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Archive for the ‘Perseverence’ Category

Many years ago I tried to start a new business.  It had many moving parts and included a large group of people.  It failed to get off the ground.  I spent the next year and half ruminating over my failure.  During that time, a colleague was attempting to entice me to join him in a new venture.  Still hurting from the failed experience, I kept refusing to get involved.

Eventually, my colleague and I sat down and began to map out a plan.  We started a company that proved financially successful and lasted for twenty years.  The lesson I learned from that experience was that it is not failure that defines you but how fast you recover.  When I took the time to analyze the failure of the first project, I began to see why it didn’t succeed.  Essentially we had not developed back up plans for the roadblocks that inevitably developed.

Because of my personal experience, I have often counseled clients and participants in my workshops to reframe how they view failure.  I have urged them to review what went wrong and then to move forward with new endeavors.  Unfortunately, many of today’s unemployed hold themselves responsible for their situation. They dwell on past decisions or what they consider missed opportunities.  A more realistic assessment would lead to the understanding that the present economy has had a tremendous impact on the availability of jobs.   It is important to take a look back and not get caught up in self-blame, but to discover if there are clues that can lead to one’s next job or career.

Resilience refers to the process of recovering from adversity.  Psychologists have examined how people deal with setbacks. In fact, the American Psychological Association has developed a pamphlet entitled The Road To Resilience that can be found at http://www.apahelpcenter.org.  I recently came across another great resource that examines resilience.  Rick Newman has written a book entitled Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.  Both of these resources present the major characteristics associated with resilient people.

There are some common traits among individuals who quickly move past failure and indeed benefit from it.  They are able to step back and evaluate their failure.   Their evaluation helps them pinpoint the factors that contributed to the setback.  They learn to plan for failure in the future.  More simply stated: they always have a plan A and a plan B.  In this way, they use failure to adjust their approach to new ventures or projects.  Essentially, they extract positive information from their failed experience.   Profiles of individuals who have recovered from failure always point to their persistence and confidence.  Unlike me, they do not become paralyzed by their failed experience.

You can strengthen your ability to deal with larger setbacks by keeping small adversities in perspective.  Begin by avoiding catastrophizing them.   Try to learn from small setbacks and move forward incorporating what you have learned.  It is also important to maintain social support in your life.  Many times after a failure, such as loss of a job, people tend to withdraw from family and friends.  Social support is critical if you are to move forward.

As Rick Newman points out, some of the most successful people have met failure.  They ultimately succeeded because they learned what they could from the experience and continued to take on new challenges.

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Is it how smart we are, or how smartly we react?

In the struggle to succeed, we typically rely on our intelligence to produce positive outcomes to get what we need.  We do research, ferret out facts, think things through, and seek the opinions of others.

Our resumes are geared to promote accomplishments.  We compile references from respected colleagues to show that others believe we have what it takes.  We come to interviews armed with a wealth of information about prospective employers to show we’re prepared to jump right in.  And no one would argue that these are all good ideas and quite necessary in today’s competitive job market.

Even in doing all the right things, we face a lot of rejection. Someone else gets the job.  We get upset, frustrated, and start to lose motivation.  We begin to doubt our abilities and lose faith in ourselves. We begin a downward spiral of not trying so hard and spend less time looking at job boards or networking.  We find excuses not to apply for certain positions.  So, despite being “smart,” our enthusiasm to look for work diminishes.

So, to move ahead it becomes important to get out of – or avoid – the job search blues.  Unfortunately, stress, frustration, and all the negative emotions that accompany unemployment tend to cloud our thinking.  In his book, “Emotional Intelligence,” (2005) David Goleman writes “When emotions overwhelm concentration, what is being swamped is…the ability to hold in mind all information relevant to the task at hand…we can’t think straight.”(p.79) We get stuck. We fail to make progress.

In his book, Goleman discusses how hope and optimism can play important roles in achievement.  He describes the research of C.R. Snyder at the University of Kansas who found that hopefulness among students entering college was a better predictor of achievement than the SAT, which has a high correlation with IQ.  Snyder defines to hope as “believing you have both the will and the way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be.”(p.87)

Later, Goleman describes an interesting experiment involving Olympic swimmer, Matt Biondi, conducted by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. Seligman had previously tested the swimmer for “optimism.” Biondi was told that his time during an event was slower than it actually was.  What might have been demoralizing to an athlete who wasn’t optimistic, was motivating to Biondi.  After being given a rest, Biondi tried again and bettered his previous time.  In contrast, when this experiment was repeated with “pessimistic” swimmers, their times were worse when given a second chance.

Seligman defines optimists as ”People who…see a failure as due to something that can be changed so that that they can succeed next time around…”(p.88) Goleman goes on to say, “For example, in reaction to disappointment such as being turned down for a job, optimists tend to respond actively and hopefully, by formulating a plan of action, say, or seeking out help and advice; they see the setback as something that can be remedied.”(p.88) In short, it’s not failure that defines you, but how quickly you regroup and try again.

So being smart (or really good at your profession) is important.  It is equally important to keep your goal in sight, maintain belief in yourself, be persistent, and use your intelligence to find ways to get over your job search obstacles.

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We are all familiar with the hardships involved in being an unemployed job seeker.  Not only is it frustrating and depressing when you can’t find a job, but the feelings become magnified as the length of time unemployed increases.

Rather than be depressed over what you can’t have today, career expert Elena Bajic, founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, is telling job seekers to think of the jobs they can have tomorrow. Bajic is offering eight tips on how to become smarter job seekers and be better equipped for the future job market. Here are her suggestions:

1. Take a hard look at your finances: If you’re currently searching for a job or are about to start looking for a job, immediately look at your finances to see where you can curb costs and expenses.

2. Take inventory & do a full and honest self analysis: Take time to understand who you are and what you can bring to the job table. Really understand your strengths and weaknesses.

3. Set realistic and achievable goals and review them daily: Make your time count when it comes to finding the right job. Make a specific to-do or checklist each day to make sure your job search is productive. Set goals such as “I need to make at least five calls today” or “I’m going to reach out / network with four people today.”

4. Treat your job search like you’d treat a job: Finding the right job requires the same commitment as one would commit to a full-time job. 

5. Network to build relationships, not to find a job: Networking is about building relationships with people who can connect you with people who can help you find a job.

6. Focus on self improvement: For those who are currently unemployed, dedicate time during your job search to acquire new skills and to improve your candidacy. Use this time as an opportunity to build on your existing skills and experience. Make your time fruitful.

7. Develop a job search with professional help: if you can afford it, hire a professional who can offer objective advice and help anchor you so that you’d avoid making common job search mistakes (ie. take the first job offer that comes through, start interviewing with any company that shows interest even if it is the not right fit, etc.) .

8. Stay positive – Interviewers can read negativity pretty quickly, and nobody wants to hire a negative person. By following the first seven tips, you will be a more confident job seeker with more focus, and with a clear picture of the right job that’s the right fit.

Greg Olsten is an Associate in Professional Services at IvyExec.com.
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There are just some things in life you simply cannot understand until it happens to you. So forgive your friends and family if they’ve never been unemployed – they just don’t know. But it’s up to you to help them get past the idea that you have absolutely nothing to do. They have to understand that you are not on a very long vacation. Your job search takes time.
Tell Them How You Feel
People who are unemployed don’t like to talk about it. During the workday, it’s hard to find people to talk to when you’re out of work.  Since your life has changed, it’s up to YOU to let friends and family know how you want your friendship and relationship to change.
It’s Not Fun
In 2008 when the recession started, some of the recently unemployed coined the word “funemployment.” It isn’t. But your friends and family who are working, maybe in jobs they’re not thrilled with, want some of that! Remind them it is not fun surfing the net to understand social networking. Unemployment is not a vacation and is far from being enjoyable.
Get Up and Get Out
When you lose a job, it’s hard to get started in the morning. If you begin each day on your regular workday schedule, it’s less likely that your friends and family will see you as someone who can be the emergency contact for their kids at school, or the baby sitter, or the errand runner. Even if you head out to the library, where they have materials galore for the unemployed, the act of being up and about will help deter everyone from their special needs requests.
Be Frugal, Not Miserly
Remember that life goes on after you lose your job. If you get into never leaving the house because of your worries about money, although you have a very tight budget, you still have to hang out with friends and family. You’re allowed to laugh and be with the people you care about. Your employed friends and family may feel pressured to treat you, and by all means feel free to accept sometimes. But you should also spend your own money some of time – be sure to fit some fun into the budget. Going out with the gang will give you a chance to laugh and be distracted from being unemployed for the evening.
Finding Employment is a Job in Itself
You want friends and family to think of you as a job-seeker, not an available-to-be-the-helper-they-always-needed. When your neighbor asks you to stop in and walk her dog during the day, let her know you’re going to the Department of Labor, because they have skills seminars that might help you in your job search. And when your husband asks you to go pick up the refreshments for his poker night, remind him that you’re spending time with someone you graduated with to talk about some possible opportunities.  After you turn them down twice, they’ll get the idea that your day job is to find a job!
Laurel Bernstein is an Executive Coach working with senior leaders and business owners in the New York metropolitan area. mailto:bernstein.laurel@gmail.com

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I hope that isn’t what you believe, because it simply isn’t so.  Unfortunately, some of the people we meet in our workshops start out feeling that way.  Yes, even though the economy is showing some signs of growth the job market is still weak, but it isn’t dead.  The number of people gaining re-employment may not be huge, but some people are finding work!

I use the word “finding” instead of “getting” because the former is active and the latter passive.  Psychologists use the concept “locus of control” to describe the extent to which some people believe their destiny is in their own hands versus those who believe their future is reliant on luck. People who think that outside forces play a major role in their lives are considered to have an external locus of control.  They have a tendency to feel that success takes a lot of luck and being in the right place at the right time.  These individuals believe that there isn’t much they can do to influence their lot in life.

In contrast, other people feel they are largely in control of their destiny and are described as having an internal locus of control.  For them, hard work and perseverance pay off, even when it comes to looking for work.  They know that a job isn’t going to fall into their lap, and they’re certainly not going to wait until the economy has fully recovered before making a conscientious search.

For sure a little luck can help.  It helps even more if you create opportunities for luck to befall you.  What does that mean?  Keep applying for every position you’d like to get.  Tell everyone you know – family, friends, parents of your children, service providers – the kind of job you’re looking for.  Feel in your heart that you are in the driver’s seat and there is a good job out there waiting for you to find it.

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Many of my unemployed clients tell me that even when someone gives them a referral, they struggle to call for an appointment.  For them, the telephone weighs 500 pounds.  I hear comments like, “I get a lump in my throat,” “It seems like my heart is going to jump through my chest,” “I feel like I’m running out of breath,” “I’m afraid I’m going to say something stupid.”  Sound familiar?  What makes calling strangers so tough?  What can we do about it?
We are all built with an internal signal system that begins to prepare us for danger; namely anxiety. As anxiety and fear intensifies, we can begin to experience physical symptoms like shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and/or sweating.  At work is the signal system that triggers the “fight or flight” response.  If we truly faced danger we could respond with a stronger and faster response.  Unfortunately, anxiety can arise when there is no real danger.  If you are becoming anxious before calling perspective employers, your signal system is alerting you to the potential for danger but it is a false alarm.  Start by recognizing that the anxiety you feel is a false alarm.  If you stop to think about it, there is no physical threat.  I suggest you ask yourself,  “What is the worse that can happen”?  Do you really think the person will be mean or just hang up?  If they are rude, it is on them.  I would bet the individual you are calling will be courteous and, if in their power, helpful.
The best approach is practice, practice, practice.  Develop some openings sentences like,  “I’m interested in the position you advertised and would like to tell you how I can help your company,” or “I’m a good friend of Jane Doe, who works in such-and-such department, and she thinks I’d be a great fit with your company.”
Be sure to say something positive about yourself without bragging.  Avoid big words.  Sound upbeat, confident, and conversational, but not bubbly.  Make your opening comment brief and simple.  Sample your opening statement with your spouse or a friend.  Remind yourself that any feelings of anxiety are really a false alarm.  You have nothing to lose, and maybe, just one of those many calls will pay off.

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In today’s economy, finding a job may seem like a journey of a thousand miles.  Unfortunately, estimates range from 6 to 9 months.  For some, the search has exceeded a year.  It is at such times that following the advice of the 4th century Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzo, may help keep your head above water.  It is a good way to remind yourself that it will take perseverance to land your next job and the journey will be accomplished one step at a time.
Why is it so difficult to keep at the job search? One reason is that we are wired, so to speak, to receive reinforcement such as a salary or positive feedback on a regular basis.  While searching for a job, weeks can go by without anything happening to boost your morale.  It therefore becomes critical that you begin to reinforce yourself.  Positive reinforcement means more than praise or recognition from others, it can be giving yourself a reward for doing something constructive. Promise yourself that you’ll pick up your favorite mystery novel or take a walk after spending time on your computer or making phone calls. Pick activities that are simple but pleasant.
Objectively evaluating your progress is also helpful.  Keep track of both your job search activities and pleasurable activities.   Review your notes each day and use them to set goals for the next day.  Remember to pat yourself on the back after an active day.  Congratulate yourself based on your efforts.  It may take months to get the next job, but it is the day-in-day-out steps you take that will lead to the big pay off.
When working on a book for over three years, I found it critical to start each day pushing myself to take the first step.  In this case I asked myself to write one paragraph.  Inevitably, one step led to working for hours.
While looking for a job, you are your own boss.  It is up to you to set goals, set up your daily schedule, monitor your progress and reward yourself for efforts made.

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