Thursday, June 20, 2013

We’ve Forgotten Our Way

In recent years there have been increased numbers of people looking for work, such as fresh grads with an earned degree trying to secure work in their chosen field; be they Veterans transitioning from their military service, or perhaps loyal and hard-working folks, who ironically, after turning 50 years old, suddenly find themselves having to start all over again. Plus many others who, for different reasons, are struggling among a lot of people vying for seemingly fewer jobs. At one time or another most people have experienced occasional frustration or a sense of helplessness and feel as though they can’t seem to make much headway under the current circumstances. The availability of good jobs is obviously a big factor and indeed there are some things beyond our control, but we bear some responsibility for our own feelings of insecurity. As the title states, we’ve forgotten our way. 

Since the 1990’s, through convenience as a result of the current digital era, for the sake of expedience we’ve all taken shortcuts. As a trade-off, in that we’ve willingly sacrificed much of our innate ability to help ourselves, our senses have become dulled, our instincts clouded, our abilities diminished. When our ability to impact our personal sphere of influence diminishes, so does our self-confidence. The predictable result is atrophy and no doubt you’ve heard the phrase, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Generally speaking, we’re losing it all right and we’ve reached a point of diminished ability to fend for ourselves, instead looking, no, expecting someone or something else to do what we once did ourselves. To illustrate my point, do you do simple math in your head or do you reach reflexively for whatever device is handy and use the calculator function? We know how to do the math but we grow lazy and choose not to and from there it goes downhill in short order.

Since becoming a headhunter in 1992, I have witnessed that within one generation a majority of working-age people don’t know what were once considered the most basic skills for how to find work, much less present and represent ourselves in the most advantageous manner. On one hand, there are those who’ve come of age since the middle ‘90s and rely so completely on tech methods they have no idea how to help themselves without the Internet; they don’t know any other way. Many of the rest of us are just plain out of practice and therefore out of shape, our abilities have gotten soft and lumpy, our edge is dull and rusty. Simultaneously, hiring practices and processes have been streamlined with a clear intention of reducing person-to-person contact, resulting in Human Resource Departments which are – less human. We’re all being edged out, with fast-evolving technology as the ready rationale and excuse. It’s one thing to not know and, having lost the ability to be proactive and, worse yet, to not even know how or be able to simply react – but this is where many people find themselves. I can illustrate countless examples; regardless, does this mean you have no options but those that are rationed and doled out to you? So you’re just supposed to sit at your monitor and prove Pavlov’s theory and react only when you see a job post online? So does this mean your predominant option is to email resumes, submit and apply online only to then sit on your hands and wait until called upon, is that it? Is this to what we’re being reduced? I am not trying to be insulting, you know the obvious answer; there are other options available to you – many others. So then what? 

We must get back into shape and it doesn’t happen overnight, but you can, anyone can do it – that is, namely, to re-empower yourself. So where to start? If someone offered expertise and advice about a subject directly related to what you were trying to accomplish, would you not only be interested in hearing what they had to offer, but also willing to apply their suggestions to varying degrees? Next time we’ll talk more about this and I’ll share examples of people who are their own biggest obstacle.

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  1. When I applied for my current position, I sent handwritten thank you notes on elegant notecards to everyone in the interview, mailed out that day, making reference to specific items discussed during the interview. I had planned to send emails, but a mentor suggested handwritten notes instead. I later found out that I was one of the top two candidates for the job, and the thank you notes are what sealed the deal. I'm incredibly thankful for the advice I received and that I made the effort to take it.

  2. Your anecdote demonstrates how doing something slightly different, that demonstrates a conscious and conscientious efforts can make you stand apart from others. Indeed it is good to follow up with a Thank You letter however, by handwriting and doing it in the manner you did increased the power of the gesture. Thanks for commenting.