The good news is that the recession is officially over and the recovery has begun -- we're on our way back up -- slowly, to be sure, but it's moving in the right direction. The bad news is that many of the jobs that disappeared in the Great Recession aren't coming back -- they're gone for good.
While the outlook for our country is getting brighter, the outlook for hundreds of thousands of individuals still seems bleak. What can you do if you're one of those folks whose job -- and/or company -- is gone forever?
If there's anything I know for sure, it's that Americans are resilient, resourceful, smart, and creative. Americans are can-do people. We are inventors and innovators. We are pioneers and adventurers. We put a man on the moon; we pull off medical miracles; we develop wonder drugs; we invent killer apps. We can certainly put ourselves back to work. Here are ten tips to get started:
1. Attitude really IS everything. Yes, you've heard it a thousand times... because it's true. If you think your situation is hopeless, you're right. If you think there must be work out there somewhere, you're right. Your most important task right now is managing your attitude and emotions.
2. Change your paradigm -- forget the word "job" and instead focus on "work" and "earning." Give up the notion of finding a 9-to-5 job -- they scarcer than hen's teeth. But there's still plenty of "work" to be done; it's contract work, project work, temporary gigs, portfolio work. Think of the movie business, or construction work, harvest season on the farm -- where people come together for a limited period of time to work on a project. When it's complete, everyone moves on their next gig.
3. Do an inventory of your skills, talents, abilities and experience you have to offer. Make a list of your strongest skills and best abilities. Try to think of generic skills you can take from job to job, applying them almost anywhere -- financial skills, managing projects, writing skills, verbal communication skills, the ability to manage a team, project management, organization skills, tech skills, office skills, juggling priorities, meeting deadlines, working under pressure, solving problems, resolving conflicts, dealing effectively with customers. You have to know what value you can add to a business in order to sell yourself.
4. Look for opportunity, not safety. There is no place on the map called "Safe." Job security falls into the same category as unicorns and tooth fairies. Your only security is your ability to secure work. Give up looking for a "safe" profession (and for goodness sake, don't tell your kids to look for a "safe" occupation, either).
5. Learn to dance with change. For thirty years now, workplace experts, authors, and career consultants have been telling us that the only certainty is change. But denial is stubborn and many folks still hope that things will "settle down" and "get back to normal." Wake up and smell the Starbucks -- change IS the new normal.
6. Don't let what you can't do stop you from what you can do. Stop focusing on things that are out of your control. Focus on things you can control -- your mindset, your actions, how you spend your time, getting out there and meeting people, making contacts, and following up on leads.
7. Be careful what you read, watch, and listen to. News, by definition, is that which deviates from the norm. If millions of people go to work every day, that's not news. If lots of jobs disappear and thousands of people are without work, then that's news. But if the news is all you pay attention to, you're not getting the big picture -- or the accurate one. Sure, it's OK to glance at the newspaper headlines or tune into the evening news for a few minutes, but don't linger over the news or you'll get depressed. (Refer back to #1.)
8. Polish your people skills. Business success and career success are all about relationships -- relationships between bosses and the people who work for them; relationships between businesses and their customers; relationships between coworkers; relationships with vendors and other stakeholders. Eighty percent of people who fail on the job fail because of poor interpersonal skills, not poor technical skills. If you can't get along with people, you're in deep yogurt.
9. Go where the love is. Surround yourself with people who love you and care about you. You need all the support you can get when you're looking for work. Just as elephants rally around one of their own who is sick or injured until he gets stronger, your friends and family can provide you with valuable help. Run to the center of the herd, honey, run to the center of the herd.
10. Tap into spiritual resources. Ninety-two percent of Americans say they believe in God. If you're in that 92 percent, now would be a good time to cultivate your relationship with a Higher Power (whatever name you call it) and deepen your faith. Meditation, prayer, inspirational books and CDs, and spiritual groups can provide enormous strength, reassurance, and comfort in these trying times.
BONUS TIP: In every recession, there are some people who make lots of money. Make a commitment to be one of those people. As Winston Churchill wisely noted: "An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity." Which one are you?
BJ Gallagher is the author of "It's Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been" (Viva Editions).