What Are You Afraid Of?

Written by Jennifer Bowden, Training & Workshop Coordinator

After years of working with job seekers, I see that for many people what holds us back isn’t our external circumstances – the job market, the economy, etc. – but our internal ones. Yes, there are factors we need to consider; child care, transportation, education, geographic location, and yes, the job market and economy are just a few.  But the internal landscape presents much more daunting obstacles:scared

Fear of change

Fear of getting stuck in a rut

Fear of leaving

Fear of staying

Fear of success

Fear of failure

Fear of what others think

Fear of starting over

Fear of rejection

Fear that you’ve “lost your touch”

Fear of looking stupid

Fear of making a bad decision

Fear of something new

Fear of things always being in upheaval

We start internal conversations and psych ourselves out of taking risks before we even have a chance to get started. “I wasn’t very good at school when I was a kid. What makes me think I’d be good at it now?” “That’s a big commitment. I probably shouldn’t even start.” “I’ll just go back to my old job.” “I have to do this because it’s what I went to school for.” “I don’t know what my options are.”

Why do we let our fears make our decisions for us? Writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau (who certainly knows a thing or two about walking away from a situation) wrote in Walden:

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Why are you in your current situation, whatever that might be? Is it where you want to be? I love quotes – so here are some famous people giving insights on how to get unstuck and stop letting your fears rule.

“Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” – Walter Anderson

Is your fear of change holding you back?

“The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.” – Maimonides

Do you think you have to be perfect?

“A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done.” – Cardinal Newman

Do other people think you have to be perfect?

“Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

You really can do this.

“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The effort will be worth it, even if you don’t reach your goals in the way you expect.

“You must accept that you might fail; then, if you do your best and still don’t win, at least you can be satisfied that you’ve tried. If you don’t accept failure as a possibility, you don’t set high goals, you don’t branch out, you don’t try, you don’t take the risk.” – Rosalynn Carter

There are so many quotes about risk and reward and adventure; I’d like to close with one of my favorites:

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” – John A. Shedd

Set sail!

 

 

The September Blues Might Be Just a Habit

By Jennifer Bowden, Training & Workshop Coordinator

The school year has started. The dust has settled. Everyone is getting used to the newroutine. And the September blues start to settle in…..

September blues

For years I felt sort of depressed and anxious when fall rolled around and I wasn’t starting school. It seemed like that was what I was supposed to be doing, and even though I’d moved on to a completely different part of my life, some part of me was holding on to the idea that I needed to buy some school supplies and start out on a new adventure.

Does fall make you feel like you should have a new beginning as well? Take a minute to think about this in terms of your job search and the goals that you’ve set for yourself. Are you headed in the direction you want? Or the direction you think you’re supposed to want? Or the direction that you’re used to wanting?

We get into habits of body and mind: our morning routines, the route for a daily commute, the same haircut, a rotating menu of your favorite dishes. Some of these habits help us function without the drag of constantly having to make decisions. Some of these habits create a sense of continuity and form the basis of cherished traditions (turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, anyone?). And some habits go from being well-trodden paths to deep ruts that are nearly impossible to steer out of.stuck-in-a-rut

When you think about your job search, are you excited about the possibilities ahead? Or does your job search feel like a drag? This might be a good time to stop and consider:  What do you want? And why do you want it? Periodically reconfirming the reasons why you’re headed in your current direction can be a powerful force to keep you motivated during your search.

Just Say No – Or At Least “Maybe”

Written by Jennifer Bowden, Training & Workshop Coordinator

 
maybeI’ve talked before about the importance of job seekers staying organized and setting goals. A really important part of being able to stay on target is learning how to say no (or at least “maybe”) to all the people, projects, commitments, and other distractions that lead you to fill up your time, leaving less for the search.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s great to be involved in your community (or kid’s school, or church, or whatever group you’re a part of). And just as you may sometimes depend on your family for help, there are times when you need to be the helper.  But being the go-to person can be a slippery slope, especially if you’re feeling pressured to fill up your day because you’re not working for pay.

Here are some tips for setting boundaries with yourself and others:

Don’t let others guilt you into filling up your time. While you may not be working full-time for pay, that doesn’t mean that others have an unlimited right to your time and energy. It’s reasonable to think that you may be more available for things like driving someone to a daytime doctor appointment or volunteering the classroom, but you should decide in advance how much time you can reasonably commit. Plan and schedule each week’s job search activities so you have a clear idea of how much time you can spare for other activities. Don’t apologize or automatically re-arrange your planned job search activities to accommodate others’ requests.

Choose wisely. If you opt to spend time volunteering, pick an organization or activity that is either personally meaningful/significant or one will help you reach your career goal. If you’re volunteering for the sake of getting out the house and adding structure to your day, find something related to your field – you’ll be doing good and meeting potential contacts at the same time. On the other hand….

Don’t look for the payoff. Doing good for others can certainly be its own reward, and you need to go into any commitment or favor expecting that will be the case. It would be nice to think that every time you volunteered it would turn into a full-time job you love or net some great contacts in your field or lead to public praise and recognition – and sometimes it does – but you can’t assume that will be the case. Volunteering can be pretty thankless work, so be sure you’re willing to put in the time without additional expectations.

Beware of overcommitting. If you’re used to working full-time, the prospect of 168 unscheduled hours per week can seem downright terrifying. But saying yes to every request that comes along can very quickly take up a significant chunk of those hours, leaving little time and – perhaps more importantly – energy and inclination to work on the job search. Don’t respond automatically when someone asks you for assistance; it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for some time to think it over or check your calendar, particularly for a large or long-term obligation. Be sure you understand what is being asked of you.

As with so many other things, balance is important. Keep in mind that while love and enthusiasm may be boundless, time and energy are not. Choose the ways you’ll spend your non-job search time carefully, and you’ll find that those commitments are ones you’ll enjoy keeping even when you’re gotten your career back on track.

 

Back to the Classroom: A Success Story

By Rose Morrone-Reeves, Employment Services Coordinator

We are not officially two months into the summer season and the “Back to School” commercials have already captured the attention of millions of children, young adults and adults alike. Is it that time already? As a parent of grown adult children I no longer need to worry about the long list of school supplies or the expense of new clothes or the latest new running shoes for gym class. But, as a Career Advisor this time of year does bring many questions regarding the return to the classroom from my customers which are sometimes filled with confusion and uncertainty. For some adults, by personal choice or through circumstances beyond their control, are forced into a career change and contemplate seriously about returning to school.

Many of these folks are returning to school for the first time after having been employed in the workforce for 25+ years. Some of them know exactly what they want to do and may come to me already having been ewe-can-do-itnrolled in part-time classes for the last several years in a program of their choosing.  And then, there are those who by choice or design went to work just coming out of high school. They worked steadily for an employer for 25+ years, secure in thinking they would retire with this employer, only to discover the employer is downsizing or moving operations to another country. I had the privilege of working with one such lady.

When we sat down to discuss her options she went blank. She had never thought of doing anything else; she had worked as an assembly line worker for 27 years, raised her family and enjoyed doing crossword puzzles and reading mystery novels. It had never crossed her mind to return to school, but here she was at a crossroads. The process took her through testing and a multitude of questionnaires. After a few weeks we sat down to discuss her results. It was clear from the test results she had very high mechanical and math aptitude skills. This information shocked her; she confessed she never had a problem with math in high school and recalled having enjoyed it. We discussed non-traditional jobs which she could be very well suited for and the schools which would offer the best programs. She took a chance and decided to investigate and research a few schools of her choice.

She applied and was accepted to a very prominent Aviation Technology Institute. She confided in me at how quickly the two years went by. The course work was undoubtedly difficult and many times during our meetings she would tell me how much time she spent studying and having to pass up on many family and social gatherings so she could study. She was fortunate to have a supportive family who also encouraged and cheered her on during the two years. She had quickly discovered what worked for her when it came to her study habits and being successful. She completed her two year program with honors and received her Certificate in Airframe and Power Plant Technician Program. She told me if “If I can do it, anyone can do it”. I have always been a believer that where there is a will, there is way.

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated” Oscar Wild

 

Get Up and Take Action!

By Heather Coleman Voss, Business Services Coordinator

The most startling thing about experiencing a lay-off is that time stretches. What you used to accomplish in four hours now seems to take days. One minute it’s 10:00 am, and the next it’s 3:00 pm – and suddenly you realize you haven’t gotten dressed, or done a load of laundry, or sent out a resume yet. You may not even have been aware of the passing time.

I understand. I was there once myself.

This phase of working through the reality of a lay-off is normal. You may find yourself feeling physically weak, unable to cope with formerly simple tasks like sending an email or making dinner. Outwardly, it may look like you are simply sitting in front of the computer or the TV, but inwardly your mind is whirling with emotions and thoughts. It may feel like you are frozen.

Take this to heart: You will not be in this space forever. You are working through one of the top 5 most stressful events people experience in a lifetime. You are in the midst of the grieving process. It is important to work through the stages of grief – taking a few weeks to process through this time is important.

Then, even if it feels forced, you need to get up and take action.

My suggestions on how to make this happen are as follows:

1. Change your verbal and internal language. You are not “unemployed” – you are in a “career transition.” See the difference? How you speak about yourself will make a huge difference in how you see yourself – and how people react to you.

2. Set your alarm for 8:00 am every single day, Monday – Friday. Get up, shower and get dressed in business casual clothing. Put on your shoes. I know it may sound silly, but your routine will establish your activity for the day. How you feel is how you will act.

3. Set up a schedule. In the schedule, include 8 hours per day of active job seeking, broken up in a manner that suits you. Checking email and social media sites for professional networking and job opportunities may be one way to begin your day.

4. Get out of the house. Head over to the nearest coffee shop with WiFi and start updating your resumes and cover letters. (Remember, each resume should be geared to the specific position to which you are applying). If you don’t have a laptop or tablet, head over to the local library or Michigan Works! office, where you can utilize their computers free of charge.

5. At least twice a week, attend a networking event. Be open to meeting people! If money is an issue, search the internet for local free networking events – they are everywhere. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce – most chambers allow you to visit once without having to obtain a membership.

6. Attend or create your own in-person networking group for job seekers. Schedule a meeting once a week. People who are currently in career transition still maintain most of their professional contacts. After all…you never know who knows someone you should know.

7. Search the Internet for workshops and seminars geared toward current employment trends, resume writing, interviewing, creating a career action plan, social media for career seekers and more. Many low cost to no-cost workshops are available. Again, your local Michigan Works! office is a great resource for excellent workshops. Even if you consider yourself a pro, you will pick up great tips and meet people who are well-connected.

8. Spend time every week fine tuning your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and G+ accounts to reflect your career interests. Post articles and start conversations about your areas of expertise. Take advantage of LinkedIn’s new blogging platform – or start your own WordPress or Blogger account where you can showcase your career passions. Employers will search for you – make your profiles attractive to future hiring managers. Spend time in groups on Facebook and LinkedIn growing your network and learning about current career opportunities.

9. Use a free online calendar and apps like Evernote and Any.do to keep you organized and motivated. Remind yourself to follow up with employers, send out specific resumes, attend events and workshops. You may not have a job – yet – but you are working!

10. Every day, update a spreadsheet (I use Google drive) with the positions to which you’ve applied, the contact information of the employer, the title of the position and any other pertinent information. You will feel very accomplished when you can actually see the work you are doing. Additionally, this is a great way to be prepared for the employer to call you – simply check the spreadsheet for details during your conversation.

11. For chores around the house, I recommend creating a short and reasonable checklist. No more than 5 items that can be accomplished throughout the day. The point here is to be busy and proactive, not to overwhelm yourself. Create situations daily for your success.

12. Schedule in some “me time.” If you’ve set up a serious career seeking schedule, you are working. You still need time to relax and re-energize.

Bonus tip: Create business cards with your name, areas of expertise, social media links, email and mobile phone number.  Be prepared to hand out your business cards wherever you are – always carry them with you. Remember, how you present yourself is how you will be received. You are a professional.

Many local printers will print business cards for a very reasonable price. Otherwise, check out this article for free and low cost suggestions: Digital Trends – Business Cards.

**If you live near Ferndale, Michigan I recommend places like Chazzano Coffee Roasters, Java Hutt, Ferndale Michigan Works! workshops and resource center and the Ferndale Public Library as destination spots during your job search. If you are interested in networking with a local Chamber, definitely visit the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce, the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce and the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce.