Waltz Before You Run

We’ve been keeping busy sending off our applications. (It is still hunting season after all). We’ve tried various options for hunting, we’ve looked in the papers and scrounged around online and asked a friend (or even a stranger). We updated our resumes and tried to be creative with our formats, fonts and functions. We’ve networked and Twittered and blogged till our eyes are sore. But we’ve been flying around in the unemployment skies for too long now and it’s time to land (we are low on faith-fuel). Before bringing this bird in for landing however, we need to have a landing plan. If we come in too hot, too heavy, too fast or too slow, we risk crashing and burning. So let’s circle a bit. Maybe it’s time to rethink our approach. Perhaps a new method is required. Perhaps, we need to learn how to waltz.

Some of us have been selective in the effort. We’ve sifted through the classifieds carefully and cross-referenced, methodically matched and strategically analysed the pickings (which are slim), looking for the best of the lot. This is satisfying though not necessarily successful method.

Some of us have broadened the effort and have widened our search to hunting for jobs in the general theme of things. We’ve stretched it a bit and tried to convince ourselves (and others) that some of those jobs are well within our reach. Once they are within your capabilities, I say go for it. I’m all for trying something new and highly encourage it, so straddle the fence and widen your boundaries. You may want to note however, that owning a cat does not qualify you to work as pharmacist for the veterinarian’s office, since you are not, after all, a pharmacist. (You know who you are). But this can be a rewarding method if you are really interested in broadening your scope within your field, or if you are trying to start a new career slightly off where you started. It can however, backfire quickly if your heart isn’t in it, because if you just land a job for the sake of landing one and don’t put some heart into it, you may very well be back on the breadline too soon (crash) and recovering from another blow so quickly may not go well (burn).

But if you selected and sorted and then stretched and straddled and still come up empty, your distance swim can feel a whole lot like sinking. And for those of us in this category, we’re going to dance our way to shore. Side step, back step, back step, forward.

Featured imageIf you haven’t worked for awhile, now may not be the time to try to move up the ladder. It’s not impossible (don’t let me discourage you) but it’s highly improbable (I won’t encourage you either). Stick to jobs within a similar level to where you were a few months ago before you were unemployed. In other words, before you step up, step to the side. But the brave of us dancers who grew up on Fame and Solid Gold, we know that before the mid-air twist with a somersault finish, the best dancers, took a preparation step back. Be willing to do something different and possibly earn less than where you were before. (Earning less is better than earning none). So before you skim over jobs you can rock out in your sleep, consider applying for them. Frankly, apply to everything. You just may land one. And once we’re back in the land of the working, that’s definitely taking a step forward. And once we’ve stepped forward, we can dance our way home.
(Oh, by the way, I’m not training you for the next installation of Dancing with the Stars so you may not want to take my dance instructions too literally.)

Mine Rescue Comes

Were you glued to the nearest television for the last 22 hours watching from the edge of your seat as the 33 miners were rescued? Me too. It was a beautiful event to behold. I’m still on a high. As a wife, my heart rejoiced as its broken state was mended. As a daughter, I was relieved as I set eyes on nearly lost fathers. As a sister, I couldn’t stop smiling with the jovial spirits that emerged from that darkness. As a human, I was proud of the people who worked tirelessly to make it happen. And knowing that I rejoiced, sighed, smiled and cried with the rest of world, was truly a wonderful feeling. I shed a tear for each and every one of them, weeping openly in parts, although I’ve never met any of them. I’m sure you understand.

It was a story I followed from the beginning. There were a few days that I recall being frustrated because the ‘updated’ reports had no new information from the day before. It was a nerve-racking time. I followed the reports and watched the videos and thought to myself, could I do it? Could you?

Many reports from the best psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists (and even psychos) said the men found strength in each other. They were able to support each other throughout the ordeal physically, socially, emotionally, medically and spiritually. There was safety and strength in numbers. Additionally, by keeping a scheduled routine through having ‘work’ and delegated tasks, set meal and sleeping times, the miners kept a sense of normalcy. All these factors contributed to them staying sane, safe and stable. And I dare add, hopeful and (yes) happy.

Sometimes in this period of unemployment, we feel as though like the Chilean miners, we’re trapped in a dark mine waiting for someone unseen and sometimes unheard to come save us. The difference is however, we don’t wake daily to see 32 others around us, which makes it easy for us to think we’re here alone. We’re not. Not only are there other ‘miners’ with us, there are an estimated 15 million unemployed globally as of September this year, with predictions to reach 25 million by December 2010. And in addition to our fellow unemployed partners, we have family and friends who wait eagerly to ‘rescue’ us however they can. The trick is, we have to allow ourselves to be rescued.

Featured image

Rescue 101
Before the minors could be rescued a few things had to happen. First someone had to know they needed rescuing. Then they had to know exactly where they needed to be rescued from. And once the rescue plan was in place the miners themselves had to be in the right physical and emotional state of readiness for the rescue to be successful. We have to do that too.

Know That I Need
If no-one knows you need to be rescued and like the miners you can’t necessarily save yourself, then let’s face it, you’re pretty much screwed. So while it seems obvious, you’re going to have to tell someone to help you. Sending off a few applications is a good start, then tell your friend and family to keep their ears to the ground and mouths by the ears of their friends. Get the word out that you’re looking for a job. But the help you need won’t only be in the job-hunting. Additionally, and most importantly, you’re just going to need some good old fashioned love.

If you always wear a brave face, no-one will try to cheer you up. You may tend to feel that no-one cares when in fact many people care a great deal, but they don’t want to weigh you down with emotions if they think you’re doing fine. So if you’re feeling low, say so. Need ice-cream and can’t afford it, tell a friend. Have Mum buy you new shoes and let Dad fix you up a steak when you’re tired of corned-beef. (I am so leaving hints here). Just knowing they can help makes the ones helping feel better too, so let them. You are not in the mine alone.

Know What I Need
Where are you weak? And when? For me where I need help is in company, or I’ll wallow in isolation. I don’t mind being alone and enjoy my own company (I’m hilarious) but if I spend too many ‘me’ hours I get pretty down and once I’m there I can find it hard to re-socialize for days after. (It’s better when other people laugh with me).

When? Well I’m a morning person. I usually more perked up than my coffee from the word ‘go’, so with caffeine and sugar added I can accomplish a good deal by noon. (With a grin on too). I do well until about 3.00 in the afternoon and then I crash for 3-4 hours. No kidding. No exaggeration. Typically this is my low time and the time I most hate being alone. To compensate, this is the time frame I schedule to hang out with my family and friends. But when that’s not possible, this will be my blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter time, where I can still feel like I’m having some kind of social interaction. Failing that, I just sleep through it. (Well it’s not like I have to work, ha!).

Know what will help you get through the day and put your rescue plan in place. Because once you take each day at a time, before you know it you’ve survived the week and then in no time, you’ve survived the month. And in order to be ready for rescue, first we have to survive.

Be Ready for Rescue
Keep a sense of normalcy. Set your alarm and wake at the regular time (or a new slightly delayed ‘regular’ time, it’s your right), shower and dress and start doing something. Keep a schedule. Have set meal and sleep times and keep writing ‘to do’ lists. If nothing else, write the list of things you need to do. This does wonders to help you feel you’re doing something during this time when you seemingly have nothing to do. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, it can be ‘water plants’, ‘watch Passport 246’ or ‘call Mum’, but when you cross it off your list, it’s a minor victory. All the little wins make for a very productive week. And a good week makes for a happier you.

Did you jog, stretch, dance, skip or hula hoop today? Your emotional state is linked to your physical state, so cheer yourself up and keep moving. The miners danced, you can too. What you do is not nearly as important as how long you do it for. I’m not a certified personal trainer so I won’t advise you on this in detail, other than to tell you, have fun with whatever you’re doing. That way you’ll stick to it and you’re more likely to do more of it. And by the way, I’m challenging you to hula hoop longer than I do, (yes you) but we can discuss that later.

Finally, (this is the really hard one) you have to stay positive. Didn’t you choke back an emotional tear when the miners sang the Chilean anthem and even cracked jokes? That sure motivated me. Family and friends can motivate too, so stay surrounded by positive people. An unemployment support group is great, but an over-caffeinated friend hyped on the last episode ANTM is better. I had lunch today with a wonderful friend and by the time dessert rolled around I was grinning and smiling and ready to conquer the world (again). Be ready for your rescue. I’m ready for mine. When your next job rolls around be ready to give it all you’ve got in every way. There are 10 other people who can do your job, (so they say) but you are the only one who can do it with your spirit.

One last thing. (I know I said finally before, but this is really it). It’s not part of the rescue effort but it will help make the world a better place. When you do land your next big job (and you will), remember to say thank you to all the people who rescued you. The ones who came down the chamber and waited in the mine, the ones who pulled the ropes, or just held your hand, those who hugged you when you needed it or gave you a meal, who helped you to your feet and shed a tear or two with you. All the people who directly and indirectly lead you to that better place where the sun shines, when it finally stops raining, remember to say thank you.

It still rains for me, but it won’t always. My rescue plan is in effect and I’m looking forward to coming up from the mine. You should know if you’re reading this, even now, you are part of my rescue. And to you, all of you, I’d like to say thanks. Thanks. And cheers! Here’s looking forward to sunshine. See you in the sun.

Reference: Global unemployment statistics – BBC News
Note: ANTM – America’s Next Top Model

Becoming Fearless

“The worst sorrows in life are not 
its losses and misfortunes, but its fears.” 
– Arthur Christopher Benson 1862 – 1925
What is your greatest fear? Most of us have a few, but if you could pick only one, what would it be?

Frogs, clowns, deep water, darkness, public speaking, elevators, peaches (yeah I know, there’s a video on YouTube). We could do this all day and still miss something that affects someone else. I have a few, but the one that really gets me is (I can hardly type the word) centipedes. Shudder. I pause a moment to collect myself.
But such fears seem less menacing when staring the loss and misfortune of unemployment in the face. Not working brings with it a whole new abyss of terrors in the night and in broad daylight too.
The Practical Fear
 How will I make rent? How do I pay bills? What happens when my credit card limit is breached, how will I buy groceries then?
The Relationship Fear
How will this affect my spouse? Can one salary support us? What do I tell the children about that trip to Disney? Can I afford to keep the dog (he eats more than I do)? (Gasp.) What will my mother say?
The Emotional Fear
Where did I go wrong, what should I have done differently? How will this affect my future? Is this my fault? What if I can’t find another job?
The list goes on.
And fear, I’m afraid, can be crippling. It can stop you from sleeping but yet keep you in bed. It can stop you from eating or help you eat too much. You can feel physical pain you can’t explain, your head hurts, your heart aches and your voice shrinks. You can, very easily, lose hope.
Other fears I won’t say are easily overcome. You may not suddenly or easily not kiss frogs, hug clowns, go diving or eat peaches. And as for me, the closest I care to come to overcoming my fear is from 12 feet away with a can of Bop in hand. But this particular predicament we’re in, this can be fixed.
The Practical Fix
Don’t keep it a secret. It may seem the last you want to do is tell people you owe that you’re not working and have no idea how you’re going to pay them.  But if they don’t know you can’t come up with the best possible payment plan together. And that’s just what you need to do. Work it out based on how far your savings can take you. No savings? Give yourself 3 months to find a job and therefore work on a 4 month projection. You’d be amazed to know that some creditors will give you an interest waiver, reduce your monthly payment or extend your payment dates.

Sign-up for unemployment. We seem to find something demoralizing about queuing in line with equally depressed people to get a stamp and money from the government. But remember all those months and years before you lost your job when you paid taxes? Sure you do. That money is no handout, it’s a return on your investment and you deserve it. Work some of it into that payment schedule you’re building but hold some back and save it. Just in case your unemployment runs out before your job hunting does, you’ll need a fall back plan.

The Relationship Fix
Hug your spouse more and say “pig-head” less. You’re going to feel angry. How dare they get rid of you? That’s a perfectly normal feeling. Yell, scream, bang, kick-box, just don’t do any off that to the one person who supports you. This will be hard time for your spouse too.  They will want to be there for you when you want to be alone. They will try to say the right thing when the only thing you want to hear is silence. They will help with the chores more than before and upset you because now you don’t have anything useful to do. Everything they do will be wrong. But don’t say so. Be honest, calmly. ‘Darling I’d like to be alone this evening’ may give both of you a much needed break. ‘Go away bird-brain’ will aggravate you both and right now, none of you needs it.  
Your children understand more than you think. Have you played one of your children’s video games recently? How far did you get? Thought so. Plan what you want to say, write a list if it helps and tell your children the truth. There are going to be some changes. I’ll do the best I can but from now on we’re going to eat Flakes with Frosting instead of Frosted Flakes. Our summer vacation will be postponed, but Mickey will have more time to find pants. It won’t be easy, but children love you no matter what and if you keep it simple, they’ll just be happy for more time with you anyway.
Parents and in-laws, don’t even think about them. They may not admit to it but at some point they’ve been laid off too.  Tell them over dinner, but before dessert, that way if they say anything you don’t like you won’t have to share the ice-cream. Usually though, they are very understanding and by giving them early notice, if you have to move in with them later, it won’t be a surprise.
The Emotional Fix
The Time Machine was just a movie. You can change it a million times in your head, but tomorrow morning when you wake up, nothing would have changed and you still don’t work there anymore. That’s because we can’t chance the past. You already knew that, so why are you holding on to it? Jog it out, stretch it out, cry it out and pray it off, but let it go. It’s taken me 6 months so don’t beat yourself up. Find the books and blogs and friends and eggnog to help, but the final release can only come from you. Know this though, whatever happened, happened. Learn from it and leave it. You’re now wiser than before and the company that let you go, can’t profit from your newly acquired wisdom.  Sucks to be them.  

Do Your Homework

We live in the age of technology, which means there’s a wealth of information readily available at your fingertips. There are websites, articles, expert opinions, photos, videos and blogs on just about every topic that exists. “Been there, done that” has never been more true and you can be almost anywhere and do nearly anything, all from the comfort of your own home.
Fortunately, you get to decide just how much of that world you care to be a part of. Only this weekend I met an intelligent young lady in her late teens who didn’t have, and refuses to get, a Facebook account.  Some of you just had a minor stroke at the thought. She doesn’t Twitter, Flicker, My Space, nothing. And (brace yourself), I know many more just like her.
When you’re not working there are many daily challenges and one minute to the next you can pull some new emotion out of thin air. Contrary to what others around you might say, you’re allowed, it’s ok. What your support group (family, friends and nosy acquaintances) need to understand, is that this transitional time for you, will also be a transitional time for them. They will need to be patient and cut you some slack. Don’t fake joy if you don’t feel it. You’ll feel worse as the days wear on. Be honest with those that love you and the rest, well, don’t bother about them right now. This is not your free pass to be cruel-at-will either, but a bit of bi-polar is permitted. The emotional roller-coaster you’re on means that you’ll likely want to hide from everyone. Because if one more person asks “so what are doing now”…let’s just say you can’t be held responsible for the outcome.
So disappear. That’s allowed too. For a little while any way. Update your privacy settings to ‘just me’, stop posting and stop responding. I don’t recommend deleting any accounts. While you may not believe this now, you will work again and when that happens you don’t want to have to start over. Also, bear in mind the better you hide and the longer you’re ‘off-air’, the harder it will be and the longer it will take to come back socially. No reason we should both get it wrong. This is how the technology age can make you feel like it’s working against you. 
What I’d like to inspire you to think about however, is how the technology age may work in your favor. Use everything that’s available to you, search the websites, articles, expert opinions, photos, videos and blogs and do some of that you’ve been doing, plus some of the things you haven’t and do it all differently.
First Things First
Customize your cover letter. There are endless tips for getting this right and better yet, there’s a marvelous supply of templates to choose from. Find them, use them and take the time to get it right. It’s the first impression you make.
The Newly Designed Honesty Policy
Update your cv. Honestly. Don’t fluff or bluff, but perhaps some color might work. I’ve been job hunting for 6 months now and I’ve had 6 resume designs. Keeping the look fresh helps to keep you from feeling bored with the routine. If you’ve sent that company an application before, now it’s a whole new you and they see it.  Again, there’s world of templates and topics to help you with this.
That Technology Thing
There’s a good chance that if your cover letter intrigued and your resume sold, your prospective employer will do their due diligence before giving you a call. In our times that means they may check you socially.  Make sure there’s nothing on there (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) you don’t want them to see, or be sure to keep it private to prevent them from seeing it.
Seen all those articles loads of people take time to write about preparing for the interview? Read them. Flag the good ones, it will help the next person out. But here’s something they forget to tell you, after you read them, stand in tree pose…Why? Because one of the things that comes with losing your job is a serious loss of confidence and more important than not chewing gum in your interview, is believing in yourself. Do something that boosts your confidence and makes you feel good about you. Jog, hike, paint your toes, play your Wii, bathe the dog, do some yoga, or simply, stand in tree pose. But feel like you’ve conquered that room before you walk into it.
The Morning After
If they called, congratulations! But if they didn’t, keep moving forward. It’s a great time to call up a friend and be taken for ice-cream. Just be sure by the time the cone is gone, so is your disappointment. Don’t wallow in self pity, it’s their loss and you’ve got jobs to hunt for. You have a future to shape and you need the funds to sculpt it. Read up on an emotional recovery plan, watch a silly video on you tube, go for another jog, but put it behind you and pick up the classifieds.
Whatever help you need, it’s out there, floating around in cyberspace just waiting for you to reach out and grab it. So ask for a reference or find your own. Go for it. Tomorrow is your day.  
For Helpful Hunting:-
Caribbean: Caribbean Jobs  

It’s Hunting Season

Extended unemployment is one of the hardest things some of us will face. Losing your job will affect your finances, but also your confidence, energy, faith, peace, sleep, appetite and your joy...

With 15 million unemployed and an estimated 10 million more to follow by the end of this year, job competition is rough. To put it mild. And it’s not just those of us who aren’t working that are job hunting, businesses are reporting that staff morale is at an all time low, workers are extremely unhappy, so the employed are job-hunting too. And, here’s the real kicker, there are less jobs available than ever before.

At first, many corporations tried, (bless them) to reduce staff hours per week, then days per week, then weeks per month. Wages fell, salaries fell, then staff reductions began. For many businesses the projected financial “upswing” didn’t come, recovery was impossible, bankruptcy inevitable and many an organization closed. The other problem is that some of those won’t be reopening. Ever. And the ones that do may not resume business-as-usual, so don’t anticipate those jobs will reappear. It seems gloomy. Well, that’s the sad truth.

So what are we to do?

Here’s my take.

1. Keep hunting, the season is still open.

But don’t wait for the deer to fall out the sky. Do the usual, check the newspapers, the websites etc. Look for one full-time or many part-time jobs. But keep looking. And also do the unusual. Stalk if required. (Yes, I said it). Don’t underestimate the power of the ‘phone-a-friend’ lifeline. It doesn’t even have to be a friend, so what if you don’t remember his last name, he came to your Christmas party, call him. Network. Truthfully I didn’t do much of this at first, so if you don’t feel up to mingling I understand. But I got over it and you will too. Let’s suck it up and get to it. See you at the next shindig!

2. Put your hobbies to work.

We’re all good at something. Stop scratching your head and give yourself a break, it’s true. Whatever that is find a way to put it to use. It may be a little odd or end but all those odds and ends add up pretty quickly and still pay a bill or two. I do manicures and pedicures. (Yes, that’s a blatant ad. It’s my blog. Call me!) If you bake well ask permission and set up a table outside your church. If you bake poorly Betty Crocker can help. Can you sew, paint, teach, play an instrument, walk a dog? Even a karaoke competition is fair game right now. Find it, use it.

3. Become your own employer.

Seems almost obvious, but for a lot of us, this is really hard to do. Many companies are looking for part-time consultants instead of full-time staff. If you have the experience to do this, have a go at it. Bear in mind however, that this may take start-up funds. So that part-time job or those cake sale funds will come in handy.

4. Take time for you.

Extended unemployment is one of the hardest things some of us will face. Losing your job will affect your finances, but also your confidence, energy, faith, peace, sleep, appetite and your joy. It’s not a happy time but it’s down time you can turn into up time. Remember the things while you were slaving away at work you said you’d like to do? Have an impromptu picnic in the park, take a swim at the beach in the afternoon, read an old classic you liked at school, sleep? Take time to do it and really enjoy it. The ones who are working wish they could do it and don’t have the time. Hey, just because they can pay bills, doesn’t mean they should have all the fun. Keep living.

And just for the record, while I used hunting as an analogy I don’t endorse it. Live and let live. (Bambi ain’t do you nothing.)