These strategic steps are designed to help you to use this downtime to invest in yourself. These are not soothing tips to help distract you from your feelings of anxiety. If you’re out of work and don’t want to be, the loss of identity can be overwhelming, but, as the late, John Gardner said, “you have more power in you than you know, so pull up your socks and get on with it.”
In this case “pulling up your socks” requires more than pluck and optimism. To proactively and purposefully re-boot your career, you need to begin with some hard-core introspection. You need to assess the depth of your experience, to understand how your skill sets relate to and can be applied to what you’d like to do next, to identify what you don’t know that you need to learn, and to have the courage to move forward.
1. Accept the reality. We’ve all read the stats that, if you’re over 40, it could take a year or more to find new work.
2. Explore what makes you tick. Do a formal assessment such as: Myers Briggs, The Birkman Method or Clifton Strengths Finder to determine your strengths, values, priorities, motivators and align your goals.
3. Mine your hidden talents. Someone once said, “The greatest wastes are unused talents and untried ideas.” What ideas do you have quietly percolating on a back burner? Do you have a hobby that could be a good business venture? Here are 3 ideas to get you started:
1) Rebuilding the world one toothpick at a time. Stan Munro was out of work, when he began building things with toothpicks. He started with small churches, progressed to cathedrals, and then whole cities made entirely of thousands of toothpicks. He was invited to display his artwork at a museum in Spain and is now exhibiting his toothpick masterpieces in museums all over the world.
2) Decluttering your speciality? As you clear out stuff, think about selling those treasures on sites like eBay, Craig’s List, Tradesy.com, and Etsy, at yard sales or give away what you don’t need. Perhaps you have a real knack for it and can help others set up systems to declutter their lives. Then, too, you could set up a shop and sell their things online for a commission, if they’d prefer not to get into the online marketplace.
3) Create a blog. Not only will it sharpen your social media skills, it could turn into other writing assignments, a book or maybe even a movie. The Meryl Streep movie, “Julie and Julia,” began as a blog about a disgruntled office worker blogging about trying every recipe in Julia Childs’ The Art of French Cooking.
4. Become a Skills’ Learning Magnet. Do not rest on your laurels. Yes, 25 years of solid accomplishments add gravitas to your resumé, but you could also sink like a stone under the weight of that gravitas if you do not convert past kudos into present-day assets. “Real knowledge,” Confucius said, “is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”
First, determine what skills you need or need to re-tune. This might seem a daunting task, but good help is available at the O*Net Resource Center. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is a free online tool developed under the sponsorship of the US Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA) through a grant to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission. The O*NET program is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Central to the project is the O*NET database, containing information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors. The database, which is available to the public at no cost, is continually updated by surveying a broad range of workers from each occupation. The database also provides the basis for their Career Exploration Tools, a set of valuable assessment instruments for workers looking to find or change careers.
5. Put a lid on your shy genes. As we mentioned in an earlier post, “You have to step out of the batting cage to hit a home run!” Volunteer, but don’t just volunteer to stamp envelopes. Join a committee at your neighborhood school, church or business club. Get involved to connect, learn and use this opportunity to test market your idea or product. For example, if cupcakes or natural snacks are your passion, offer to provide refreshments and listen to your customers’ “feedback.”
Don’t let your fear of being wrong paralyze you. Thomas Alva Edison did not think of his experiments in terms of success or failure, but rather as learning. In his efforts to create the first storage battery, he conducted 10,000 experiments!
It takes courage to believe in your self, to start something new. Thinking of “The Wizard of Oz” celebrating its 75th birthday and record of the most watched movie of all time, I remember this quote about the cowardly lion from Mary Anne Radmacher, “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying…’I will try again tomorrow.”