will take time (good thing you have a good bridge job). Try to avoid panic mode and go into resume-sending overdrive or dashing off hasty emails to anyone and everyone. Be patient, this is big step and part of your life. You deserve to take time getting it right. However, do not be unwilling to compromise.
Maybe you’ll have to move. Maybe it will take some getting used too.
“Still don’t like my job….don’t look forward to coming to work. Hate the client boring and dry. Giving DC six months tops then back to NYC.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T”
Who is this petulant young adult? Me in 2008 whining to my mother after moving to D.C. kicking and screaming; my now beloved home of seven years.
Even if that job ended up not being for me, it was right to make the move to D.C. even though I wanted to go live in New York desperately with all of my friends. That was pretty much the main reason why.
Instead, I moved and experienced something new, got a great start to my career with a great firm, gained a ton of independence, went to graduate school…and guess what? I still get to be friends with my college friends.
Be willing to budge when you are searching to launch or reignite your career. As I said in number one, getting out of your comfort zone can illuminate a world of possibilities.
I know being in an less than ideal employment situation can erode your spirit and self-worth. It can be maddening to feel out-of-control of this important aspect of life. Keep ya head up. We all go through this on some level in life. If you do your best to manage this period well, you can be on your way to the track you desire more quickly, and mostly importantly, with a firm sense of alignment.
Best wishes for 2016. .
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