Desperate is not a good look

I’ve felt my heart sink quite a few times in the past few weeks. More and more, I’m reading about people who admit to either feeling forced to go back to work; or feeling that they have to take any job offer that comes their way; or feeling that they must stay at a job even if they’re miserable.  The main reason these people are giving for doing so is – as you probably guessed it by now – the state of the economy.

Even if these stories of doom and gloom are being written by sensationalist (and irresponsible) journalists, there is an undeniable truth behind them.  The stories show that there’s an unhealthy emphasis on decision-making based on have to (no choice), should (guilt-driven) and must (both guilt and no choice). 

I get it that people have bills to pay (I do too) and that jobs are scarce in some of the largest sectors of the economy. Yet, I cannot help but wonder how it’s possible for some people to feel like lambs being taken to the slaughter, while others are feeling empowered and seeing the change of pace as an opportunity to explore new horizons, to experience new things and to re-invent themselves. 

By no means am I saying that the former are lying or not trying hard enough.

What I am questioning is their perspective and attitude towards the current environment. 

I can already hear some thinking: ”get off your high horse…beggars can’t be choosers.”  See, here’s the deal.  You’re only a beggar if you feel like one. And if you feel like a beggar, guess what? Others will treat you like one.  Not only is that attitude not conducive to a fun life, it’s not a sustainable way to approach your career.  Yes, I am saying that job satisfaction and happiness matter even during an economic downturn.  Both are what will lead to sustainable career decisions.

Here are two tips that will wipe off the desperate look from your face (which by the way is not a good look to take to a job interview):

1. Develop a clear vision.  In a changed world it’s crucial to have a clear idea of where you want to be in the next 3 to 5 years.  Your personal vision is what will keep you in control during those times when your employer, seeking to cut costs, asks you to take on responsibilities that go beyond your current job description.  It is also what will keep you motivated when you don’t get a job offer.  And it’s what will drive you to feel that going back to the work place is an opportunity, not a curse.

When you know where you want to be in a few years time, it’s easier to step back, and say: “This may not be what I expected from life, but I can see how this new experience is a great opportunity to learn something that will come in handy in a few years time.”  I’m not saying that every experience needs to be positive.  Dealing with situations that are not of your absolute delight also benefits you.  It helps you build character.

2. Stop catastrophizing.  Taking on new responsibilities at work, living off your savings for longer than you expected, doing without a few luxuries, and going back to work are not the end of the world.  It could be the beginning of a brand new and exciting chapter in your life.  Besides, if you’re sitting there feeling sorry for yourself, as you clean up your resume or build your network on Linked In, think about all the families who have relatives in Iraq.  That should help you snap out of it!

So what is driving your career: panic, guilt & fear or a clear vision and excitement? I’d LOVE to know.

Like the picture?  Thanks flickr

3 thoughts on “Desperate is not a good look

  1. A lot of people are “narrow” experts. They are engineers, or web designers, or what ever and their experience is in their field. Their practical experience didn’t include sales and marketing. They have been able to rely on “Joe” the salesman, or “Jane” in the marketing department.

    Your target audience didn’t go into sales or marketing because they really love engineering, web design, or what ever. Now they have to learn a skill that is against their interest and personality type.

    The people who see these changes as opportunities and not insurmountable problems are the people for whom sales and marketing are exciting and fun. The rest of us just see how difficult it is going to be and feel overwhelmed.

  2. Allen – I understand where you’re coming from. Changing directions, whether you’re an expert or a generalist, is difficult. I know because I have done so several times in my work-life. In saying that, it’s vital to look at our options. In other words, what’s more difficult – to stay on the same track, feeling miserable (and in these times for some it means being jobless) or to decide to take one baby step every single day in the new direction? I recently wrote a post about how to apply this concept to our work-lives:
    And speaking of “narrow” experts, you’ll find out about an engineer who changed paths in my post: A New Kind of Hero for a New Kind of World, Hero #1 ( Stay in touch. Silvana

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