By Jack J. Kelly
Saturday, in the New York area, was the quintessential, beautiful spring day. It was an ideal high 70 degrees- sunny day with a slight breeze. What also made this day special was the prospect of an end to the lousy cold weather we have endured for months. In the northeast and other places with similar climates, there is an inherent understanding and implicit agreement that we will brave the harsh winters without too much complaining, as it will eventually end and bring us a pleasant five-month relief run of spring and summer.
I was mentally preparing to write an article about how spring is the perfect time to renew your job search or reinvigorate your career. I get it; it’s a little cliché- the whole rebirth and renewing yourself thing in the spring. But you have to give me a little allowance; I’ve never claimed to be a great writer nor have I attended any writing classes. It’s not easy to be informative, educational, and entertaining, especially since I’m figuring this all out as I’m going along. Don’t tell anyone, but every once in a while I’ll resort to a trite piece that recycles a lot of my old articles and repackage them as new- sort of like a television show when they cut to older episodes because they run out of fresh ideas.
The article would have centered on all the things you should do right now since the weather is wonderful, everyone’s mood improves, people feel happier, and there is a window of opportunity between April and about July to interview before the summertime hiring slows down.
I’d advise you to use this time to update your resume, refresh your LinkedIn profile and resume, join different LinkedIn groups online, and attend networking events and conferences offline in the real world. I would have told you to meet up with recruiters, call some old acquaintances, and take colleagues to lunch- all in an effort to network within your company and seek out new, fresh ideas and suggestions for opportunities with other firms.
Anticipating another lovely warm day, my plans were coldly thwarted when Sunday arrived, along with 35 degree weather. It was like a cold punch in the face. If you ever had the displeasure of getting punched in the face, it’s not very nice. It hurts, you get disoriented, confused, and dizzy, the adrenaline rushes through your body, and fear wells up as you wait for what may happen next. I’ve been told that I could, at times, be abrasive, argumentative, and have a big mouth, which may account for having this type of experience happen to me on more than one occasion.
Growing up in a lower socioeconomic working class place like Canarsie, Brooklyn, this was not an uncommon occurrence. Now, being a parent in an affluent suburb of New York, I realize that it was not normal compared to other places. What it has taught me is that circumstances can change quickly and violently (not necessarily actual violence, but violent as an adjective instead of a verb) and you must be prepared to focus and have a plan ‘B’.
My plan B is to scrape the mushy spring cleaning for your career article, especially since we now have a torrential rainstorm drenching everyone today as they tiredly trudge to work. After a long seemingly never-ending winter, not many people are up to a high-energy, smiley face story. They want the winter to break so they could get on with their lives and have a couple of nice months of sunshine and warmth. For those of you who live in warmer climates, does this make any sense or is it an alien concept since you are not adversely impacted by day-after-day-after-day-after-day- after-day cold weather and grey skies?
Back to my plan B. Sometimes, you get popped in the nose and all your plans change; that’s okay. Adversity has a way- if you don’t fall apart- to sharpen your resolve, toughen-up, enable you to hyperfocus, confront reality, and take action. That’s what we need to do right now. Take a cold, hard, clinical look at your job and career. Is it working for you? Are you happy and satisfied? Are you engaged in meaningful work and serving a higher purpose? Do you feel that you are at a dead-end? Is your boss a big jerk? Are you surrounded by coworkers who are jealous, vindictive, and couldn’t care less about you or anyone else except themselves? When you awake in the morning, are you excited about what you will be doing at the office? Do you dread Sunday nights? Are you starting to dread Sundays? Does the prospect of having no three-day weekends in the near future depress you? Do you find yourself frequently depressed or chronically dissatisfied, distracted, disengaged, or unhappy?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then it is time for a change. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Give yourself a pass. Sometimes, things happen gradually and then hit you all of a sudden. It takes an outside event to awaken you to the reality of your situation.
Use this time to confront where you are currently and where you want to go with your job and career. Later this week or by next week, the weather will improve and your mood will uplift. You’ll put aside everything I just mentioned and start daydreaming about the summer trip that you are planning. Time will fly by and, before you know it, the summer is over and you are stuck in the same situation where you were. Nothing changed, except you lost precious time.
Don’t worry about the resume, LinkedIn, or recruiters right now. Worry about yourself. Give yourself the gift of some time alone to really think about who you are and want you want to do with your life. Be brutally honest with yourself. There is no upside in lying or pretending. Time will go by and it will just get more difficult to change as you get older and more set in your ways.
What you can do, in addition to asking yourself the above questions, is to get specific about your situation.
- What do I like about my work?
- What do I dislike about my job?
- Can I make any changes to better my situation?
- If so, what do I need to do to improve my current status?
- If there is nothing to be done, what do I want to do next?
- What type of job would make me happy?
- What type of job would be meaningful and serve a larger purpose?
- How could I start working toward my new direction?
- Will I be able to make a living in this new line of work?
- Do I need to go back to school?
- Who are some people I could turn to for advice and guidance?
These are just a sample of the questions to ask. Consider this the punch (no, sorry, that’s not a politically correct thing to say nowadays) or shove you need to get focused, alert, realistic,and shaken out of your complacency to start immediately planning for your future success.