I Give Up

Three words that mark surrender.  The Rubics Cube came out when I was a teenager.   I was always amazed when my brother could solve that thing in 2-3 minutes, no matter how much I messed it up.  I think I solved it once.  Or not.  Maybe there was one color in the wrong place.  Regardless, when it comes to the Rubics Cube, I gave up.  Obviously there are things in life that we should give up.   Smoking, driving and texting, substance abuse, accumulating mountains of debt…. I give up can be a good thing in many instances.

But here’s one thing that you can never, EVER give up on.  And that is YOU.  I talk to many, many people who are worried and stressed out about their work situation, much of that worry & stress revolving around their financial situation.  I know a few who have completely given up.  But here is the reality of those situations

‘I give up’ looking for ways of making income is not an option unless you are financially able to support yourself the rest of your life.

There are people who have been trying in vain (for several years) to find a job in the same or similar field they left.   The fact is there are fields that are over-saturated with available resources with very little or no opportunities on the job side.  Ask anyone in or around the auto business in Michigan why they can’t find a job and the legitimate answer is ‘there aren’t any’.  If that’s the case for your background its okay to say ‘I give up’.  But what you’re giving up is continuing to try to stay in your former field.   People in that situation need to look at their transferable skills and how they can be leveraged in more lucrative industries and jobs.

Manufacturing.  Wired Telecommunications.  Print.  Finance.  Construction.  If you’ve been in these industries you hopefully know they are on the decline.  ‘I Give Up’ is healthy.  Moving away from declining industries into growth industries will give you more long term security.  Healthcare.  Engineering. Web/Social Media. Mobile Technology.  BioResearch.  Environment.  All on the uptick.  If you’ve given up on A, you need to be exploring B-Z.

Does this happen overnight?  Not by a long shot.  It can take months.  It might even take years if the field you select requires specialized education you currently lack.  But don’t ever give up on yourself.

Good News, Bad News.

“I have good news and bad news,” the defense lawyer says to his client. ”What’s the bad news?” the client asks.  The lawyer says, “Your blood matches the DNA found at the murder scene.” “Dammit!” cries the client. “What’s the good news?”  “Well,” the lawyer says, “your cholesterol is down to 140.”

We all have had bad news overshadow good news.  Its like having a cloud follows you everywhere you go.  No matter what’s going on around you that might be good, the shadow of the cloud hangs over those positive events and all you can see is the rain getting on your newspaper.   Don’t worry, these are normal human emotions, but they also are emotions that will get in the way of your success if you don’t know how to deal with it.

Back in college I had a class called “Death and Dying”.  Real upbeat stuff.  The textbook was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book of the same name.  For those of you who are not familiar with her work she is the person who came up with the famous “Five Stages of Grief“.  This model isn’t relevant just for the terminally ill, it applies to many other life-altering events.  If you can recognize the stages and understand where you’re at you CAN find a way to get out of the clouds.  If you went to work on Friday and were blindsided by a reduction in force, keep these stages in mind.

*Stage One.  Bargaining.

What do you mean I’m being let go?  I got great reviews just 3 months ago.  The work I’m doing is critical to the mission of the company.  This can’t be happening to me.  I’ll take a pay cut, I can go to part time, I’ll volunteer.  Is there anything I can do to stick around another month?  Isn’t there someone else that could go instead of me?

Stage Two.  Denial.

“I can’t believe I’m packing up my office.”  Denial from a displaced employee usually doesn’t last long.  The minute you pack your box and leave your cube for the last time brings home the reality of the situation.  If you’re 3 months removed from your last job and still wondering why you were let go you are in denial.  You also might be experiencing….

Stage Three.  Anger.

The stages don’t necessarily have a firm start and stop.  They overlap.  Anger generally comes after reality sets in and denial simply isn’t a logical way to deal with the situation.  Anger is a raw emotion with little logic to it.  Its okay to be angry, but its not okay to let the anger control you.  When you do let denial & anger take hold you usually will run into…

Stage Four.  Depression.

This is the ‘gotcha’ stage.  Depressed people don’t want to get up and do anything.   They don’t feel important as human beings.  Even people who had strong egos can be humbled to a point of depression by the loss of a job.  Especially those whose identity was wrapped up in that job.  I strongly recommend you seek advice and guidance from trusted friends and associates throughout the job transition process, but its more important at this stage than ever.  You need people to remind you of your value.  You want people to tell you it’s going to work out.  A solid support system will keep you from being depressed, and hopefully bring you to…

Stage Five.  Acceptance.

It’s going to be okay.  That chapter of my life is closed.  I have good people around me that are willing to help.  This is an opportunity, not an opportunity lost.  I am ready to move forward and find out what God has in store for me today.

Recognize where you’re at in these stages and deal with it.  Eventually that will allow you to accept your situation and be okay with it.

*Apologies to Ms Kubler-Ross, but I switched up the order a bit.

Whatever it Takes

I’ve been a recruiter for 10 years.  Take a guess at how many times I’ve heard candidates, employers, clients, and references say ‘will do whatever it takes’.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that phrase I most likely could fill my pick up bed with nickels and then some.  But I’ve been thinking about ‘whatever it takes’ lately and wanted to share some thoughts about whatever it takes and unemployment.

I was listening to the radio today and heard unemployment went down in January by .4%.  They said some of that number is skewed by the half a million people who dropped off rolls because their unemployment benefits ran out.  Which got me thinking – how many of those half a million people who collected unemployment for up to 99 weeks really do whatever it takes?

Maybe people expected to find a job in their field at or above their previous income level and held out.  Maybe they were in the car business in Detroit.  Maybe they worked in telecommunications here in Kansas City.  There’s no question that some jobs simply aren’t coming back, and when they do, the talent pool is so saturated you have about the same chance of being hired as you do being hit by lightning.  But whatever it takes doesn’t care about the reasons why you’re in the situation, it cares about how you get out of the situation.

If you have been out of work for nearly 2 years and surviving only on unemployment you are not doing what it takes.  I don’t want to point fingers at anyone, but I find it difficult to believe that a half a million people couldn’t find something that could generate $320 a week (the average unemployment benefit in Missouri) or more.  There’s no question that unemployment benefits are helping people survive, but relying on the government is like relying on Cousin Eddie – at some point you’re going to be let down.

Whatever it takes means you’re exhausting every possible option to not only find suitable employment (which is the long-term goal), but also addressing the income crisis that comes with long-term unemployment (which is more immediate).  Doing all the things that I recommend while searching for a job is a part of it.  Applying for jobs, networking, interviewing, researching the market, etc…  But if you’re living on $320 a week there’s another big part of ‘whatever it takes’ and that’s addressing an obvious income crisis.

Here’s some whatever it takes ideas to make money:

  • Get a minimum wage job.  If you are reliable, drug free, and willing to do manual labor or work in a call center for $8/hr there are a multitude of jobs waiting.
  • Clear snow off driveways.  You probably could have made more than unemployment last week doing just this.  Before you know it the grass is going to be growing.
  • Be a handyman.   If you can paint you can earn.
  • Sell stuff.  You’ve got a bunch of it – Craig has a list – it’s like a garage sale 365 days a year.
  • Consult.  There’s opportunity when you have knowledge other people want, but can’t afford to have on staff.
  • Provide ‘domestic services’.  People are busy and pay others all the time to clean their house, run errands, watch their home / pets when they’re on vacation, scoop dog poop, wash cars, etc…
  • Get ‘official’.  I made a weeks worth of unemployment this weekend officiating basketball.  There are organized baseball, soccer, football, and basketball programs in every major suburb in the area.  If you are interested in this way of making money I can help.
  • Tutor.  My son went well beyond my ability in Math by 7th grade and I would gladly pay someone to help him with Physics this semester.
  • Ask your family to help.  If you have kids the income crisis effects them as well.  Engage them in the process of solving the problem.  They can babysit, walk dogs, shovel snow, mow lawns, and if they’re old enough to have a more traditional part time job they should have one.
  • Make stuff.  Wood workers, quilters, arts & crafts buffs, etc..  all have opportunities to make money while staying sane doing something they love.

If you want more ideas for making money here’s an article with some ideas – a few of them are ‘out there’ but many of them are sound and legitimate ways to earn extra money.  Whatever it takes means you will be doing work that you may not like.  It means you will be working when you’d like to be doing something else.  It means that you’re going to spend more than 40 hours a week generating income and searching for a job.  But that’s what it takes.

Will ‘whatever it takes’ get your life back to normal?  Maybe not.  Will ‘whatever it takes’ stop the creditors from calling?  Not unless you pay them back.  But whatever it takes WILL give you back some control over your situation.  It WILL give you a sense of accomplishment when you start to reap the rewards of your work.  Whatever it takes will let you go to sleep every night knowing you are doing everything in your power to right the ship.

Unemployment benefits are going to run out.  That’s the fact.  The question is what are you doing now to prepare for when that happens?

The City

I hear a lot of complaining from my friends in Kansas City that it takes them forever to clear the streets.  I live in Lees Summit and I have to tell you, after this weeks blizzard they’ve done a fantastic job of clearing the streets.  We are not on a major street, yet I had a plow run through my neighborhood twice on Tuesday, and then again yesterday.  You can actually see the asphalt on my street.  So congratulations City of Lees Summit, you far exceeded my snow removal expectations.  You were an overachiever.

Employers have a deep talent pool these days.  Average performers are losing out on jobs being filled by the overachievers.  Overachievers generally aren’t on the list when it comes to cut 15% of the headcount.  So here’s some tips to help you overachieve:

Take on tasks without being told – if you see something that needs to be done at work, do it.   The “that’s not my job” attitude will get you nowhere but the unemployment line.

Go beyond the boundaries of your job to solve problems.  This is more strategic than just taking on additional tasks.  If you need to make calls after hours stick around and make the calls.  If you need to come in on a Saturday so you’re prepared for a big client meeting Monday then do it.

Find ways around obstacles.  “We can’t do that” shouldn’t be part of your vocabulary.  With a little bit of creative thinking and negotiation you can overcome any obstacle.

Read.  Books, magazines, articles, blogs.  Anything you can get your hands on that will help you learn something that you can bring to the table.  If you’re not moving forward you’re falling behind.

Listen.  To your boss.  To your co-workers.  To your customers.  Find out where they want to go and figure out a way to help them get there.  Give them feedback and ideas, don’t just be a ‘yes man’ but be sincere in wanting to help make things better.

Be creative.  You have to set yourself apart from the crowd.  What are you doing to distinguish yourself from other people who are in your role?  Does your local dog catcher offer a monthly program for dog owners to teach them basic dog training?  An overachieving dog catcher might.

Most importantly, be genuine.  Overachievers aren’t brown-nosers.  They are people who care about their impact on the people and business around them.  They want to make it better and will do everything in their power to make it better.

So, how do your streets look today?

Snowzilla!

Is it just me, or do you hate the news too?  Back in the day, the news existed to report stories as they happened.  Networks didn’t really care about ratings as much as they cared about getting it right.  News was consumed first thing in the morning, at noon, and then at dinner time.  If you wanted news outside those timelines you needed a magazine subscription.  Today we not only have 24×7 news, we have 24×7 weather.  Everyone has to be ‘first’ and each station has an ‘exclusive’ to ensure strong ratings.

Which brings me to my first point – the latest winter stormaggedon. Starting last Friday every station was talking about how much snow we’re going to get.  Some parts of Missouri could get up to 2′ of the white stuff.  Yes, that’s a bunch of snow and, yes, it is going to impact our week.  But really?  24×7 coverage?  Its winter.  This stuff happens.  I don’t need Don Harmon taking up 75% of the 3 hour broadcast repeating the same thing over, and over, and over, and over.  I saw the color-coded map of the state’s expected snowfall about every 90 seconds.  I get it, we’ve got a snownami.  Now can you please get to something else?

Which brings me to my second point – beating a dead horse.  During your job search are you telling the same stories over and over?  Probably.  Are you listening to your message?  If you are repeatedly talking about your former employer and how they made mistakes that lead to your departure, its time to stop.  If you can’t help but talk about how your former co-workers were given preference and you can’t believe Sally is still employed while you’re gone, it’s time to stop.

You will have to answer the ‘why did you leave your last job’ question.  Make your departure story short and to the point with a positive spin.  Don’t air your dirty laundry.  Don’t be bitter.  Get over your disappointment / anger about being let go.  No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you think you can hide it, it’s going to come across when talking to potential employers.

Years ago I was hired to manage a retail store.  The employees didn’t want a manager, and they certainly didn’t want an outsider managing.  The couple that owned the company gave me a unified front while hiring me, but in reality were at odds.  There was a bookkeeper who either didn’t understand, or didn’t care about the financials.  I could go on for 10 minutes about her alone.  It was a tremendously political environment with division being driven from the complete opposite philosophies the owners.  The staff took sides which cause a lot of animosity throughout the organization.  After 4 months it became obvious that things were not going to continue status quo.  Ultimately it came down to a decision to either fire the entire staff and start over, or just walk away and let the wolves run the hen house.  Thankfully I went with option two.  The company was sold within a year and now its someone else’s problem.  That’s the reality.

Here’s what I tell people when asked (especially potential employers) – I worked for a company owned by a husband and wife.  The husband hired me to implement programs that I found out the wife didn’t support.  After 6 months we decided it was best to part ways.  I still have a great relationship with the owner who recruited me, and actually hired him as a salesperson at my next employer.  It was a good experience and it led to a great opportunity.

That is the truth of the story without talking about the storm.  The storm isn’t relevant anyway.  I got over it the minute I walked out the door that Tuesday afternoon.  I was unemployed, and it was a relief.  While you’re stranded in the Snowpocolypse this week take some time to look for ways to tell your story without the blizzard.

Learn to Swim

As I was driving to work this morning Bob Dylan was on my mind.  Maybe it was David Longstreet’s presentation last night, maybe it is some of the things going on in the news, or maybe its just boredom on my commute, but I could not get “The Times They are a Changin'” out of my head.  I’ve always thought that particular song was not terribly optimistic – there’s a battle outside ragin’, it’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls. I started thinking about the message of this song.  The more I thought about the lyrics to that song, the more encouragement I felt.

This song is not a woe-is-me, why is this happening song.  It’s a call-to-arms to be ready.  Bob’s right – we need to be ready to swim.  The imagery of the song starts off with a flood.  There’s nothing you can do about a flood.  When the water starts rising you need to learn to swim (metaphorically speaking, usually you’ll have time to get to dry ground).  The message is you’re going to have to take action and move from your position.

That means even if you’re in a job you could never imagine leaving, you need to be prepared to leave it when the flood waters start rising. What constitutes rising waters at work?  Perhaps the company was just acquired.  Maybe you just got a new boss.  Or you lost you biggest client.  Sales are down.  Checks are bouncing.  Despite all the assurance that all is well and nothing is going to change these are situations where waters have started to rise and you need to be alert.

9% of the United States would love to have those kinds of rising waters.  Its always easier to ride out a flood when you have a boat.  Well, Mr. Dylan provides some encouragement for people who are not working in a position where they feel called.

Keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again

Did you catch that first line?  Keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again.  You need to be alert to opportunities.  There are doors ready to be opened, but you need to be at the door and willing to turn the knob.  Don’t be paralyzed by fear because of all the doors that have closed behind you.  Don’t sit at home waiting for someone to deliver you a door.  Do things every single day that can help you find and open that door.  Whether it’s a phone call, an office visit, networking event / job club, or researching something at the library or online – you need to be in motion.

And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob is asking you to be patient.  Once you put things in motion it’s going to stay in motion.  And you never know who or what your actions are effecting.  For the loser now will be later to win.  Don’t think you’re a loser because you haven’t found a job.  We are experiencing unemployment at levels we haven’t seen since the Great Depression.  The recession was officially over in 2009.  Eventually the economy will recover enough to have more employment opportunities to bring our rates back down to what is considered full employment (~6%).

For the times, they are a-changin.

Who Are You?

My parents Harold and Joyce met at Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa.  Shortly after they were married dad was drafted and Private Templeman served his country for a year in Lawton, Oklahoma.  I was born several years later and I’m certain that I was referred to as ‘the baby’ for at least the first few months of my life.  Each of us has many identities throughout our lives.  Some are permanent, others temporary.  I’ll always be a son, father, and (hopefully) husband.  But my dad isn’t a Private anymore.

Think about your identity.  A big part of who we are is wrapped up in our career.  I was a retail salesman for over a decade.  In August of 2000 I walked out of a store on the Plaza and I haven’t been a retail salesman since.  I took over a decade of experiences with me, but that part of my identity ended.   Frankly, I was tired of being a retail salesperson so it was a relief to lose that part of my identity.   I was blessed.

Many people have to deal with a loss of professional identity when they aren’t ready to move on.  It can be a traumatic and life-altering event.  If you are experiencing some pain from losing some of your professional identity I want you to consider the following:

You are not defined by what you do for a living. There is so much more to who you are.  The next time someone asks you what you do tell them you are a proud parent.  You are a good friend.  You’re a volunteer.

You are not defined by the numbers in your life. Your credit score. Your bank account.  Your age.  The number of employers you’ve had.  The amount of time you’ve been in between jobs.

You are not defined by what others think. You have control over who you are.  You are not cool because that’s what people think.  You aren’t creative because that’s what people think.  You aren’t different because that’s what someone thinks.

Identity is temporary.  Husbands and wives in half of the marriages in our country will lose that identity at some point.  Its sad that some parents lose that identity as well.  There will come a day where I’m not a recruiter or manager anymore.  There will come a day where I’m not ‘That Job Guy’ anymore.  The secret to being comfortable with who you are is knowing that things will change and taking control of how you identify yourself as your life evolves.

I have one final thought on identity.  There is a big part of my identity that doesn’t change.  Its something that keeps me grounded and helps me get through times of ‘identity crisis’.  It is the only constant in this world that I believe you can depend on.  I am a Christian.  I know that no matter what happens to me today, God loves me and has a plan for me.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Even when I try to do things my way, God’s will is done.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

I know that no matter what I do for a living, I am doing it because that is His will for me.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

You’re in between jobs.  So, who are you?

Quit Saying 'Unemployed'

Quick video with good advice. Enjoy

Game Time!

The last two posts have been about planning.  Putting goals in place and executing the plan.  However, you’re going to find that even the best laid plans need some adjustment.  Football coaches spend hundreds of hours watching film, drawing up plays, teaching the players, and practicing the execution each and every week before a game.  Each plan they put together is a little different – tailored specifically to the opponent.  But when they take the field sometimes those plans don’t work – injury and opponent readiness demand game plan adjustments.   The coaches that win championships are the coaches that can make adjustments during the game.

If your plan includes making five calls a week and you’re not getting anywhere, you need to evaluate who you’re calling and how you’re handling those calls.  Are you making calls to people in target employers or are you calling people who you know and are comfortable calling?  Are you leaving one message and expecting a call back or are you following up with an email and another call a day or two later?  A good rule of thumb is if you want a call back you’re probably going to need at least four attempts to make a connection on a cold call.

If you’ve had six interviews this month and haven’t gotten an offer you should be looking for the reason why.  Don’t be afraid to make a call and/or send an email and ask the person on the other side of the desk why you weren’t selected.   Don’t be disappointed, upset or concerned because you weren’t selected.  Be gracious.  Thank them for their time and tell them you appreciate the consideration.   They need to know that you look at relationships from the long term and hope that somewhere down the road there might be a fit.  Then ask them what you could have done better.  There’s one thing they can do that would be invaluable – ask them to help you understand why you weren’t selected so you can be better prepared next time.

If you’re walking away from networking events, job fairs, and other business-related events thinking ‘that was a waste of time’ you need to evaluate why you’re not getting a return on your time investment.  Did you actively engage with new people at the event, or did you stick to your circle of friends?  Were your expectations too high?  Did you have expectations?  If not you need to set some goals for these events.  Are you following up with the contacts you made at an event?  Do you get upset because the booths at a job fair aren’t hiring, or worse yet, are a bunch of training organizations and multilevel marketing people looking to get something from you?  If so, you probably missed a great opportunity to meet one or two people that can help you get one step closer to the next job.

The most important part of game-day planning isn’t making sure that you’re ready, it’s just getting it done.  Ever see Ray Lewis lead the Baltimore Ravens pre-game?   There is a singular focus on the game.  Nothing else matters.  All the planning in the world is useless without execution.  You can tattoo your SMART goals on your forearm but unless you go out and do them they’re worthless.  At the beginning of every day you need to have a plan.  During that day you need to put that plan into action.  At the end of every day you need to review your performance against that plan and decide what adjustments need to be made.

If you plan, you will not fail.  Now what time is it?

A is for ACTION!

After reading my last post you should have some SMART goals in mind.  They might be short-term, long-term, or possibly both.  Lets start with the long term goals.  Do your short term goals align with the action-items in your long term goals?  If not you might want to re-think them.

Planning Step Two – Details

Lets go back to the vacation metaphor.  You not only have a destination in mind, you have activities planned, people to see, options for meals & lodging, and different ways to get from point A to B.  Would you agree with me that the time you spend in your profession is more important than the time you spend on vacation?  What details do have you planned that will get you to your 2011 goal(s)?

Lets take an example of a long term goal and how you can put together a daily / weekly / monthly action plan to make that goal happen.  Here’s the goal: Find a job.  Is that a SMART goal?  Ok, that was a set up.  It’s NOT a SMART goal because it’s not specific and its not time sensitive.  Here’s the real goal: Find a marketing coordinator or director position before June 1st.  That is a specific, long term goal that is going to have a lot of smaller, shorter term goals attached to it.  Here’s some suggestions for short term goals that will help you achieve that long term goal.

Find and join three marketing related professional organizations by Feb 1st. (s)

Use the Kansas City Business Journal to research and find a dozen target organizations this week. (s)

Make 5 phone calls to people who may be able to help each day. (o)

Put together a portfolio of work in the next 3 days that can be shared with potential employers. (s)

Update LinkedIn profile by the end of the week using industry keywords. (s)

Research job boards each morning before 9am and find 3 unique positions to pursue. (s)

Follow up with all leads on a daily basis, including calls to internet job postings and networking follow up items. (o)

Attend 3 job clubs and one other networking event every week to introduce myself to 20 new contacts per month (0)

You’ll see that some of those goals need to be accomplished today, some of them by the end of this or next week, and I’ve given myself until the end of the month to achieve one of them.  Its important that you have these milestones in place.  One of the most frustrating things you can experience as a job seeker is the chorus of ‘no’ that you hear.  It can be discouraging.  That’s why some of your goals should be something you can do without relying on others.  The listed goals that have an (s) are things that can be 100% accomplished on your own.  The (o) means that you’re going to have to rely on someone else (at least in part) to achieve that goal.

If your goal is to find a marketing coordinator job by June you’re going to need daily goals that will lead to weekly achievements which ultimately will lead to your new job.  You’re going to have frustrations, but you’re also going to have victories.  You’re going to run into jerks, but you’re also going to run across that one person that makes your whole week.   What did you learn in physics 101?  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  It works in the job search – go out and make something happen.  Take action.

Next up – the final planning post: Game Time.