Nearly every individual’s success is directly linked to self-esteem. In psychology, self-esteem is influenced by some factors, which include: recognition from others, comparison with others, our social roles and the extent of identification with these “roles”. For almost all of us, our social roles are the jobs or careers we pursue. We base our self-concept on these positions and identify strongly with it, so much so that they become an integral part of our self-concept, i.e. how we define ourselves. Self-concept is derived from self-esteem. Hence when someone – for one reason or other – finds himself without a job or a career at some point in his life, it’s easy to lose this self-esteem and subsequently their self-concept as well. They then begin to compare themselves with others and search frantically for something to define themselves again and gain their self-esteem back.
Is career the only thing that defines you?
Firstly it’s great if you define yourself by your career. There is no better source of pride then stating your accomplishments in your field of expertise. But in case you feel stumped at defining your self-concept because you are without a job, then try establishing yourself by other things in your life. Your career doesn’t have to be the only thing that defines you. How about saying “I am an amazing listener all my friends come to me for their problems”?. When asked by someone what do you do, you could say: “I volunteer at an orphanage or that I am an amazing cook and love cooking for my family.” All of these things define you and are social roles that we fulfill.
Keeping this in mind, there are different strategies you can follow to convert the hopeless situation of being without a job into a hopeful one. In order words, what do you do if you are a Mr. or Miss CareerLess?
Here are few suggestions:
Set small goals every day; reward yourself when you accomplish those
Make a list of tasks for each day and do your best to check out the maximum tasks on that list. If you do that, you will feel you have accomplished something at the end of the day and your days will feel more productive. Make a plan to change your situation and follow through that plan each and every day till you see the desired result.
What to do if you feel overwhelmed and do not know where to start?
You can begin by setting up job alerts or multiple alerts for all types of jobs you are interested in. (If you are in the USA try indeed.com, otherwise monster.com is rather global). You should allocate two hours every day to check thoroughly for jobs on these websites. Whenever a job comes up that you are interested in, find out people you know in that company.
Make it a task to search LinkedIn to see if you directly know anyone at the company or are connected to any person who can introduce you to someone at the enterprise. It’s crucial that you maintain and refresh your LinkedIn profile at this time. Allocate half an hour every week to update or make your profile more efficient. Search your university’s alumni directory to see if there is an alumnus you could reach out to. If you cannot find anyone through the previous two methods, then consider a ‘cold’ reach out to someone at the company. Try to find someone who is more likely to reply to you and figure out a best time to email them.
What to do if a job opens up and you find a contact in that company?
When you reach out to the contact, make sure you ask for advice over a quick phone call or if they are willing to maybe get advice over coffee.
Always start by thanking them for taking out time to speak to you or meet you in person. Before you start asking them for advice, ask them to tell you a little bit about their background, how they got to do what they are doing. Remember, people love talking about themselves. So while they are speaking, look for commonalities between their experience and yours, perhaps later, you can have a small comment on how you feel the same way. The point is to build a good rapport with them. After they give their career summary, transit into your 45 second summary of what you have done and what you want to do. You could say something like: “before I start asking you for advice, I’ll give you a brief summary of what I have done so far”. This intro should be rehearsed. Don’t ramble for 5 minutes on what you have accomplished. The point is just to give them a brief background about you. Make sure this is not too long – you don’t want to bore them.
Finally, tell them that you are interested in career XYZ, and what would they do if they were in your position. NEVER ask for a job directly.
Hear their advice with full concentration and note it down. In the end ask them if they can think of anyone else you should speak to who could be beneficial. If you feel that you have had a good conversation, you may ask for a direct introduction to someone in division XYX, where you saw a job that you were interested in. If it is a lot to ask and they don’t feel comfortable, then don’t push them. Thank them for their time and let them know that you will keep them posted on how things progress for you.
To email or not to email, that is the question?
Within 24 hours of talking to the key person who offered you a guidance, send them a thank you email for taking the time to speak to you. Stay in touch with them; send an email perhaps every two to three months to give them a quick update on how things are progressing for you. It will keep you fresh in their minds. If they liked you and something appropriate comes up, chances are high that they will forward you the email and let you know of a job opportunity.
Do not stop believing in the power of networking:
Reach out to people who are currently working in your field of interest. They could be former classmates or friends of friends. Follow the ‘advice route‘ with them. It is easier to find or get a job that has not been advertised on job boards, but you apply for them through networking.
Do an internship while you wait to work full time:
Do not turn down an offer for an internship, which you think you can convert into a full-time job offer. Any internship is still far better than not having anything at all.
While you wait polish your CV, add new skills:
When an employer looks at your CV and notices a gap, questions will be asked. Mostly about: “what did you do all that time when you were off work?” If you tell them for instance that “I took a presentation skill class or I learned a new language to help me to be an effective sales person”, chances are that the prospective employer will be pleased with this.
By now, you have a plan set into motion, but what are you doing for yourself?
Pursue your hobbies or cultivate new ones:
It’s easy to ignore your hobbies and interests when the demands of a career take all your time and leave none for pursuing your hobbies. Remember while money woes are real, you need to do things to relax and for your pleasure. Hobbies are the things we do for ourselves. Go back to gardening, take cooking classes or learn baking from YouTube videos. Now is the time to do all you have been thinking of doing when you were sitting on that desk wishing you had some time off to do things you wanted to.
Make a bucket list:
Now is the time to make a list of stuffs you want to do before you die. Not to sound too morbid but life is short and goes by in a blink of an eye. And the demands of a full-time job can make it go even faster. So get out there and start checking out the things on your bucket list. We all have it lying somewhere, so take it out now!
If you can’t afford it due to financial constraints and you are holding onto the last penny of your dwindling savings, do things locally. You will be surprised to find out events and things to do that do not cost a dime, yet refresh your soul and keeps you motivated.
Get healthy and nourish your soul:
Meditate. Read books that not only adds to your knowledge but also the ones that enrich your soul. Don’t be afraid to tread on the path of spirituality. Cortisol, a hormone, released in response to stress lowers down your immunity. Naturally a period without a career amounts to growing stress so come up with strategies to manage it effectively. Regular exercise and eating healthy is the least we can do to respect our body and mind.
On staying positive and motivated:
Remember a lot of people who are successful have seen more days of failure than success. It’s okay to have a few bad days of being low but the mind has a bigger power on us than we can imagine. Remind yourself every day even in those days of extreme lows that you will always overcome this struggle. Surround yourself with positive people. Positivity helps keep your mind on the right path and you are more likely to succeed if you stay and remain positive. Negative thoughts can change a hopeful situation into a hopeless one.
If you have a thorough plan and you are determined to follow it through, you are taking actions to change your situation. And therefore, it is inevitable that you will finally be on the path of that job and that great career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Editor at MissCareerLess
After her career hit a bump in the road, adjusting to New York where, according to a song “women are beautiful and everyone has a job” life is certainly not easy for Shamim. She bid adieu to a career in education in Pakistan when she moved to New York City after getting married and still awaits a work permit. Taking journalism classes at NYU School of Continuing Education and working on a blog keeps her motivated. When she is not writing, she can be found spending time on a yoga mat and walking around the city of New York discovering new coffee shops. More about Shamim…