Henry and Rudy waiting by the door, watching the geese in the field.
I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at waiting. I don’t like to do it, whether stuck behind a car that has suddenly stopped for no reason, or in line at a restaurant. It makes me twitchy. But I recently heard a sermon about emptiness–really about how we have to tolerate “no” before we can get to a “yes”, and that helped me look at waiting a little differently. (And by the way, Henry and Rudy are really good at this.)
Emptiness is scary. It can make us feel alone, useless, uncertain. But the sermon I heard helped me see it’s also a creative time–a time of possibilities. It’s time when we can reflect, pause, breathe, and let go. It forces us to be present, and like meditation, gives us the gift of the here and now.
That’s my goal for the New Year. To wait, consider, take my time, see what happens.
That’s no easy thing, is it? Believing we are enough just as we are. With what we have. Without someone else telling us how wonderful we are. Here’s what made me think of this.
I had an incredible fall. I was asked to speak to diverse groups, from an insurance association to library groups to assisted living professionals. Topics included stopping burnout, presentation skills, lessons from an unlikely therapy dog, and included a workshop on customer service. Then I got to go back to my college and give a presentation for English Majors: “What You Have, Where It Will Take You.”
I was preparing, researching, creating PowerPoint presentations, rehearsing and finally getting myself to the conferences and giving the talks. It was exciting and exhausting. I was running on super drive. And then, the engagements stopped and my phone was silent, and I told myself that this was good–that I needed to recover. (In the middle of all this I caught a virus and lost my voice–just to add to the drama.)
But after a few weeks, I was hungry for affirmation. I wanted someone to call me up and ask me to speak. I wanted to fill my calendar. I wanted someone from the outside to do the work I needed to do on the inside. That made me stop. As a flaming extrovert I like noise and excitement and affirmation, but I also know I can’t depend on it. So in this busy holiday season, in this time when the afternoons are dark by 4PM, when it’s getting colder, I’m watching, waiting, seeing what happens if I don’t need all that busyness.
My new dog, Rudy (a puppy nine months old), has the right idea. Stretch out on the couch. Take it easy. Enjoy walks in the brisk air. Pay attention. And he too likes to be told, “Good dog,” but I think he knows it even when the house is quiet and all you can hear is the cat snoring.
(Top image courtesy of Adobe Images.)
Okay, I’m an author and I love books, but I was thinking it would be fun to share thoughts on a book that has made a difference to us, whether now or in the past. It could be related to stopping burnout, or tips on how to find your next job. Or, it could be fiction–a story that grabbed you and stayed with you. So here’s mine:
“Singletasking: Get More Done One Thing at a Time” by Devora Zack. First of all, it’s a riot. Here’s how it starts:
To my dearest reader:
You are hereby released from the temptation to overachieve. Your friend, Devora Zack
P.S. You’re welcome.
That gives you a sense of her tone, but her witty and light hearted approach is backed up by impressive research. She quotes major business leaders as well as neuroscientists–all to support the radical idea that we can only do one cognitive skill at time. (Yes, you can fold laundry and talk on the phone at the same time since the folding is not a cognitive skill.)
So if you want to do yourself a huge favor, read this book. Keep it on the front passenger seat of your car. Reread a paragraph before rushing into work. It could just change your life, and will help you stop burnout and have the best year ever.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Took a wonderful hike along the beach at Watch Hill (RI) Saturday, and although it was warm, it was clearly the end of summer. A few brave swimmers were in the water, but my husband and I kept our shoes on and admired it from the safety of the beach. After a long, hot summer, it felt like a gift. Because it’s well past Labor Day, dogs were allowed on the beach and it was fun to watch them playing in the water and chasing each other.
This got me thinking about change and how, although I resist it, it almost always opens a door. There is a phase with change that always causes me trouble, and that’s when it’s clear the old is going away or not working, and the new hasn’t shown up yet. As I used to tell my clients when I worked as a career coach, knowing what you don’t want is a really good beginning. That can be a good time to stop, observe, not feel pressured to jump into the next thing. (Advice I’m very good at giving to others, and not so good at following myself.) Why is that so difficult? Is it because we define ourselves by our work?
For me, having a project, whether it’s writing a book or preparing to speak about stopping burnout, gives me purpose, direction, and focus. I feel useful. I’m excited. But the in between times, the not knowing, makes me anxious and sometimes even crabby. And I think this is because I have to let go and trust. I have accept that a transition is exactly that–it’s leaving one thing for another. And to be ready for the new thing, the next phase, requires pulling back, waiting, listening. To use a gardening analogy, it’s preparing the soil.
The waves were crashing, the sunlight sparkling off the water and my husband and I decided it was the perfect moment for a “selfie.” We wanted the ocean in the background, so we stood just beyond where the waves were breaking and snapped a few shots. But before we were finished, a big wave swept in and filled out shoes with sand and water. We laughed and made our soggy way back to the parking lot
. Okay, I get it. The summer is over.
I had the great pleasure of speaking on how to ace your interviews last week in West Hartford at the Schmoozer’s Networking Group. We covered many aspects of this unpredictable process, from how to prepare, to making sure your body language reinforces your message. But one thing, that I learned from a client of mine a few years back, we didn’t have time to cover. And that is to ask for the job.
In Chapter 28 of my interview book, “Closing the Deal”, I tell Elliott’s story. Here’s a shortened version. Elliott writes: “At the end of the interview, I generally close by first stating that I am extremely interested in the position and sometimes bluntly stating that I want the position….When the hiring manager tells me that he or she has: (a) just stated the process, (b) is looking at a number of other candidates…I directly (with a big smile on my face) ask the hiring manager what it would take to persuade him or her right now that I am the right candidate.”
Has your blood pressure just spiked? This is not easy. But Elliott learned that it was an effective way from him to demonstrate confidence and interest in the job, and it worked. He went from being the “almost candidate” to getting an offer. So in your own words and your own style, see if you can find a way to tell the person interviewing you, “I’d really like this job.” And of course, in your previous answers you’ve provided proof that you can do the job, and your physical energy shows you’re excited about it, so this is really just the icing on the cake. Give it a try. What do you have to lose?
Being responsible is good, right? We like people who take care of things, do what they say they’re going to do, and so on. We get points for not letting things slip through the cracks. But it’s interesting, in speaking to many people (individuals and audiences) about burnout, that this is a touchy subject. It’s a bit uncomfortable to look at ourselves and ask, “Am I being overly responsible here? Am I owning a problem that really isn’t mine?”
In my role as a career coach, I realized a similar phenomena with loyalty. So many of my clients were incredibly loyal to the companies they worked for, and then were hurt when they were let go. They’d ask me why the loyalty didn’t work both ways–why they were dispensable? And I often told them that there’s smart loyalty–you make a commitment but also take care of yourself–and dumb loyalty–a blind allegiance. So I think the same can be said for responsibility, that it’s a matter of balance, of degree, and that we can liberate ourselves and help prevent burnout by not being overly responsible. (In my case, this means understanding that there are many things I can’t control–including the weather!)
Another way to look at this is that our strengths often get us into more trouble than our weaknesses. That’s fun to think about! Share your thoughts and together we’ll get smarter.
Anybody feel this way? If your job search has gone on for a bit, you may be wondering if anyone will ever hire you. In my Boomers Back to Work! Class we talk about obstacles, and there are so many it’s hard to list them, but common ones include: age, salary, career change, not being up-to-date with technology, and worst of all, wrong strategy. By that I mean not conducting a smart search. So here are some quick tips to help you help Santa get that job in the pipeline (and if you’re not in transition, these are good to know anyway.)
- Resumes don’t get jobs. They’re an important tool but are frequently overused. Have a good one and provide it when it’s asked for.
- Create a list of companies where you’d like to work. Don’t get hung up on openings–just list 10-20 places where you think you’d enjoy working. Use this list as a key networking tool and ask your contacts if they’d take a look at it.
- Have a networking spreadsheet or keep your contact list in a notebook. Follow up is often where the good stuff happens, so be careful not to let possibilities slip through the cracks.
- Ask for advice. It’s magic as we all love to give advice. This is much more productive than asking for a job.
- Be creative. Talk to your local reference librarian, reach out to some stretch contacts (maybe the author of a book you like), shadow someone in a job that you don’t know much about.
The crazy thing about looking for work is that it’s unpredictable. A strong lead fizzles out, while a so-so interview turns into an offer. Keep light on your feet, connect with others, search smart and my bet is you’ll be working in the new year.
P.S. For more ideas, see my book, “Eliminated! Now What?”
Got the summer blues when it comes to looking for work? Wish you were on vacation, not figuring out how to get to the decision makers who can hire you? If yes, you’ve got lots of company. Job search is rarely anyone’s favorite activity, but instead of letting the summer get you down, why not take advantage of it?
First of all, as you reach out to people in your network, they tend to be a bit less busy, so have time to help you. Secondly, smart companies are gearing up for the fall. Third, there are lots of family and community activities in the summer so it’s easy to get together with others. Here are a few tips to help you:
- Plan an adventure that doesn’t cost much. Maybe it’s a trip to a park or national forest, or to a local beach. Give yourself time to enjoy what summer has to offer.
- Get off your computer and get outside. Take a walk, ride your bike, swim–and if possible do it with a friend. This gets you exercising and gives you much needed social time.
- Make a list of ten places where you’d love to work. See if you know anyone at any of these organizations–through LinkedIn, your personal network, friends, neighbors, family. That contact should be able to help you determine the best way to approach the hiring manager.
- Take classes at your local Department of Labor/Workforce Alliance office. Where I live in Connecticut, there are many wonderful, free classes that help job seekers succeed.
Let me know what works for you, and be a smart job seeker and keep at it during the summer. You’ll get there!