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Archive for the ‘Positive Thinking’ Category

BookCover_v1Unemployment has more than just an economic impact on our lives. M. Harvey Brenner (1973, 1999) in Mental Illness and the Economy estimates that every 1% gain in unemployment over 3 years is accompanied by 20,240 cardio failures, 495 alcohol deaths, 920 suicides, 628 homicides and 4,227 admissions to psychiatric hospitals. Yet, little attention is paid to the psychological impact of unemployment.

In my new Kindle book, How to Stay Up in a Down Job Market: Survival Skills for the Unemployed, I address 9 strategies you can begin implementing immediately to start fighting the emotional storm that often accompanies unemployment. This concise book is not meant to be a panacea; I can’t give you a 30-day money back guarantee. However, I can assure you that there are psychological strategies you can learn to employ that will prove helpful. Because unemployment is such a threat to our well being, it is critical that you reduce the psychological impact of job loss. While it is hoped this book will be helpful, it cannot replace the help a physician or mental health professional can provide when needed.

The research clearly indicates that unemployment creates a level of prolonged stress which can be debilitating in terms of one’s physical and mental wellbeing. There are a number of simple strategies presented in the book that focus on reducing the stress you are experiencing.

Central to my approach is that if we want to change how we feel there are two buttons we can push. We can change our thinking and/or change our actions. When an event occurs, we immediately begin to evaluate it. Our evaluations might be rational and helpful. Unfortunately, sometimes they are irrational and lead to emotional upset and self-defeating behavior. This can especially occur when confronted with adversity. The book addresses how you can challenge irrational thoughts and the necessity to replace them with positive thinking. A simple example would go something like this: “I lost my job, I’ll never find another in this economy.” A more helpful and rational thought would be: “It will be tough to find another job and might take awhile. I better work on it everyday.”

If we want to change how we feel, we also need to focus on our actions. Of course, we need to engage in job search activities, but the book emphasizes the need to also engage in activities that improve our mood and motivation. In my opinion, it is critical to include activities such as reading, gardening, walking, exercise, or anything else you enjoy.

We can use such activities to reinforce the completion of less inherently interesting chores like searching job boards each day. It has been my experience with clients who find themselves really stuck, that focusing on activities proves more useful at first than attacking irrational thinking. For one of my unemployed clients, taking the time some mornings to drive her children to school gave her a sense of satisfaction and helped start her day. When she was working, she never had been able to drop them off or pick them up. Another client, an unemployed father for the first time could help his children with homework. It helped him feel he was contributing to the family’s welfare even though he was out of work.

While we know that finding a new position takes hard work, we often ignore our physical and mental health. Just reading this book will not change how you feel. If you want to limit the potential damage of unemployment to you and your family’s well being, you will have to work just as hard everyday to sustain your physical and emotional health. The book is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

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Recently, Ivy Exec CEO and Founder, Elena Bajic, was interviewed by Aol Job’s writer, Vickie Elmer. Below are Elena’s thoughts on some of the ways to stand out from the competition to land a job.

Every time you apply for a job you have the chance to be a standout, a star, or at least a unique individual with a string of talents that may be a great match for the employer’s needs.

But many don’t see themselves that way or sell themselves that way. And they don’t find the ways they can really shine before they send off their resume. They need to assess how their talents and traits could really benefit the person who’s about to read their resume and hire someone crucial to their team.

So this year, give yourself enough time and many opportunities to stand out in your job search. This may mean cutting back on the number of resumes you send out a week or a month. But a few carefully crafted resumes and cover letters that connect the dots may do more to open doors than sending out hundreds of copycat CVs.

“It takes quite a bit of energy” to do some research and become a “standout candidate,” said Elena Bajic, founder and CEO of Ivy Exec, which offers targeted career advice and jobs for members. She agrees candidates need to be selective in applying for jobs; “pick and choose those that are highly relevant” to their skills and expertise.
Then follow these five tips to make yourself a standout as you apply for work:

Know the traits that impress.
Some will be written right into the job posting. Others may be in your future employer’s core values or mission statement. Sometimes they can be identified by reading a few blog posts or an in-depth profile of the CEO or senior executive in charge of the area where you hope to work. Look at industry trends and best practices, too. The American Management Association identified the four Cs as skills employers really want: critical thinking and problem solving; collaboration; communication and creativity / innovation.

Ensure your resume matches your job.
Anyone looking for a job in sales or marketing needs to promote themselves very effectively. An editor cannot afford misspellings or grammatical errors, Bajic said. A manager must show that they are organized and can engage people with their resume. An IT manager’s resume needs a different structure and look than an interactive advertising manager. Different jobs and sectors require varied approaches. So each time you send out your resume, take just 10 minutes to adjust it so it’s a closer match to the job posting.

Follow-up – twice.
After the resume’s gone out, send an email or make a call to promote yourself again. Then another one week later. When one candidate did this with Bajic, she gave his resume a second look, which led to an interview. “I don’t receive that many follow-ups,” she said, “maybe 5 or 10 percent” of job seekers connect even once after applying.

Speed your replies.
When she’s requesting an initial phone interview, Bajic sees those who respond to an email quickly, in a few minutes or so, as “a high energy person who’s engaged.” Someone who does not reply for two or three days may imply that they are less energetic and engaged or not all that interested in the job, she said. Other employment experts say it’s important to show you’re energetic and a quick study, especially if you’re a mature job seeker or one who has been out of the workplace for a few years.


Prepare for phone interviews.
Take care with this and don’t take it on the fly. When the HR manager calls for a phone screening interview, ask to schedule it the next day – and use those 24 hours to research the company and the job you’re seeking. Take time to envision the job and what it entails, Bajic says. Ask yourself: What is the company trying to achieve here? That way your questions will be more in-depth and your impact better.

Remember too that what works to make you a standout with IBM may not be as impressive at Apple or a small start-up in Ann Arbor, Mich. Core traits that work for small entrepreneurial organizations may be miles apart from the ones that turn heads at a Fortune 500 corporation. The key is to draw on your list of strengths and best traits and bring up those that your future boss really values.
It’s knowing what will stand out and shine in the galaxy where you’re hoping to land next that could lead to success.

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We hear from many unemployed people that holidays are exceptionally stressful, especially those associated with gift giving.  There are many reasons why this is understandable.  It is hard to be joyful when one hasn’t gotten over having lost one’s job. Secondly, it’s hard to feel generous when regular income has been greatly reduced, if not eliminated.  Realistically, a new position may not appear before the New Year.  Focusing solely on your lack of resources will only amplify your level of stress.  Frankly, family and friends understand your situation and would prefer that you not dig yourself into a deeper hole. Those close to you will most likely feel good knowing that you are not fretting away this holiday season.
Experience is sometimes the best teacher. Many of you may recall from older relatives who lived through The Great Depression, holidays were no less joyous when a typical gift might have been an orange or a bag of candy.  Maybe this is a year when you re-think gift giving and come up ideas that don’t put a crimp in your wallet.
Here are some examples:
  Make some CDs of your favorite music that others might enjoy.
  Has someone admired one of your possessions you no longer need?  Imagine how appreciative the recipient would be if you gave them something you personally valued.
 Create a photo album or journal of memorable moments shared with a loved one.
 There are tons of things that can come out of your kitchen like baked goods, preserves, pickled veggies, or your favorite sauces.
 Are you good at crafts?  Can you think of something easy to make in time for the holidays?  Even if it’s small, the person who receives will appreciate the creativity, time and caring you put into it.
  How about creating gift certificates good for car washes, household chores, or baby-sitting?
We’d like to hear your suggestions.  Not only for economical gifts,but also for ways you can avoid the holiday blues.

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In my blogs I have often referred to the impact thinking has on our emotions and behavior.    perspective, I like to define thinking as talking to yourself.  (You know, that inner voice that only you can hear.) If your thinking is faulty, it   to negative emotions and self-defeating behaviors such as avoidance,procrastination, anxiety and depression.
Let’s take one common thinking error we might make.  We sometimes think about events in all or nothing terms.  Everything is either black or white; yet life events are usually more complex.  Examples of this type of thinking  error might include “What a loser I turned out to be,“ or, “I’ll never get another job.” Thinking this way can lead to the self-defeating conclusion: “I might aswell give up looking for a job.”
It is critical that you catch these thinking errors quickly and analyze them.   Does the evidence support your conclusion? For example, if you can list some successes in your career, then you’re conclusionthat you are a loser is not supported and therefore inaccurate.  Can you step back and evaluate your decision to stop looking for a job?  Is stopping in your best interest? It can be helpful to write down a statement that is more accurate on an index card that you can use to remind yourself whenever the unsupported thought pops up again. It might be something like, “I am not a loser! My career was successful until this recession.  It will take time, but I will find a job.”

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Job loss is seen by many as one of the most traumatic events one can experience.  Like other impactful events, the negative effects can be overcome by employing different strategies.  In previous blog posts we’ve talked about reframing negative thoughts into positive ideas, counting your blessings, exercising, making time to enjoy life, and other suggestions.
A while back, researchers at the Southern Methodist University[1] discovered that writing your deepest thoughts and emotions about losing your job could be very helpful.  Some of the benefits include a lowering of stress as indicated by reduced blood pressure, weight and heart rate.  Medical science has known for a long time that sustained levels of stress can have serious health consequences.  Expressing thoughts privately, that you might not feel comfortable discussing with others, can also help you “unload” the mental burden and keep you from ruminating about the situation.
Participants in the study wrote about a range of topics which included the emotions associated with problems of finding a new job, issues with family and loved ones, financial matters, how they felt the day they were let go, how they felt about their old employer and co-workers, and health concerns.  These are good topics, but you’re free to make your own choice.
Give it a try.  People in the study wrote 20 minutes a day for five days.  (Researchers didn’t look at writing for different lengths of time.)  We suggest that writing your thoughts and emotions whenever you get bogged down will be helpful.  Of course, if you can talk to a loved one or friend bout your feelings, that’s better still.
[1] “Expressive Writing and Management”; Academy of Management Journal, 1994, Vol. 37, No.3, 722-733.

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It’s no surprise if you feel that way. Getting laid off is a harsh blow to the strongest among us. When we experience a devastating event, we walk around telling ourselves “This is terrible, this is horrible!” And you know what? It’s that kind of thinking that gets us into trouble. It’s a simple fact that how we think about job loss (or any event) influences how we feel about it and what we’re going to do about it.

So instead of walking around kicking yourself, a good first step is to stop believing everything you think. Instead, evaluate the situation and ask yourself, “Is this the end of the world? Is this the most terrible thing that could happen to me?” Thinking that focuses on everything negative leads to fear and depression. Such fear can become overwhelming and stop you in your tracks. As a result, you’ll have a hard time doing all the things you need to do in order to move forward with your life. It’s important to tell yourself, “Losing my job stinks but I can survive. The recession will not last forever.” Failure only defines you if you stop trying!

Changing how you think is not easy but it can be done. It takes practice every day. You have to catch yourself having negative thoughts.  Write them down. Evaluate them.  Then write down a more realistic and helpful thought. Instead of thinking, “I should have seen this job coming to an end,” say to yourself, “The financial experts in Washington didn’t see it coming. Neither did the genius who ran the company.”

Minoru Yoshida holds the world record for non-stop push-ups at 10,507. We bet it took daily practice to achieve this feat. So changing your thinking takes the same kind of persistence.  While it might not be easy, practicing changing how you think will help you survive unemployment.

We’d like to hear how you turned around a negative thought.

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