All this is great, but I’ve been out of work for over a year!

Experience-without-theoryI was recently having a conversation with someone about her career.  I was asking her questions to try and better understand what she wanted to do.  From her answers it was obvious she was struggling with the process.  I paused and asked what was troubling her.

She took a moment to think, then told me she appreciated my help but didn’t believe any of what we were doing would make a difference.  When I asked why, she said she didn’t see how clarifying her goals and writing down more plans would be helpful.  Things were going poorly for her and nobody seemed to understand what she was going through.  What she really needed was a new job.

The discussion got me thinking that at least some readers might have the same feelings.  You might be thinking… Gee Scott, it’s easy for you to dispense career and success advice, but what do you really know about all this?  When was the last time you struggled with your career?

When do I struggle with my career?  The answer is “all the time.”  I am constantly working to move myself and my career forward.

To answer “what do I really know about all this stuff?”  I guess I’d have to admit that I don’t know anything for sure.  Most of my career thoughts and writings come from things that have worked for me, but I have to admit that I have also failed quite a bit.

Several years ago, I lost my job after having just moved to a new city.

At first, things were going very well. I liked my work and my colleagues. I was making new friends. I had also just started dating the woman who would become my wife.  Because things were going so well, I bought a new car, a computer, and all new furniture for my apartment. In short, I spent a ton of money and put almost nothing into savings.

Then it happened. First thing on a Monday morning, one of my co-workers stuck her head into my office and told me that Bob, our supervisor, was scheduling a lot of one-on-ones. Since he almost never met with us individually this seemed bad.  It was.  Within the hour, a one-on-one appeared on my calendar for later that morning.  By the end of that meeting I no longer worked for the company.

Ten other people were laid-off that same day.  At first this didn’t seem so bad, because all ten of us were in the same situation. However, over the next few months the rest of them found employment. I did not.

It was a year before I was able to find a job that allowed me to pay my bills and put money into savings. It was horrible.  It was when I learned that being out of work is more than just not having a job.

In the United States most of us associate our personal value with what we do for a living.  This means when you are unemployed you start to believe you have little or no value.  For me, that feeling was reinforced anytime I meet someone new. “What do you do?” is a popular introductory question. If you answer “I’m between jobs”, the other person often cringes or apologizes. If you meet a lot of people, as I did, it can feel like death by a thousand cuts.  To make matters worse, I was constantly hearing I wasn’t qualified or didn’t fit the ideal candidate profile.  During my year of unemployment, I applied for over 100 jobs and interviewed at least 25 times.  Rejection was common, and often abrupt. It was incredibly painful.  I was an emotional and financial wreck.

Finally, when it seemed like I was never going to find anything, I was offered an interview from an acquaintance of mine.  Fortunately, that same acquaintance also took the time to help me prepare.  In the end, the interview went well and I was offered the job.

Once I was able to get back on my feet, I promised I would never allow myself to sink that low again.  And, while I have been through some trying times, I am very happy to say that I have been able to keep my promise.

I’m not telling this story to brag, or ask for sympathy.  I am sharing it to demonstrate that I’ve been there and was able to find my way back.  It wasn’t quick or easy but it was doable.  It took more than just the desire to be in a different place.  For me it also took the ability to reach out for help, the willingness to accept some difficult feedback, and the ability to turn desire into action.  That is why I write about these things.   I also write about them because if I could make those changes, so can you.

So, If you are out of work, stuck in a job you don’t like, or not progressing as quickly as you’d like, don’t give up.  There is hope.  I w0n’t tell you the road will be easy, and I can’t promise your next success will be right around the corner.  I will promise that once you’ve started achieving your goals, the feeling will be better than you’ve imagined.  So what are you waiting for?  Roll up your sleeves and let’s get started!

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