Graduate & Professional School Channel
When we are out of work, we don’t just need to know what our options are-what different methods of job-hunting are available to us. We need to have a plan. An Overall Plan of Attack. Not on people. But on the problem of how to not only find work, but meaningful work. All plans of attack basically break down to just two broad categories. Here is both the explanation, and the contrast between them:
So, which plan of attack should you adopt if you’re out of work? Well, that’s up to you. Job-hunters typically begin with the so-called Traditional Approach. Most of us know how to do it, or can quickly learn. It doesn’t demand much time. Slap together a resume. Post it. Wait to see if you get any responses. Do the interviews. Get the job. If it works, great! Problem: increasingly, it doesn’t work. So, when we are unemployed we stay unemployed. For weeks. For months. Or sometimes for years. The traditional approach doesn’t work, but it is the only approach we know. We have no Plan b.
Every Job-Hunter Needs a Plan b
When we set out we need a plan. But, to keep hope alive we need an alternative plan as well, in case the first one just doesn’t work, this time. Fortunately, there is a Plan b, if you try The Traditional Approach, and it just doesn’t work for you. Of course it’s the Creative Approach, outlined in the right-hand column of the previous chart. It’s harder than The Traditional Approach. It’s more work. It takes longer. It asks you to do more thinking. But that is precisely its value. It forces you to think about your whole life, and what you want out of life. You get to deal with Life’s major issues.
Now, you probably don’t care, but just in case you do: this path is actually a field. That field is called: Life/work Planning. That field has textbooks; I’ve written one of them myself. Life/work
planning deals with the four issues: how do I figure out what’s happening? Then: how do I ensure that I will survive? Then: once I know how to survive, how do I make my life have meaning or some sense of mission? And, finally: once I’ve decided what my mission in life is, how can I be more effective at achieving the goals I’ve set for myself?
If you’re going to use the interruptions in life to do some hard thinking, those are issues really worth thinking about. So, let us begin.
Who Are You?
You begin by doing homework on yourself. Why on yourself? Well, think of life as a journey. And recall what travel experts teach about taking a journey (unless it’s on a shoestring): they say—before you go—lay out on your bed two piles. In one pile, put all the clothes (plus toiletries, and stuff) that you think you’ll need to take. In the other pile, put all the money you think you’ll need to take.
Then, they say, pack only half the clothes, but twice the money.
A parallel ratio occurs in the journey we are all taking, called Life. For this part of that journey, you are gonna need only half the information you initially thought you would need about the job-market, but twice the amount of information you initially thought you would need about yourself.
I know you’re probably going to protest that you’ve lived with yourself all your life, so far, and you don’t need any deeper knowledge. Well, maybe. But my experience over the past forty years, with literally millions of job-hunters, is that usually we just don’t understand who we are, and what we have to offer
the world. Not the fullness of it. Not the richness of it. Solution: a fresh inventory of what you have to offer the world, before you go back out there. And I mean all that you have to offer, not just part of it. You ready know part of it. The problem is that is only part. You need to know it all.
Homework for a Career Change
And if you are contemplating a career-change, maybe—after you inventory yourself—you will decide to go train for a new career or direction for your life. Maybe. But first, please, please, inventory what you already have. It’s broader, deeper, richer, than you think. And by the way, often you can put together a new career just using what you already know and what you already can do—with just a bit of training or retraining.
I’m not talking about changing from salesperson to doctor: for that, you will need to start over again. But most career changes are not that dramatic, as I will show you, in chapter 7.
And so it may turn out that the knowledge you need to pick up can be found in a vocational/technical school, or in a (one- or) two-year college. But it may also be found by “informational interviewing.”
2 A job-hunter named Bill had worked for a number of years in retail; now he was debating a career-change—working in the oil industry. But he knew virtually nothing about that industry. However, he went from person to person who worked at companies in that industry, just seeking information about the industry. The more of these “informational interviews” he conducted, the more he knew. In fact, coming down the home stretch, just before he got hired in the place of his dreams, he found he now knew more than the people he was visiting, about their competitors and some aspects of the industry. Sometimes, there is more than one way to pick up the knowledge you need.
I’m Not Sure I Really Need to Do This Homework
Well, maybe not. But let’s test that.
1. Take ten sheets of blank paper. Write, at the top of each one, just these three words: Who Am I?
2. Then write, on each sheet in turn, just one answer to that question. And only one. Incidentally, don’t
put down negative stuff, like “I am a procrastinator,” or “I am a messy person.” If this were a psychological
exercise, putting down negative as well as positive self-identifications might make sense; but this is a
vocational exercise, and the only question of course is, “What is there about me that would attract an employer . . . down the line?” That’s why people always put down just positive stuff, as you can see in the example on the next page. It is really “roles” we are looking for, a matter of what different hats you wear. For example . . . for a man it might be: husband, father, advisor, writer, teacher, counselor, friend, etc. For a woman, it might be . . . well, see the next column. In my own case, I am . . . husband, father, advisor, writer, teacher, counselor, friend, etc.
3. When you’re done, go back over all ten sheets and expand now upon what you have written on each sheet. Looking at each answer, write below it, why you said that, and say what turns you on about that answer.
4. When finished with all ten sheets, go back over them and arrange them in order of priority. That is, which identity is the most important to you? That page goes on top. Then, which is next? That goes immediately underneath the top one. Continue arranging the rest of the sheets in order, until what you think is your least important identity is at the bottom of the pile.
5. Finally, go back over the ten sheets, in order, and look particularly at your answer you wrote on each sheet, concerning What Turns Me On About This? See if there are any common denominators, or themes, among the ten answers you gave. If so, jot them down on a separate piece of paper. Voilà! You have begun to put your finger on Who You Are, with some things you need to keep in mind if you are to feel truly excited, fulfilled, useful, and effective, and operating at the height of your powers.
Here is how one woman did this exercise:
Who Am I?
1. A woman
3. Nature dweller
4. People person
6. A traveler
7. Worldly wise
What turns you on about the above?
1. Ever-changing, emotion, caring, warm, loving and giving. Strong stock, independent, sexy, magnetic. Mother and Teacher. Survivor, activist, unique, and creative
2. For the love of the mystical, healing of self and the spirit, human sciences and Mother Nature.
3. Where I am happiest for the peace and wondrous beauty of the world and miracles created each and every day. Seasons change, colors, and aromas. Joy of knowing the healing powers of a peaceful and idyllic universe, pure and unsolved.
4. The love of humor and socializing. Being a friend, sharing wisdoms, and helping when in need. Where we can teach and be teached as reflections of each other. To be carried and carry on our journey as we are all one.
5 . The appreciation of art, music, literature. To play with your imagination, relaxing and shutting off. To create with different mediums that are fun, exciting, and produce an unknown outcome.
6. Comfortable in facing the unknown with acceptance before I arrive.
7. Knowledge of own wisdom through tragedy, love, travel.
8. Gaining knowledge and understanding through intense questioning and action.
9. To be able to assess a situation, take the bull by the horns, and turn it around. Self-satisfaction and passion seeing the
momentum turn to the positive. Mother Theresa.
10. Being an example to others in whatever you do. When good is not good enough and pushing forward. Individual and creative. Any common denominators? Various creative situations that are new to gain knowledge of the unknown through travel, esoteric/ nature, arts, people.
What must my career use (and include) for me to be truly happy, useful, and effective? Investigation using creativity in an esoteric or environment field with people of like-mindedness. Human sciences/Environmental studies/Journalist/Presenter/Traveling/ People
Now, if this exercise was easy for you, then you have a very good start in defining who you are. But if it was harder than you thought it would be, then you can see there is work to be done. You need to know more about You.
The detailed homework about You begins in the next chapter. The only requirement is that you must be willing to stick with it, do some hard thinking, and above all, approach this as fun. Well, why shouldn’t it be? It’s You you’re doing the homework on. What more fascinating subject do you know? (Low self-esteem aside, of course! This homework should help fix that!)
You’ve got talent, no doubt about that. You have special gifts, and skills. You must be sure you own up to what those gifts are. Unemployment is a perfect time. True, it seems to come as an interruption in most of our lives. But Martin Luther King Jr. had something to say about that: “The major problem of life is learning how to handle the costly interruptions. The door that slams shut, the plan that got sidetracked, the marriage that failed. Or that lovely poem that didn’t get written because someone knocked on the door.”
Interruptions are opportunities. To pause. To think. To assess where we really want to go from here with our lives. The Creative Approach, with its demand that you do homework on yourself before you set out on your search for (meaningful) work, helps you take advantage of the opportunity that this interruption—being out of work—offers.
Use the opportunity. Make this time of your life not only a hunt for a job, but a hunt for a life. A deeper life. A life you’re prouder of. A victorious life. The world currently is filled with workers whose weeklong question is, “When is the weekend going to be here?” And, then, “Thank God it’s Friday!” Their work puts bread on the table but . . . they are bored out of their minds. They’ve never taken the time to think out what they uniquely can do, and what they uniquely have to offer to the world. The world doesn’t need any more bored workers.
So, do the homework. Dream a little. Dream a lot. One of the saddest lines in the world is, “Oh come now—be realistic.” The best parts of this world were not fashioned by those who were realistic. They were fashioned by those who dared to look hard at their wishes and then gave them horses to ride.
Job-hunter: It doesn’t feel to me like we’re in a survival mode in this country. Plenty of people have jobs. I think this country is still very prosperous.
Career-counselor: Well, you’re right. To be exact, 142 million people have jobs in this country, at this moment. But any of us can be thrown out of work any time, without warning. And we aren’t spending time thinking about that possibility ahead of time, are we?
Job-hunter: No, we aren’t. I mean, I can’t speak for others, but it never occurred to me that I might be unemployed. And unemployed for this long.
Career-counselor: Well, that’s why we call this a survival mode, in this country; and in other countries around the world. Let me give you an analogy. You see a swimmer in danger of drowning. Can’t swim very well. Has no life-jacket. Is about to go under the water for the third time. His arms are flailing the water desperately. Get the picture?
Job-hunter: Sure. He’s in trouble.
Career-counselor: Yes, but he’s in trouble because he didn’t put on a life-jacket before he ever went out into the water. If he knew he might have trouble surviving out there, he would have put on that life-jacket.
Job-hunter: So, you’re saying . . . Career-counselor: I’m saying, prepare now, if you want to survive later. Do some Life/work Planning or Designing.