Get Ready to Roll

The recent 35-day partial government shutdown was a reminder that the rug can be pulled from under us at any time.  The furloughed federal employees were caught between a rock and hard place, not knowing whether to look for another job or endure the wait until a resolution was reached.  To use one of my favorite analogies, they didn’t know whether to run for the bus or slow down because they just missed it. 

Should you get caught in the crossfire between political factions or wake up every morning dreading going to work, here are a few steps you can take to spread your wings.

Focus on the Positive

The first question I ask my clients is: what do you value about your current (or last) work situation?  Perhaps you have a great deal of independence, a decent compensation package or a supportive boss.  When unhappy, we tend to focus on what’s lacking and lose sight of the worth of what we have. No job is perfect; identifying what’s positive about your current situation helps prevent jumping from the frying pan into the fire. 

What’s Lacking?

The next question will be the easiest to answer: what is lacking in your current job situation? Make a short list of what is missing from your last job or your current job. Keeping in mind that your wish list could be extensive, prioritize the list.

If, for example, your long commute makes you homicidal, be sure to put distance to work as a top priority.  Nothing stays the same including our jobs. Our furloughed federal employees had dependable jobs with regular paychecks until they didn’t. 

Work Values

What work values are important to you? If monetary rewards and promotion are important for you, nonprofit jobs may not jibe with those values. Work values such as belonging, productivity and variety may or may not be high priority for you.  Be sure to evaluate how closely your work values are aligned with those of your employer.

Assess Your Skills

Make a long list of your skills.  This is not the time to be modest. Think about all your special talents that may or may not be tapped by your current employer.  If, for example, your organizational skills put Marie Kondo to shame, be sure to highlight that skill set. Technical skills as well as interpersonal skills should also be on the list.

Update Your Resume

Having an updated resume is like having a valid passport; if need be, you can hop on the next boat. Regardless of where you work or how secure you feel, a current resume in your back pocket is empowering. The good news is the internet provides lots of examples and tips for building a resume. 

These days, most job-seekers use templates to fashion resumes.  They are readily available for free on word processing applications as well as on various websites.  Learning how to tweak a template will help you get the formatting to your liking.

Avoid taking random advice from friends who may have limited experience with job searches.  One woman I worked with said a friend told her not to create a resume that “stands out.”  Not knowing exactly what the friend meant, she drafted a boring resume.  In fact, the whole point of a resume is to have your resume stand out from the hundreds or thousands of others that an employer may receive.

Think of a resume as a snapshot of who you are.  You probably wouldn’t post your least favorite photo on Tinder or on social media.  A resume should not require close reading; your skills and achievements must jump off the page.  Eliminate long sentences, buzz words, and jargon.

Ask for Help

Serious job-seekers quickly discover that asking for help, otherwise known as networking, is a crucial part of the process.  I have connected clients with folks I haven’t spoken with in years.  Rarely (if ever) has anyone turned me down.  We are hard-wired to help.

Ask your friends to recommend other people to contact.  If you’ve identified a company that sounds appealing, try to find someone who works there (a friend of a friend, perhaps) and ask that person for more contacts. 

Set Realistic Goals

Rome wasn’t built in a day and good jobs aren’t landed in short order.  Viewing the process of meeting people and researching prospects as an end in itself is preferable. Looking for a job when you don’t need one is the ideal.  But sometimes the shadow lies between the ideal and the real; facing job loss creates a sense of urgency.

Truth is, there’s nothing like a protracted job search to rob you of your confidence.  Do look for support in friends, relatives, job coaches or counselors. Keeping the momentum going is vital during a job search; baby steps lead to bigger steps which lead to jumps.  To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, your future depends on what you do today.