Comfort Zones

15 November 2016, Comments Comments Off on Comfort Zones

Examining what you really need when you’re unemployed

When I was little, I told everyone that I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew up. I did not want to be a cowgirl because they had to wear skirts (this was the 1950’s and 60’s and they did wear skirts).

My answers to "What do you want to do when you grow up?” became less specific as time when on and I did not become a cowboy. I enjoyed doing a variety of things but envied people whose job interests fit into a category such as doctor, nurse or accountant. I only realized recently that I have always been a “generalist” because I have many different skills, am adaptable and teachable. Self employed as a consultant, I now know that a generalist is a really great thing to be but it took a while to get here.

I became too comfortable in a job I loved and I stayed too long. It was very hard to find the next good fit. I was a decade older , the economy was a mess, and I focused only on full time traditional employment. Worse than that, I had no idea how to begin looking for a job. Eventually, I stopped looking for a traditional job and started accepting gigs - short term work that helped pay the bills. I ended up loving being a consultant/grantwriter/events manager and working for myself doing enough fun projects to create full time work. But my transformation wasn’t immediate.

Everyone likes comfort but in a career or a job search, the comfort factor can be dangerous if you don't keep your focus on moving forward and avoiding complacency. Seeking clients, gigs or full time work can be particularly frustrating for Baby Boomers who have never had to look for work and now find that the work force and career opportunities have totally changed.

Out of work and our element, security is rare and there is a tendency to seek comfort in the things that are not helpful: unrelated chores; simple tasks; eating chocolate; and spending hours combing job search sites on the internet and sending out resumes without a personal connection. In our hearts we know those things won't result in meaningful work, but we can get temporary satisfaction from being occupied and avoiding the hard questions about our future.

Seeking work is like dating with the most awkward moments - uncertainty and personal insecurities. Comfort for the work seeker is best found in community: networking, sharing solutions with others in similar circumstances, and gaining strength from shared energy and intelligence.

Examine what you really need before you waste too much time sending out blind resumes and focusing only on full time work:

  • What do you love to do?
  • What do you offer that employers need?
  • How much money do you need? Must it come from full time work?
  • What are the advantages of working for yourself - becoming a Gig worker?
  • Are there short-term jobs you can do that will pay the bills and give you peace of mind and keep you active?
  • Who do you know with possible ideas or contacts for the kind of work or projects you would like to do?
  • What are the cost savings from doing project or gig work?
When I am seeking more clients (realistically, this is all of the time), my free time is better spent doing volunteer work, making coffee dates and networking with others who can lead me to gig opportunities and longer term contracts with monthly retainers. ALL of my gigs have been the result of friends, networking partners, or former colleagues recommending me for work or hiring me directly.

Find comfort in accomplishing your goals for each day and make sure that several of them could lead to gigs, projects, or longer-term work. Your next career opportunity is probably going to come from the extra effort you make to step out of your comfort zone.

Tips for the comfort-loving work seeker

  • Allow time every day for something that gives you pleasure - as a reward for accomplishing something that took effort.
  • Set goals for your day. Push yourself to do at least one hard thing.
  • Stick to a routine. If you are a full time job seeker, don't become a slacker. Get up at the same time every day, dress for the day and "work" according to your schedule.
  • Network at least once a day - by phone, over coffee, or Skype. Plan to use the time well by listing three goals or things to discuss.
  • Do something for someone else every day. Nothing is more gratifying than diverting the focus from yourself and your own discomfort.
  • Set up 3 outside networking meetings each week. It is too easy to get into an unproductive routine at home.
  • Challenge yourself to step out and try something new.
  • Share your weekly goals with a friend and ask them to hold you accountable.
  • Volunteer. Nothing heals better than doing for others and providing another reason to count your blessings. There is also a side benefit of making connections that turn into paid gigs.
You can do it! Start by making a list of networking meetings you can set up now. Do you have ideas to share with other work seekers?

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