When I published an article here a few weeks ago on the Zen of job searching, little did I expect the volume of ensuing responses. I was confident of the value of what I wrote but overwhelmed by the number of readers who read, copied, forwarded, and responded with additions to that piece. I’d say that, aside from my “Fifty for Fifty – 50 reasons to hire the 50+ candidate” column (first published in 2009 and encored twice), a column that went viral and global twice, the Zen column is the one that brought in the most response. How about that, huh?
That tells me there’s more missing in a lot of lives – and job searches – than just resumes, job postings, search strategies, networking meetings, to do lists, and the rest of the litany of nuts and bolts. But while so very many readers responded with affirmations, thanks, and a range of other positive reactions – on which I’ll expand a little later – there were still some responses that indicated to me that more discussion is in order.
For instance, one reader challenged me by insisting that I’m in an ivory tower and don’t know what it’s like to be in a prolonged job search, and then quoted a recent tweet I sent out that says, “Job searching is like flying. If you don’t keep flapping your wings, you’re going to hit the ground hard.”
Well, for Pete’s sake, if that isn’t missing the point! No one says you should stop flapping; even the highest soaring bird alights regularly. In fact (did you know this?), birds spend less time in the air than they do on their feet, in the water, on telephone wires, in trees, in their nests, and so on. The point is, that in order to soar, one must also rest.
But back to my “ivory tower” – uh, no. Don’t even go there, not with me. Prolonged job search? Yeah, I had an 11-month marathon – with mortgage payments due, the kid’s college fund not yet filled up, and so on. Yeah, I had sudden, unexpected, and nasty dismissals (two). Yeah, I voluntarily left a company when I saw they were a sinking ship – and then found myself out at sea without a life raft. In fact, it’s safe to say that more of the advice I offer is the child of dumb mistakes I made as a candidate than it is of the brilliant ideas I have as the greatest career coach in the history of all mankind
In other words, I’ve been there and done that – and I can tell you, for instance, that one of the best run job searches I ever did began one April when I decided, before jumping into the fray, to take a week off and spend absolutely no time, physical energy, or psychic energy on a search. It could wait, I told myself, until the next week – and I spent a glorious seven days in the back yard doing things like reading three books, planting flowers, playing my guitar, enjoying carefully selected libations at different times during the day, and so forth. I rested, decompressed, dusted off, and then, completely of easy mind, began a fresh and, as it turned out, effective job search.
I don’t wish you a period of unemployment just to test this out, but you should try it if you need to. I’ve advised hundreds of people (if not more) to do the same.
Enough from me: how about some advice from the many readers who responded?
“Try doing some creative visualization,” said Jessica, “a technique where you try to have an effect on the outer world by changing your inner thoughts and, especially, expectations.” Otherwise stated, think about the things you want to accomplish; they become your end game. Now instead of seeing obstacles in the way, think of these things as being steps you have to take.
This is not unlike guided imagery, an alternative medicine technique in which a practitioner helps you develop positive mental imagery to do everything from curing illness to reducing stress. Although traditional guided imagery requires a practitioner, it’s a point well made here to reinforce the creative visualization technique that you can do on your own. You should easily see the magnitude of the potential of doing this.
“When I face new daunting challenges,” said Louisa, “I immediately shift my short-term focus (for a day or two, sometimes more, sometimes less) to something I have never experienced before, something that requires me to think in novel or unusual ways.” That could include, she added, “going to a place I’ve never visited, attending an art exhibit, going to a lecture, or doing puzzles.” What Louisa does, actually, amounts to brain conditioning, the immediate result of which is a freshness and agility with which to face that new challenge.
And finally, Mary Anne said simply, “I just play with my dog. Nothing is better than that.” I agree, friends, although may my cats forgive me. I’m really talking about pets, and pet therapy is widely accepted as being viable and powerful.
So if you have pets, play with them. If not, find someone who does. I swear, it will help your job search!