What If There IS No Work?

job huntingSo, here’s the thing: some of my clients are in the unusual-for-them position of having no work right now. They’ve either been made redundant from their firms, are watching their businesses hit the skids, or are just generally less well employed than they’d really rather wish to be.

Their hearts tell them they’d love to buy in to the New Work Pioneer ethos.

But to a greater or lesser degree the fear of becoming the proverbial bag lady brings them back to doing what they know how to in this situation: get on the market and hustle for another of the same kind of job.

They can pay attention to this “doing what you love” stuff in the future. When things are sorted. When they feel more secure and stable.

You know how it is.

And with more redundancies looming here in the UK, at least in the public sector, even just getting more of the same is not the cakewalk it once was. Here are a few tips for staying street-savvy, without giving your soul over to the whims of the economy.

  1. Don’t panic

    Easier to say than to do, perhaps. But, seriously, panic drives you to take action and make decisions that you may regret later. That’s because, when we’re anxious, we’re cut off from the most confident, resourceful parts of ourselves.

    So, first things first, do what you need to in order to nail down key concerns.

    The biggest one is usually money. Face this fear head-on, and early on. Figure out what you need and what you want, budget and keep a tight reign on things. If you need to talk to banks about refinancing or having mortgage payment holidays or whatever, do it proactively.

    Knowing that you’re in control of your money, rather than it being in control of you will give you personal and psychological breathing space.

  2. Listen to your heart and your head

    It’s tempting to let your head rule at times when work is tricky. It can definitely help you figure things out and do things cleverly. But it won’t always take account of your intuitions or feelings. They need attention too.

    What do you really, really want to do in this situation? What opportunities do you see that your logical mind wants you to ignore? What does your gut tell you about interviews you’ve gone for, or not? What if you paid attention? Where would that take you?

    Now, how might you use your mind to logic the next steps?

  3. Focus on what you can do

    There’s a lot of “can’t” around at the moment. Can’t work. Can’t afford. Can’t progress. What if you shift your attention off of these things and onto where you can direct your energy ?

    Networking is a pretty obvious one. You can do this on or offline. And, since things seem to be changing around you anyway, what do you have to lose by pushing the barriers and experimenting with new networks or new media that you haven’t tried before?

    Updating your skills is another. As, indeed, is taking them in a completely different direction again. Money doesn’t need to be an obstacle. There’s a ton of resource online and either free or relatively inexpensive.

    If you’re looking for a similar job, get yourself the smartest CV and the best support you can buy to position yourself well in a crowded market. Julie Walraven is a fabulous resource on both fronts.

    And if you really do want to use this opportunity for bigger change, find yourself a coach that understands this space and invest in your own transformation.

  4. Be pragmatic

    I’m seeing folks take months right now to find work they are happy with. It all depends on what level you’re at, how much you’re earning, and how much networking you’re prepared to do for yourself.

    Meantime, you may still want to put cash in the bank.

    I’m counselling people to take a long term view of things now, separating out what they need to do to earn the money to support themselves, from finding work that they will be happy with ongoing.

    That could look like choosing to take a job that you know is a compromise of some sort for you in the short term, but using it as leverage for future endeavour.

    Or taking interim contracts, if you can find them, to tide you over.

    The trick comes in making these decisions consciously and tactically. You do not need to imagine that a short term solution defines you. It doesn’t. It just keeps your spirit alive in the longer term.

  5. Don’t beat yourself up

    Finding paths forward in the current economy is fraught with challenge and set-back. Clients tell me of writing emails for jobs and never getting response. Or, of headhunters who were gushing and warm in getting them to interview never following up with the outcome. It shouldn’t be like this, but sadly, sometimes it is.

    Don’t, whatever you do, take it personally. It’s really not about you.

Times are tough, but keep the faith. Keep your sense of direction and take action you can believe in. That’s what’s going to see you through.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Robert S. Donovan

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  1. Jen Smith says:

    Hi Christine.
    I think you’re advice to focus on the long AND short term is wise. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing to find work we love and being pragmatic and proactive about your situation puts you back in the driving seat. Good advice as always.

    • Christine says:

      Absolutely right, Jen. Taking the all or nothing pressure off of things right now is, I think, wise. Paradoxically, that way we’re more likely to end up with a better outcome.

  2. Joelleharris says:

    Great Post, I’m currently under threat of redundancy (public sector funding) I’m excited as I’ll be able to spend more time running my Jewellery Making Workshops.
    Some colleauges would bebefit from reading your article, I’ll be sending a link!
    .-= Joelleharris´s last blog ..Workshop update =-.

    • Christine says:

      What a great opportunity for you, Joelle. I hope the jewellery making workshops are a big success for you. Being made redundant may just be the chance you need to take things in a new direction?

      And do pass along the article if your colleagues would find it valuable. It’s a time for community sharing to stay strong against some of the insanity around, don’t you think??!!

  3. Hi Christine,

    I think your tips are spot-on, particularly the ones about not panicking and beating yourself up. Once you’ve been laid off or have less contracts than before, it’s time to take a deep breath and realize that this may be just want you needed in your life – either to get back on track professionally or do develop a new track for your life. It’s also important to realize that it’s probably not personal and that everyone goes through a laid-off, fired, or dry-spell during their careers. The important thing to realize is that life goes on regardless and that you will figure things out. One suggestion that I can make is that if you are not in these dire situations yet and are still employed is to get debt-free as fast as possible so that you can free up that cash, just in case. Also, having savings or even a line of credit can save you when you have less income coming in.

    .-= Karen´s last blog ..Understanding Your Chances In Life – Guest Post =-.

    • Christine says:

      Thanks, Karen.

      I think your advice about getting debt-free is spot on. It’s primarily worries over how debt of one form or another will be paid that keeps us either handcuffed to jobs we can’t stomach, or worrying about how we’ll live without them if they go. Dumping the debt just allows so much more swing space.

  4. Hi Christine,

    Could not agree more with some of these steps. Do not panic, often hard not to when in the eye of the storm, but job’s are a funny thing. I have often chatted with friends that it’s the weirdest thing when you are without work.It’s a time when we tend to be at our most stressed and make more desperate/poor quality decisions, when the reality is that the situation would be much better served by our absolute best Self, confident, clear, listening with all our senses so that we are at our most resourceful and also most attractive to would be employers.
    The other perverse thing is that, a day really makes all the difference one day you are without work feeling like the pressure is on, the next it can be transformed with a new job and new hope. What a difference a day really does make.

    Shifting debt from my own experience is an incredibly wise and liberating move as it really helps with being able to stay more calm (obvious to me now !). Since paying mine off, it has given me a much stronger/solid platform from which to make decisions. Part of my journey with that was to be proactive and to negotiate better deals for myself. My experience was that Banks actually were open to discussion especially if they could see you were actively organising yourself and taking the situation seriously (being proactive) rather than running and hiding which was also a previous tendency of mine (kind of goes hand in hand with the panic).

    The short answer would have been – nice article !

    • Christine says:

      Thanks for your great comment, Tim.

      What is it about being without work, or in a marginal work situation that causes such desperation? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way, and not one I’m necessarily asking you to answer, but your use of the word “desperate” got me thinking, just because it’s so accurate. And so relevant to what’s going on today.

      Shifting debt is a key way to give yourself more freedom. It’s great to hear that the banks were so open to you when you negotiated with them from a proactive place. When work and its associated income is illusive or uncertain, it’s good to ground yourself in practical ways. As you said, you gave yourself a much stronger/solid platform from which to make decisions.

      Meantime, it’s worth considering that debt and labour are two major tools that the western economic system uses to lock us in. Being active members of society, we have to play by some of the rules, of course. But again there’s something critical for me about consciousness and choice, so that we don’t detriment our own well-being to keep institutional wheels turning.

  5. I really like this advice Christine.

    For me it’s a question of focus. If you’re in this situation and you can keep your focus on what you can do rather than what you don’t have, you can move on with confidence. Similarly if you choose to focus on staying calm and collected you’ll make much better decisions about your future.

    I can resonate with the idea of putting off what you love until later when you can afford it. I lot of people say this to me. The only perfect time to do what you love is when you’re doing it.

    • Christine says:

      Focus is a vital aspect of the equation, Ben. So easily lost or compromised when the going gets tough. But the courageous few will choose to keep their own faith regardless.

      If my point about taking pragmatic short term cash in the bank options read like it was advocating putting off what you love till later, I apologise as that’s certainly not my position. As you rightly say, the only perfect time to do what you love is when you’re doing it. And what better time than in the present?! You yourself are a brilliant example of someone who’s choosing to find a way to live what they love, irrespective of the economy.

      Thanks for a provocative and thoughtful comment!

  6. Julie Walraven | Resume Services says:

    Hi Christine, Thank you for the great referral! I started reading this yesterday and then got interrupted. Then I started reading it today, tweeted it with a plan to come back to comment. These are great steps and great reminders. When fear takes over, we tend to skip most of this.

    Thank you!
    .-= Julie Walraven | Resume Services´s last blog ..The wrong kind of helping =-.

    • Christine says:

      Pleasure, Julie. You happen to be the smartest person I know who provides the kind of support I’m talking about here. It would have been a missed opportunity to have made the suggestion I did without mentioning you alongside!

  7. Matthew Needham says:

    I’d add a 6th item – be prepared. Even if you aren’t facing redundancy (at the moment) or a loss in business. Plan for the worse and you’ll be in better shape and more prepared to deal with it if the worst does actually happen.

    Great advice – you’re right, it’s not the worse thing that can happen.

    I counselled a friend 2 years ago to leave the job he hated. He discovered he didn’t actually need to work that much only a few hundred pounds a month – so he works when he likes and does what he wants. He’s far happier and lives a much better life.
    .-= Matthew Needham´s last blog ..Achieving Your Dreams The Tomato Way- Episode III =-.

    • Christine says:

      Great to see you here, Matthew!

      Sounds like you gave your friend some great counsel. Work needs to be as individual as we are. Thing is, we get caught up in society’s expectations and it can take us a while to figure that out. Sadly, some people never do. But by the sound of it your friend has made work work for him!


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