Chapter 1. How to Find Hope
If we had such a thing as a national bumper-sticker for our cars, the bumper-sticker of the year would be: “I’m out of work, I can’t find a job, and I’ve tried everything.”
Of course not everyone would display it; some 139,000,000 people in the U.S. have jobs, after all. But some 15,000,000 do not. And 6,000,000 of them would display it for longer than twenty-seven months. That’s how many have currently been out of work that long. Just here in the U.S. Beyond these shores, well, tragically high unemployment is a worldwide problem, as we have seen throughout the Middle East this year, and other restless nations of the world.
Everywhere we go, these days, we hear this cry: “I’ve been out of work forever, and I can’t find a job, no matter how hard I try.” And we do try hard. Often in vain. We are thrown out of work, we go looking for work the way we always used to, but this time we come up empty. This is a brand new experience for many of us. And one that we didn’t see coming. Nothing works. Unemployment drags on.
This shakes us emotionally to our core, and often leads to a plunge in our self-esteem. Those twins, depression and despair, frequently follow hard on its heels. Life feels like it is never going to get any better. This feels like forever. (I know. Like any normal American, I’ve been thrown out of work twice in my life. It was not fun.)
What do we need?
Well, we desperately need a job. Of course.
But more than that, while we are out of work we desperately, desperately, need Hope.
THE KEY TO FINDING HOPE
Experts have discovered, over the years, what is the key to Hope. And it is just this: Hope requires that, in every situation, we have at least two alternatives.
Not just one way to describe ourselves, but two ways, at least.
Not just one way to hunt for a job, but two ways, at least.
Not just one kind of job to hunt for, but two kinds of jobs, at least.
Not just one size company to go after, but two sizes, at least.
Not just one place we really would like to work at, but two places, at least.
And so on. And so forth.
In order to have Hope while you are out of work, you have to make sure that in every situation you find yourself, you’re not putting all your eggs in just one basket.
To have only one plan, one option, is a sure recipe for despair. I’ll give you a simple example. In a study of 100 job-hunters who were using only one method to hunt for a job, typically 51 abandoned their search by the second month. That’s more than half of them. They lost Hope. On the other hand, of 100 job-hunters who were using two or more different ways of hunting for a job, typically only 31 of them abandoned their search by the second month. That’s less than one-third of them.
The latter kept going because they had Hope. And so this truth should always be on your mind:
If you are to hold on to Hope you must determine to always have at least two alternatives, in everything that you are doing while looking for work.
A LIST OF JOB-FINDING ALTERNATIVES
Just to be sure we’re “choosing cards from a full deck,” let’s rehearse what are the alternative options we have, when we’re out of work. There are eighteen different ways of looking for work. You probably know many of them, but just for the sake of completeness, let’s list them all. They are:
1. Self-Inventory. You do a thorough self-inventory of the transferable skills and knowledges that you most enjoy using, so you can define to yourself just exactly what it is you have to offer the world, and exactly what job(s) you would most like to find.
2. The Internet. 82 percent of Americans now go online, for an average of nineteen hours per week apiece. If you’re among them, and your goal is to work for someone else, you use the Internet to post your resume and/or to look for employers’ “job-postings” (vacancies) on the employer’s own website or elsewhere (with omnibus job-search sites such as Indeed or SimplyHired, and of course specific “job-boards” such as CareerBuilder, Yahoo/Hot Jobs, Monster, LinkUp, Hound, “niche sites” for particular industries [see www.internetinc.com/job-search-websites for a directory], and non-job sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or the immensely popular Craigslist). If, on the contrary, you’re considering working for yourself, you use the Internet to learn how to do this, how to establish your brand, and how to get the word out to a wider audience as to just what you have to offer.
3. Networking. You ask friends, family, or people in the community for “job-leads” (rhymes with “Bob reads”). There are two ways of doing this, one sort of blah, one really useful. In the first case, you use the lame “I lost my job; if you hear of anything, let me know,” which leaves your network completely baffled as to what you’re looking for, unless it’s same old same old of what you’ve always done. Far better way: after using method #1 above, you tell them in specific detail what you mean by “anything.” And then see how close they can come to that.
4. School. School means high school, trade schools, online schools, community colleges, four-year colleges, or universities. You ask a former professor or teacher or your career/alumni office at schools that you attended if they have any job-leads.
5. The Feds. You go to your local federal/state unemployment service office, or to their OneStop career centers (directory at www.careeronestop.org) to get instruction on how to better job-hunt, and also to find job-leads.
6. Private employment agencies. You go to the private analog to the federal/state agencies (directory of such agencies can be found at www.usa.gov/Agencies/State_and_Territories.shtml).
7. Civil Service. You take a civil service exam to compete for a government job (http://federaljobs.net/exams.htm and/or http://tinyurl.com/9vyfqe).
8. Newspapers. You answer local “want-ads” (in newspapers, assuming your city or town still has a newspaper, online or in print, or both). The Sunday editions usually prove most useful. See http://tinyurl.com/d58l8z for how to use them; for a directory of their online versions, see www.newslink.org. There is also a site that lets you see current news about any industry that is of interest to you (where vacancies have just opened up??), at http://www.congoo.com/Industry.
9. Journals. You look at professional journals in your profession or field, and answer any ads there that intrigue you (directory at http://tinyurl.com/dlfsdz).
10. Temp Agencies. You go to temp agencies (agencies that get you short-term contracts in places that need your time and skills temporarily) and see if the agency/agencies can place you, in one place after another, until some place that you really like says, “Could you stay on, permanently?” At the very least you’ll pick up experience that you can later cite on your resume (directory of such agencies, and people’s ratings of them, at www.rateatemp.com/temp-agency-list).
11. Day Laborers. You go to places where employers pick up day workers: well-known street corners in your town (ask around), or union halls, etc., in order for you to get short-term work, for now, which may lead to more permanent work, eventually. It may initially be yard work, or work that requires you to use your hands; but no job should be “beneath you” when you’re desperate.
12. Job Clubs. You join or form a “support group” or “job club,” where you meet weekly for job-leads and emotional support. Check with your local chamber of commerce, and local churches, mosques, or synagogues, to find out if such groups exist in your community. There is an excellent directory at Susan Joyce’s job-hunt.org (http://tinyurl.com/7a9xbb).
13. Resumes. You mail out resumes blindly to anyone and everyone, blanketing the area. Or you target particular places that interest you, and send them both digital and snail-mail copies of your resume, targeted specifically to them. Ah, but you already knew this method, didn’t you?
14. Choose Places That Interest You. You knock on doors of any employer, factory, store, organization, or office that interests you, whether they are known to have a vacancy or not. This works best, as you might have guessed, with smaller employers (those having 25 or fewer employees; then, if nothing turns up there, those places that have 50 or fewer employees; or, if nothing turns up there, then those with 100 or fewer employees, etc.).
15. The Phone Book. You use the index to your phone book’s Yellow Pages, to identify five to ten entries or categories (subjects, fields, or industries) that intrigue youthat are located in the city or town where you are, or want to beand then phone or, better yet, visit the individual organizations listed under these headings (again, smaller is better) whether they are known to have a vacancy or not. Incidentally, the Personnel Manager (http://tinyurl.com/3jnjewo) or Human Resources office thereif they have oneis that employer’s friend, not yours. Their basic function is to screen you out, so avoid them if possible. Sometimes, to be sure, you will stumble across an HR person who likes you and is willing to become your advocate, there. If so, you’re one lucky woman (or man).
16. Volunteering. If you’re okay financially for a while, but can’t find work, you volunteer to work for nothing, short-term, at a place that has a “cause” or mission that interests you (directory of such places can be found at www.volunteermatch.org). Your goal is not only to feel useful, even while you haven’t yet found a job, but your hope is also that down the line maybe they’ll want to actually hire you for pay. The odds of that happening in these hard times aren’t great, so don’t count on it and don’t push it; but sometimes you’ll be surprised that they ask you to stay, for pay.
17. Work for Yourself. You start your own small business, trade, or service, after first carefully observing what service or product your community lacks but really needs (see http://tinyurl.com/3rwxmka; also http://tinyurl.com/3syrmq7).
18. Retraining. You go back to school and get retrained for some other kind of occupation than the one you’ve been doing. Especially important if you don’t know computers at all.
LIES, DAMN LIES, AND STATISTICS
That’s how some wag once declined the word “lies.” I mention this here, because Alternatives do give you Hope, but statistics can take that Hope away, if you give them undue weight.
Much of it depends on what statistics you pay attention to. The media, the Internet, blogs, tweets, twenty-four-hour news channels on TV, newspapers, and magazines, all love statistics. But they generally are in love with a very particular kind of statistics, namely those that convey bad news. Discouraging news. Doom and gloom.
Why is this so? I dunno. But it is. Example? With regard to the labor market in the U.S., there are always two sets of statistics floating around for each month. First set of statistics: let’s take the month of February 2009, the height of the recent Recession. As reported on a website called JOLT (Job Openings & Labor Turnover)1 4,360,000 people in the U.S. found jobs that month. Yes, you read that correctly. And at the end of that month, 3,006,000 additional vacancies remained unfilled and available. Good news, right? 7,366,000 vacancies were available or filled, that month alone. At the height of the Recession.
Ah, but every month there is a second set of statistics, reported on the first Friday of each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, called the Current Population Survey.2 It is typically called The Unemployment Statistic, though it is more accurate to think of it as “the monthly measure of the size of the work force in America.” Anyway, the CPS said that during that same month, February 2009, the size of the total labor force in the U.S. shrank by 726,000 jobs. And so, the unemployment rate rose from 7.6 percent to 8.1. Bad news, to be sure.
Okay, there you have it: two sets of statistics, one good news, one bad news. Now, which of these two sets do you think the media pounced on? Yep, you guessed it: the bad news set. “726,000 workers lose their jobs,” commentators and news analysts shrieked. “Unemployment rises to 8.1 percent.” Along with that, they threw in, “There are six unemployed workers now for every vacancy.” All in all, it was enough to take the heart out of even the most optimistic job-hunter that month. Or any month.
We have to always watch which statistics we are paying the most attention to.
For, surely, statistics can sometimes help us, and not merely depress us.
Let’s post a few guideposts here about how statistics can help you:
1. Statistics can save you from wasting your energy. For example, when considering job-hunting methods, it can be helpful to know what the odds are that a particular method will richly repay you for the time spent on it, or what the odds are that a particular method will likely be a complete waste of your time. We will see this, when we discuss the five best ways to hunt for work, and the five worst ways (comparatively speaking).
2. Statistics can guide you toward particular targets. They can tell you when a particular company is having the kind of challenges you would love to help solve, and when a company has more problems than you would ever want to deal with, because they’re about to tank.
3. Statistics can encourage you, if you know how to read them. Consider, for example, this set of encouraging statistics just published, as I write (by CBS News Report3):
a. Laid-off workers thirty-four and under have a 36 percent chance of landing a job in a year b. Laid-off workers in their fifties have a 24 percent chance of landing a job in a year c. Laid-off workers over sixty-two years of age have an 18 percent chance of landing a job in a year
Encouraging? Sure. Look at it again. It says that if you’re under 34 years of age, 36 out of every 100 are going to find a job this year; and even if you’re over 62 years of age, 18 out of every 100 are going to find a job this year. So the only question is: why shouldn’t you be among them?
After all, the above statistics summarize the experience of all job-hunters, most of whom typically choose only one method of job search. You, however, know enough to choose two or more methods, and thus increase the odds that you will indeed find meaningful work.
Hope can give you wings, persistence, and energy. If you’re out of work, and want to stay upbeat, then greet the sunrise, go for a walk, count your blessings, listen to beautiful music, drink more water than usual, eat simpler, exercise more, laugh with your family and friends, watch cartoons, take naps in the daytime if you can’t sleep well at night, but for heaven’s sakes, don’t obsess about depressing statistics. Just determine to find alternatives for everything you are doing about your job-hunt and your life. You want to be the exception to whatever the odds are, about anything. Hold on to Hope, and you can beat those odds.
Job-hunter: Well, there may be all those vacancies out there that you claim, but I go on the Internet every morning, and I can’t find any of them in my area or specialty.
Career-counselor: Searching the Internet is only one way of hunting for those jobs that are out there. What’s your second way of searching for jobs?
Job-hunter: I only have the Internet.
Career-counselor: Well, there are at least 17 other ways of looking for those jobs that are out there. Read them, then choose and use three other alternatives to “just the Internet.”
Job-hunter: I’m a construction worker. I see there are lots of job vacancies, but none in construction that I can find.
Career-counselor: How else would you describe yourself besides “construction worker”?
Job-hunter: I’ve always been a construction worker.
Career-counselor: Well, that’s a “job-title.” There are other ways to describe yourself besides a job-title.
Job-hunter: Like what, for example?
Career-counselor: Like: “I am a person . . . who . . . ”
Job-hunter: Who what?
Career-counselor: “I am a person . . . who has these skills, and these knowledges, and this experience.” Take the job-title off yourself; find a more fundamental way to describe yourself to yourself. And to others. Once you have at least two alternative ways of describing yourself, you increase the range of jobs you can apply for, and thus keep Hope alive.