The idea that you can find a job doing work you love might sound like a pipe-dream to many of you who aren’t “there” yet and think you might never be. While I realize it might be difficult to achieve and sometimes stymied by seemingly insurmountable challenges, I believe it’s a goal worth pursuing.
If you’re currently feeling stuck in a miserable job situation or unsatisfying career rut, what have you got to lose by taking a different (fresh) look at the possibilities?
Tossing It All to Do Work You Love
A recent article by Anita Bruzzese, titled “On the Job: Live the dream and do what you love,” focuses on Tama Kieves, the author of a book called Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work! Kieves did basically toss it all to do work she loved, although it took her years in an uninspiring legal career before she made the leap.
According to Bruzzese’s article, Kieves said, “I think true passion is your greatest economic security….If you follow your genius and your talent, you’re most likely to create and get a job.” She also noted that you don’t necessarily have to quit your current job to make it happen. Sometimes you can move toward your goal incrementally, for example.
Tips for Finding the Work You Love
In the article, Kieves offered some suggestions for those of you who are puzzled about how you can tell when you’re making the right choice to pursue the work you love. In short, she said:
- Take your pulse. If you’re energized by the path you’re choosing…then you know you’re headed in the right direction.
- Don’t try to define it right away.
- The first step is to look for something you love, then let your instincts guide you. Don’t try to force a decision on what to do, but be willing to let it evolve.
- Stop planning. No one can plan an inspired life, and life will throw you plenty of curveballs along the way.
- Stop listening to doubters. Fear will sound like practicality….
I think her advice is reasonably sound; however, I do take exception to the point about not planning. I don’t see that it has to be an either-or proposition. Why can’t you have at least the framework of a plan, which can be adjusted periodically if things change?
In other words, does planning necessarily prevent you from keeping an open mind and adjusting to life’s curve-balls as you go? I don’t think so. I still strongly advocate creating and maintaining a career management plan that takes into account the things you love to do as much as possible without being 100% freewheeling and out of control. Maybe Kieves and I will have to agree to disagree on this point.
Many people are prompted to pay attention to networking when they’re in or about to start a job search, but the rest of the time, networking gets put on a back burner. Not only is this self-centered (perhaps somewhat understandably) but also it is short-sighted. Say you land your new job and don’t “need” your network for quite a while. Is there any reason to tap into it or interact with those in it?
Well, yes. Actually, there could be more than one reason to network outside the confines of a job search.
Network Nurturing for Future Needs
One reason is that you should be nurturing your network as an insurance policy in case you end up needing to look for a new job, maybe sooner than you expected. Of course, this is still on the self-centered side of the equation, but it’s a valid point.
By the same token, you could have shorter-term needs that people in your network could help with. An example would be if you’re scheduled to deliver a presentation to a major client and don’t have direct access to a key source of critical information. If you know someone in your network who either has that access or can help you get it, that’s a potentially big deal, and you can’t expect the individual to be responsive if you haven’t maintained a good relationship.
Networking Includes Giving Back
When you maintain a two-way network, everyone stands to win. In other words, you should make an effort to reach out to people in your network when you learn about something that might interest or help them. I’m talking about more than the usual recommendation to send someone a link to an article you read on a subject of possible interest to them (although you can certainly do that).
For example, you might learn that a connection in your network is involved in planning a big charity event. If you have skills or knowledge that could be useful to him/her, you can extend an offer of help. Whether or not the person decides to accept your offer, it’s a safe bet the offer will be remembered favorably. It brands you as a giver and not just a taker.
Networking that Boosts Job Success
An article on The Daily Muse titled “How Your Network Can Help You Be Better at Your Job” touches on this aspect of networking outside a job search. Author Sara McCord says, “if you only reach out to people during times of career transition, you’re wasting a valuable resource for your professional development” and then she describes “five easy ways your contacts can help you excel at your current gig—and how to reach out the right way.” [Emphasis added.]
Remember: People usually like to be needed; it makes them feel good. However, they do not like to be taken for granted or “used” as if they were a disposable commodity. This is true regardless of what rung you’re occupying on the ladder to job and career success.
Chances are, at least some of you answered yes, thinking that it’s perfectly understandable to feel a let-down when your weekend is over and you have to return to work.
However, chances are, you’d be wrong–if you think Monday morning blues means that Monday is the worst day of the week for you by far. Yes, many people feel a mood change when going to work after a weekend, but the mood isn’t much if any different on Tuesday or later. (Try going back to work on Tuesday, after a 3-day weekend liked Memorial Day, for instance–Tuesday will probably feel much the same as Monday did in previous weeks.)
Are Monday Morning Blues for Real or Not, Then?
An article titled “Monday morning blues are a myth, say academics” says no, they’re not. According to a study reported on in 2012, Monday doesn’t show up as appreciably worse than Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. As the study says, “The perception of Blue Mondays is likely prevalent due to the extreme contrast in mood from Sunday to Monday, even though there is no real difference in mood with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.”
Aha, so there is a big contrast between the weekend and the Monday–or whatever day happens to start your work week that week. So it seems to me, then, that Monday morning blues–while it might be something of a misnomer in terms of the actual day–does have some validity in explaining your mood when you have to return to work following a weekend that feels all too short.
Can You Prevent Monday Morning Blues?
If you feel a little reluctant at the start of the week to exchange your free time for doing what your employer pays you to do, that might be a natural emotion and not too difficult to get past. Just accept the inevitable and move on. However, if you actively dread returning to work on Monday–maybe even hate getting out of bed to start the day–something could be seriously wrong, and I’d strongly recommend looking into that ASAP.
Of course, you might already know you dislike your job, your boss or something else about the work you’re doing and decided you just need to deal with it and keep going (for whatever reason). On the other hand, you might not yet have realized the extent of your aversion and its effect on your mental and physical well-being. If you are one of those unfortunate individuals who is really in a miserable work situation, “dealing with it” could be much more difficult. In such situations, the concept of Monday morning blues doesn’t begin to describe the severity of the problem, and that’s no myth.
As I’ve said before, situations as severe as that might require you to find a way, somehow, to change your circumstances–such as conducting a serious job search and finding a better position in another company. It’s basically up to you to determine that, but you can look for support from people trained to help people make difficult life changes–a spiritual advisor if you have one, a life or career coach, a counselor…up to and possibly including work with a therapist if that’s called for.
By the way, I haven’t had anything close to the Monday morning blues in longer than I can remember. That’s because I really love what I do–working with clients to help them prepare for and make a job or career change. When you love what you do, it’s almost true that it’s not work. Almost, because of course I work very hard at what I do, but I find it so satisfying that it’s definitely worth the effort. I hope you can say the same in the near future, if it’s not true for you now.
Quite sometime ago, I did a post about a job search resource called Preptel, which aimed to help job seekers prepare their resumes for the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) gauntlet–making them keyword-rich, organizing sections appropriately, and so on. It seemed like a good resource at the time. Unfortunately, Preptel is about to disappear.
A recent announcement indicated that after three years of trying, the company has been unable to turn a profit and has reluctantly decided to call it quits. What does that mean for you as a current or future job seeker?
What Job Search Value Did Preptel Offer?
For starters, it focused our attention more sharply on the whole issue of keywords and the growing use of ATS as a tool to screen (weed-out) job seekers during the employment process. Unless you can identify a way to deliver your resume directly to a hiring manager, you could find yourself being ATS-screened and eliminated from consideration before you get to square one.
Preptel provided a tool for trying to align your resume with specific postings you planned to pursue. You could upload your resume and have Preptel compare it to the job posting, then receive an evaluation of how near (or far) it was from where it might need to be in order to get you considered as a candidate.
I did have a few reservations about some of the hoops you would have to jump through to get anywhere near a close match without having a resume that was ridiculously worded and hard for a human being to read, but I thought the potential usefulness outweighed that possible disadvantage. However, it now becomes a moot point, since Preptel will no longer be a job search resource.
Alternative Job Search Resources
You might ask what your alternatives are now that Preptel is disappearing. Some of those alternatives aren’t earth-shakingly new. For example:
- Review and revitalize your network before you need to start mining it for help in a job search. Hint: A good book to read on effective networking, although not new, is Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.
- Avoid the impersonal ATS route if at all possible and practical. Get to know people where you want to work and become known by them as a potentially valuable asset. Use your network to develop desired connections you don’t already have.
- Research the companies whose postings have caught your attention and interest; then tailor your submission to each company’s requirements as much as you legitimately can. Assume that in this case you will run up against an ATS screening, so diligently identify and use all the relevant keywords and phrases you can to help you navigate that obstacle.
- Look at the areas where you might not be as strong as you’d like in comparison with what the company is asking for and determine whether (or how) you can try to upgrade your qualifications in those areas. Ideally, take steps to accomplish that before you embark on a full-scale job search.
No Substitute for Smart Job Search Techniques
Preptel and other high-tech proposals to help solve your job search challenges could never eliminate all the obstacles from your path, anyway. To think they could is self-delusional at best.
In today’s challenging employment market and the increasing reliance on technology to deal with it, you still need to use smart job search techniques that stem from who you are, what you can offer, what you view as your potential value and/or limitations, etc.. Also consider how much time, thought and energy you’re willing and able to put into all aspects of the job search.
Sorry, but no one said it would be easy–or if they did, they lied!
As I’ve said before, it’s great when you land that new job you’ve been after, and you’re entitled to enjoy at least a brief celebration. However–and this is critical–you cannot rest on your laurels. You need to turn your successful job search into on-the-job success.
Some things are fairly obvious in that regard. You need to show up at work every day, on time and ready to go. You need to pay attention to what’s going on around you and what’s expected from you. You need to avoid the “out the door” sprint at 5:00 p.m. (Does anyone actually get to leave work at 5:00 anymore?) Other factors for on-the-job success might be commonsense at their core but might not always occur to you as soon as they should.
So I’ve put together a short list of tips to help you get your new job off to a great start–and keep it that way.
5 On-the-Job Success Tips
- Reconfirm what your boss’ expectations are for your performance in the new role. Of course, you should have gotten a clear indication of this before you accepted the position, but it’s wise to double-check to make sure nothing critical has changed and to confirm your understanding of the expectations.
- Refresh your memory and understanding of the key players you will be interacting with–and managing, if your role involves significant management responsibility. Spend some time getting to know each one and how he/she fits into the company structure. Try to keep an open mind, but also maintain alertness with regard to possible saboteurs (intentional or otherwise).
- Identify the resources available to you in your new role–whether financial, people or something else. If you have a budget to manage or to operate within, review your initial plans in the light of that. However, keep an eye also on non-financial resources you will need to depend on, including support from other departments, external vendors and so on.
- Establish clear expectations for the performance of any staff you supervise and then focus on how to provide the support they will need in order to perform their jobs at peak effectiveness.
- Develop and implement a system for tracking and monitoring your progress toward the goals you were given at the beginning (and those you set for your team). You should have created a contingency plan to allow for unpredictable changes that can make a mess of your original plans, so take a look at that periodically as well.
What About When You Hate Your New Job?
As the saying goes, “The best laid plans….” When you find you’ve landed yourself in a job that is (a) not what it was described as being or (b) not the good fit you thought it was going to be, what next? Do you walk around with a bad attitude until you can snag the first possible opportunity to jump ship and go somewhere else?
The impulse to do that might be strong, but it’s probably a really bad idea. That’s at least partly because your long-term career success–as opposed to on-the-job success in one situation–could depend a lot on the overall pattern of performance and commitment you establish. It needs to be one that you can point to with pride.
In a bad job situation, you should be looking for ways to contribute as much value as possible while you’re also considering when and how to take action on pursuing other potential opportunities. When you’re participating in job interviews to secure a new position, you’ll be in a stronger spot if you can point to one or more actions you’ve taken that have benefited the company you’re currently in.
Whether you’re an executive looking for his/her next senior position or a career newbie, job search is hard work. The specifics will undoubtedly differ in various respects, but the underlying theme is the same. You can’t get there from here without serious effort.
That’s true whether we have a decent job market or a lousy one (see my previous post on career management in a down economy for another slant on this). No one is likely to hand you your next job opportunity on a platter. You’ve probably heard the saying, “Work smarter, not harder.” I think it’s often a case of “work smarter and harder”! You need to use good sense about how to approach your job search, but you also need to invest a fair amount of energy into executing it.
Tough States for a Job Search
A recent article on 247WallSt.com titled “States Where It Is Hardest To Find Full-Time Work” talks about states where it’s hardest to find a job (see the list below), including the fact that unemployment rates aren’t the only story–underemployment has also been a big issue. In other words, the employment situation deteriorates even further when you add people who’ve taken jobs that are below their previous level (in less skilled fields and so on) to those who are unemployed.
If you live in one of the listed states, you’re probably already aware of this situation, but even if you live elsewhere, you might find that the situation isn’t appreciably better in your location. That means…you guessed it, you’ll need to work both smarter and harder to make your current or next job search successful.
Top 10 (or should that be bottom 10?) states where it’s hardest to find full-time work (ranked best to worst):
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
Balance Job Search Hard Work with Smart Work
Obviously, you don’t have more hours in your 24-hour day than anyone else, but more important, you’ll probably reach a point of diminishing returns before you max-out the hours. You might have more time if you’re unemployed than someone who’s currently putting in 60-80 hours a week at work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have much to do with your days. Whichever category you fall into as a job seeker, you still need to invest both hard work and smart work in your job search.
Here are a few tips for doing that:
- Organize yourself and your job search plan. You have to know what needs to be done before you can figure out when and how to do it.
- Identify and maximize your resources. Be realistic about your available time and energy–and seek help from others who can fill in some of the gaps for you on occasion.
- Keep the underlying concept of balance in mind. Avoid stressing yourself out by tackling a load that only Superman or Wonderwoman could handle (flying faster than a speeding plane).
- Prioritize and postpone. When something can be done later without derailing your job search or destroying your personal life, postpone it.
Celebrate the Victories in Your Job Search
If you win even a small victory, such as getting a call about a job interview from a company you submitted your resume to, take a moment to celebrate that–and then begin preparing to ace the interview! When you combine smart work and hard work in your job search, you’ll find that celebrating the small steps along the way to your new job can increase your energy and success over the longer haul.
P.S. If you want a rueful chuckle or two related to the concept of “work smarter, not harder,” take a look at these “Dilbert” cartoons.
Have you ever worked with someone who spread negativity around 24×7 (sort of like the dust-cloud that always followed Charles Schultz’ character Pigpen)? On the other hand, have you worked with someone who could put a smile on your face without visibly trying?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, you’ll probably see where today’s post is coming from and where it’s heading.
Negative Individuals Pull You Down
Negativity spreaders tend to produce little or nothing in the way of positive results, either in the short term or the long term. They’re too busy spreading doom and gloom, either from personal obsession with the things they see as being wrong in their life (work or otherwise) or some other factor that leads them to exhibit unrelenting pessimism.
When you have the misfortune to work with or for a negativity spreader, you can find yourself struggling to maintain an upbeat attitude and a positive momentum in your job and your career. One thing you can do upfront is to stay alert and aware when you have job interviews with various people at a company. However, I don’t know of any surefire solution to avoid winding up in this situation.
Your best bet if it does happen to you is to look for ways to distance yourself from the individual, assuming that can be done appropriately. If the person is your boss, however, you might need to begin quietly investigating other employment opportunities.
A good side note here is that you want to make sure you aren’t being (or becoming) a negativity spreader! Anyone can have a bad day, but if that hangs on over time, it needs attention.
Job Success Depends on Being a Positive Energizer
Being a positive energizer at work doesn’t guarantee job success, but it can sure provide a strong foundation for that success.
I read an article a few days ago that offered some interesting insights on this subject: “Positive Energy Is What Markets Ideas Within An Organization.” The article noted that people who have positive energy deliver much higher performance in their work. It also said: “Not only were energizers better performers, but people who were closely connected to energizers were also better performers. In other words, energizers raise the overall level of performance around them.”
The article lists 8 ways to make sure you’re a positive energizer, including (1) do what you say you’re going to do; (2) make it bigger than your wants; and (3) criticize ideas, not people. It only takes a few minutes to read, and I think it’s worth spending that bit of time.
How Can You Tell If You’re a Positive Energizer?
If people tend to avoid you whenever you approach them at work, you’re probably not a positive energizer! Seriously, you’ll most likely find that you don’t have to struggle too hard to get cooperation from them, persuade them to contribute to your team, etc. Also, you might receive performance review comments or off-the-cuff remarks indicating that people are not only willing but eager to work with or for you. That’s a super-worthwhile career goal, and if you invest the right kind of effort, it’s within your reach.