Friday, May 15, 2009

Still Traveling!

Traveling our Interstate highway system offers lots of ways to determine location and measure distance. There are numbered exit signs and those tedious mile markers, ticking away at the side of the road, showing how far we’ve gone or, depending on the direction, how far to go until we reach the next milestone—a new state. Very difficult to forget how long we've been on the road.

Next week, I begin my seventh month of job searching. Actually, that’s not exactly true; I was job searching before I left my last position, knowing my (intense) desire to leave. Let's say I’m now six full months unemployed. Or, to make it more accurate, it’s six months of extremely motivated job searching. (That's the difference in job searching when you still have a job and the same process when you are unemployed! Kinda like the difference in a walk on the beach and the immunity challenge on Survivor!) And no job yet.

I left my last position just before Thanksgiving, knowing the following six weeks—the holiday season—was a really bad time to conduct a job search. But I was okay with that; there were things I wanted to do in that down-time. (Like recover from the last job!) I was optimistic because I also knew that the first of the year was historically a really good time for job searching, since companies were rolling out their shiny new budgets, focused on lofty new goals and looking for energetic new stars to achieve those goals.

Boy, was I wrong! If only I’d had that magic crystal ball to let me know that in those months around those holidays, the entire economy would crash and burn. It was never my intention to bring down the house of cards known as our economy, but it coincidently does seem as if my lone decision to change jobs was somehow the final straw on the proverbial back of that over-burdened camel.

Suddenly, the companies that I’d hoped would be utilizing their freshly approved budgets to hire talented people like me…were closing their doors instead. The ones who were able to stay open had to reduce their work force. And all these former now-unemployed employees hit the job market like Shrek doing a belly flop in the wading pool. Now I had lots of additional (unwanted) competition for the ever-shrinking job listings.

Of course, everyone also cut back on holiday spending, which apparently only served to deepen the problems in the economy and increasing the number of eager job applicants. (Again, not completely my fault. I just couldn't find the wisdom in buying that Wii if I couldn’t pay the electric bill to power it.)

Side note: I want to once again emphasize that looking back, I still believe that leaving my last job was the right thing to do for me. I just regret it had the un-anticipated effect of taking the entire country down with me!

We know that a journey is not just about marking time (how long we've been traveling)l it's also about making progress (how far we've come). So, today I’m acknowledging the time—half a year on the job search journey. But I have to remind myself that I’ve made some significant progress in that same period of time.

I’ve passed scores of exits—those jobs that I didn’t get. (Granted, that was not always my choice, but I’ll list it in the “progress” column nonetheless.) I’ve worked on polishing some of my skills and even learning some new ones as well. For example, I didn’t know how to Twitter last year, now I can Tweet with the best of them. I’ve even had folks who “re-tweet” some of my chirping gems! I have a killer LinkedIn profile and my Facebook page is very active. I’ve read numerous books (Not just mindless novels!) that I hope will give me a greater understanding of social media, which does appear to the topic du jour in my career field (public relations/communications). I started my own blog, not just for the therapy it provides me, but also to highlight my talents as a writer/thinker and my ability to be relevant in this environment. It’s like getting a skill-set tune up.

As fulfilling as all of that has been, I want to go on record: it's not enough! I'm trying to make the most of my time, but unlike the Zen-ish cliché, this journey is not the destination. Unemployment is not my occupation. I’m ready for that sign on the highway that reads: Your job is ahead. Exit now!


How have you managed to fill the time during your job search?

What are you doing that's productive to your career?

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