Now, here is something strange.
When people need to find work, which a whole lot of people need to find right now, they need to absolutely become world-class net-workers. They need to be the networking energizer bunny. They need to “Never Eat Alone” (Keith Ferrazzi’s book), they need to meet new people every week, and go to as many events as possible.
And they do – for a while. But there comes this moment, this horrible moment, when they simply can no longer face having to utter the words: “no progress yet.”
Thus, they withdraw – just when they need to keep engaging.
I’ve seen this. I think of someone who is so very gifted, talented, skilled. Well educated, with so much to offer. His department was shut down. His company cut workers, including him. And after a long while, he said (I’m paraphrasing): “I just don’t want to be around those people who are successful, having to admit, or really even to face the fact, that I have not gotten back to the top.”
This story (and I suspect many of us know others with similar stories) is now being written about. Here are paragraphs from a recent column by Doyle McManus, Great Recession’s Psychological Fallout — From lower birthrates to decreased civic participation and volunteerism, economic downturns have many non-economic effects:
But here’s something more surprising: As the recession deepens, participation in civic activities — community organizations, volunteer groups, even church attendance and social clubs — is likely to drop. Sociologists once assumed that during hard times people would naturally band together, if only to protest their plight or to give each other solace. It turns out that the opposite is true: Economic distress causes people to withdraw.
“Rather than get together and hold community meetings or march in protest, the effect of unemployment in the Great Depression was to cause people to hunker down,” said Robert D. Putnam, the Harvard sociologist whose book, “Bowling Alone,” examines Americans’ civic engagement in the 20th century. “We found exactly the same thing in the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s … and I’m pretty confident we’ll see the same pattern in this recession too.”
And according to the experts cited in this column, the really disturbing part of this may be that many of the people who withdraw never fully re-engage. The disengagement may be permanent – it may last a lifetime. Maybe they have “learned,” or simply think that, “what’s the use, it’s going to collapse again soon anyway.”
By the way, this is a problem for middle-aged folks “in transition,” and for current graduates from top universities and graduate schools. For example, one nationally regarded Law School has implemented a new “long career launch” program, in which they provide recent graduates “salaries” (small salaries) to work in jobs for a few months. In other words, they have jobs, but the law school is providing the salaries through the company/agency that “hires” the law school graduates. This is a help to the graduates; this gives them something to do. But it also keeps the law school from dropping in the rankings (the rankings are based, partly, on percentage of graduates who do find work). And here is a note about the “mood:” on that campus, the most feared question is this: “Do you know what you will be doing?”
I have no simple solution to this problem. But if you are struggling during this downturn, and you find yourself disengaging, try your best to fight it. It really is ok to say, “nope, no progress yet. But I’ll keep trying.” Because, I assure you, you really are not alone. There are a whole lot of people in the same boat that you are in.
And we realize, ever more clearly, that a long bout of trying to get back on your feet can lead to real self-esteem issues. (Duh!). I have written about a related part of this struggle in my post A Jobless Recovery and a Slip Down Maslow’s Hierarchy.
I do not presume to give advice to anyone. But I have read and heard that one key is to be sure to “go to work everyday,” even if going to work is just sending our more resumes for the umpteenth time, and going to that next gathering for networking purposes.
When Paul Harvey went back to work after one of his bouts of serious illness, he remarked to his engineer in his studio, which was at his home, that things just did not feel right yet. His engineer said something like this: “Mr. Harvey, you’re not dressing for work. You’re recording your programs in your pajamas and robe. I think if you dressed for work, you’d feel better about things.” So he did – and he did.
Maybe working in your pajamas on a regular basis is not such a smart idea after all. Just a thought… And, if your need is to keep your name out there, and network like the energizer bunny, then you may have to dress and show up for work, even if you don’t want to. Remember the brilliant advice from Dr. J:
“Being a professional is doing the things you love to do on the days you don’t feel like doing them.” (Julius Erving).
Change it a little: “being a professional is doing the things you need to do on the days you don’t feel like doing them.”
It’s not often that I write an entire post based on part of one of Bob’s. But this one prompted a lot of thinking that I feel the need to share… It is in his interview with Chip Conley. Here’s the excerpt:
Morris: How specifically has Maslow influenced your own thinking about JVH’s employees?
Conley: One of my breakthroughs when studying Maslow’s work was to see there are three key themes: Survival (Maslow’s two lower level needs: physiological and safety), Success (social/belonging and esteem) and Transformation (self-actualization). When you apply these three themes to the three ways we connect with our work, you realize that someone with a Job tends to be purely focused on the comp package or Money (Survival).
Those who see their work as a Career are focused on Recognition on the Success level of the pyramid. But, those who have a Calling (there are fewer which is why the pyramid is smaller at top) are Transformed by their work due to the sense of Meaning they get from the company they work for and/or the work that they do. Money, Recognition, Meaning. Job, Career, Calling. That’s the progression up the pyramid.
I think this sense of calling at work/in work is a noble aspiration. I don’t know how to manufacture it – it has to flow from within. But I think we have learned some things about it through the years, like: it does not matter what your job is, it is possible to have a sense of calling in any and every job. And, this sense of calling is definitely not restricted to “information” jobs, or “leadership jobs.” It is available, in fact, it is necessary, for any and all jobs. In other words, all jobs can have (and should have) a sense of calling.
You know, we used to read quotes like this more often:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
John William Gardner
So, I’ve been thinking about Conley’s point. I like it. I think it is significant But I also think that this “need” to view work as a calling is a universal need, regardless of the work at hand. It is work itself – the dignity of work, the nobility of work – that is a calling. And it should not be for the few who are at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy. (and I am a big fan of Maslow).
Or, to put it another way… The progression up the pyramid has nothing to do with what one’s job is. It has everything to do with one’s own view of the nobility of work, and this view comes from within, and is possible, and desirable, for any and every job.
Do you understand the “calling” aspect in your work?
On September 30 last year, I wrote this post: A Jobless Recovery and a Slip Down Maslow’s Hierarchy.
It is the most viewed post in the history of this blog (so far), with new readers still every day. Why? Because people, a lot of people, are either looking for a job – or are afraid they will soon be looking for a job, and the phrase “jobless recovery” is one that far too many understand in a very personal way.
Sadly, the phrase still rings rue. If this is a concern of yours, here is the latest from The Economist: American jobs figures Falling flat — More evidence that America is experiencing a jobless recovery.
Here’s the opening paragraph:
A WEEK ago, Americans were told that their economy had expanded for a second consecutive quarter, and rapidly at that: output grew at an annual rate of 5.7%. This week, they are reminded that a return to growth has yet to benefit the jobless. The economy lost 20,000 jobs in January, a decline driven by the loss of 75,000 jobs in the construction sector. Economists had forecast an increase in employment of around 15,000. The unemployment rate, based on household rather than establishment data, showed a slight improvement, dropping from 10% to 9.7%, but nearly 15m Americans remain unemployed. As Larry Summers put it in Davos last week, the American economy is experiencing “a statistical recovery and a human recession”.
Read the full article here.