Monday, January 05, 2009

Lessons from the breadline, part 2


Part two of my semi-regular series on lessons from my job search -- this time, one month in. Fellow career changers/job-seekers: What have you learned since we last spoke? I'm eager for an update!

LESSON 4: The five stages of grief can apply to jobs, too.
Imagine my surprise when I woke up one Monday mad as hell about my current state of affairs. (I had gone to bed calm.) Why should others' decisions mean more work for me? Why did this have to happen? What am I supposed to do now? Rarr rarr rar. And so on. This, I realized, was my overdue anger phase.

Imagine my further surprise when I woke up the next day, looked at the newly launched website, and promptly burst into tears at my desk. I spent the rest of the day throwing a well-attended pity party, complete with streamers and confetti. This was my depression stage.

While neither day was pleasant, they were necessary. By letting those feelings visit for a while, and then sending them on their way, I was able to reach acceptance, and redirect that energy toward a new sense of purpose and resolve in my search. So go ahead and have your good cry -- it will help pave the way for all the happy tears when you find your new gig!

LESSON 5: Organize to optimize.
Don't bother reading this lesson if your search consists only of the occasional application off Monster. You don't have near enough to keep track of in your search. If you're networking, emailing, searching, and interviewing, however, you might find it useful to keep an ongoing "search journal."

I've used a journal for two hunts now, and it's proved very helpful in tracking the 8 million balls in the air. The idea is simple: I jot down what job search steps I accomplished that day, and note the time it took to complete them. That way, I can see when I last contacted somebody, or sent in an application, or edited my references, or attended a workshop ... you get the idea.

Basically, the search journal keeps you accountable for your efforts, and adds some discipline to your now-unstructured day. Plus, it gives you a great sense of accomplishment on those "I'm not getting anywhere" days when you flip through the full pages and realize you ARE making progress, after all.

And that entitles you to some ice cream as a reward. No, really. It does.

LESSON 6: Remember to give your brain a rest.
Job searching can be a full-time job. And like your regular gig, it becomes too stressful or tiring if you're not taking any time away from it. (I learned this the hard way after several days of forgetting to leave the computer between 9 am and 6 pm.)

To make the most of being on my own schedule, I've scheduled my day around my peak hours. That means I get up early, shower and dress, and put in a chunk of solid search work between breakfast and lunch. Then I take a couple hours away from the PC, either reading, taking a walk (so delightful to be out in sunlight!), or running errands. And after that, I'm back at the computer for a couple hours to update my social networks and surf the Web.

Restorative and reenergizing, to say the least. Plus, I'm holding carpal tunnel syndrome at bay. And reading some good books from the library. And not being so starved for attention that I attack my roommates in a Tazmanian-like frenzy when they get home from work. Which they appreciate. As would you.

What am I missing? Enlighten me!

Photo by B.D.'s world (adapted by moi)

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