One of the coolest things about wilderness hiking is the new ideas that shine through as the mental clutter settles. This was one of my favorite discoveries years ago.
If there “aren’t any jobs,” go networking—especially informational networking—to turn up the jobs in the “hidden” job market (which is the vast majority of jobs—a good 85%). If you are unemployed and looking for a job (remember that creating one is also an option, either as a new business or a short term project), this is the place to start. There ARE jobs. There are always jobs—because there are always needs, and businesses need people to fulfill those needs. In down markets, that may not be so apparent, as hiring can be cautious, but that’s still the case. You just need to look more closely. Remember to focus on what you actually want to be doing—that’s key.
This applies to people currently employed looking to change jobs as well. However, here you have an option in the middle, one rarely considered—creating a new job at your current place of employment. If you’re unhappy, for whatever reason—conditions, pay, coworkers—you may be able to change this without changing bosses. In a large company, you can ask for a transfer, of course, but here I’m talking about staying put but changing job titles—not a promotion, but a new job. I’ve done this three times, along with many more minor shifts within the same job.
The first, and most generic, was the book store management job. I was hired simply as another employee. I had just left a job I hated, and I took this lower paying job because I liked the New Age feel to the store and wanted to do a job I liked. Two months later, I was the Manager. How did I do that? I just started from the beginning doing the kind of work managers would do, on my own. The store didn’t have a manager, just two joint owners (husband and wife), and they noticed, increased my pay and responsibilities.
I often hear, especially from young workers, but some older ones too, “Why should I work harder or do extra things? When they pay me more, I’ll do that!” These people will never get those promotions. That’s not how it works. They are asking employers to first take a chance, putting their money and the leadership of their business in the hands of an unproven and undemonstrated promise. Not gonna happen. Nein, Nyet, Nope. Instead, first be doing the extra work and taking those extra responsibilities, because this demonstrates your worth and capability. It also demonstrates your quality of a take-charge get-it-done responsible person—and that’s the kind of person employers want running their shows.
But what if it doesn’t pay off? Forget about that. You should be always growing anyway. As management guru Tom Peters advises, take the annual resume test—remember from the last chapter that this resume should be showing your specific contributions, not simply job title and time served. Each year’s resume should show a substantial improvement over the previous year. If not—you haven’t been growing, and that’s why nothing new is happening for you. What have you tried? What have you learned from your mistakes? And if you haven’t made any mistakes, then you haven’t been trying very much of any substance. Only when those things are in place can your employer notice anything about you—because you haven’t done much otherwise. When you have, you can build on your successes.
And if your boss doesn’t notice, or either can’t (because there’s no suitable opening) or doesn’t want to acknowledge your expanded worth, you have a basis for taking your bettered skills out into the marketplace for a better situation. Tom Peters recommends never asking for a raise. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I get his point—either you’re getting fed where you are, or it’s time to go find a place that does. One caution, though—don’t get cocky. Don’t just quit and hit the street (all things being equal—there are always exceptions). Look first, give notice, start the new job. Or start the new business on the side and wait for it to grow. Over estimating your worth in the marketplace is common. Find out first, and don’t blame the market—adjust and build your skills.
The second took the “building on skills” approach. I was actually called and asked to teach a college music class, and after some hesitation, I did, and found I liked teaching. At the time, the college climate was very hot to implement multicultural and interdisciplinary approaches. I was flabbergasted; from my perspective as a performing artist, I couldn’t believe people didn’t already do this—how can you understand a piece out of context and connection? But, that was the case, and as you might imagine, they loved my course creations. And, once I’d designed, for example, a “Music and Literature” course, I now had experience as a Literature professor. My interdisciplinary/multicultural classes gave me powerful leverage from college to college to college, even letting me grow into teaching writing and literature as schools cut music and the arts to save a buck in slow economies.
This can be done almost anywhere. Learn more than you have to at your job. A friend of mine inspects housing construction for a large company overseeing compliance with state housing programs, and he makes a habit of getting certification after certification after certification. His boss encourages this, and it makes him one of the most valuable employees in his position; they reward him with flexibility and raises, even letting him work from home two days a week, calling by conference call into meetings as needed. Some companies wisely pursue cross-training of their employees, and it’s often not popular. Embrace it. Learn to do jobs you don’t have to do. It will keep building both your resume and your pool of available skilled positions for which you qualify.
The third was by an inner proposal. I had just returned from Vermont, where I had been working for an independent label distributor, and returned to New York and needed a job quickly. So I took a position for a branch of a major label distributor, where the choices were shipping or salesman. [Yes, I was overqualified. Hey. It was a job.] Now I did like getting piles of free demo records and free tickets to major acts’ concerts from the major labels’ reps. And I didn’t mind shipping, but I really didn’t fit in with my heavy metal listening colleagues. The salesmen, on the other hand, got company vans for their own use and a great deal of freedom, driving from store to store taking spot inventories and racking product—and made far more money. However…openings were few. I got tired of waiting.
I did notice several things about our operation that could and should be improved. Inventory control was haphazard, and back-up stock hard to find (physically in the warehouse). Invoices were in a big pile, one for each salesman, and when questions arose, someone would have to dig down through the pile looking for that invoice. Ordering was done largely by eyeing the racks and writing orders on a pad, working from memory. It was a mess.
I mentioned these issues and my solutions to my boss, who…sort of took it under advisement. I got tired of shipping and turned in my notice. I did my two weeks, working just as well as always (no sense burning bridges)—and at 4:00 on my last day, one hour left, my boss called me into his office for a talk. “We don’t want to lose you,” he said. “What would it cost us to keep you in an office job?” We discussed it, settled on nice raise, and I automated and implemented our new systems, as well as handling all the correspondence for our branch. Left with a lot of freedom, I continued to expand my job reach, even analyzing trends, something which once saved us a $2 million account (when sales dropped, I showed how we increased their inventory turns, resulting in higher sales per square foot).
The same is true of outer proposals. You don’t have to rely on what businesses are seeking to find employment. Go show them what they don’t realize they’re seeking. Yes, this takes a bigger sales job, but you also have (1) no competition and (2) they certainly know you’re a go-getter/take-charge person—you’re proving it in the moment.
I floated some that didn’t work. It happens. But when I left the book store, I was interviewed at three independent label distributors in three different states, all of whom were interested not because they knew what they wanted me to do, but because I knew their businesses and product well, and had first hand experience succeeding at their clients’ business. I got two offers, turned down the stingy one, and moved to the mountains of Vermont (which I wanted to do anyway), to do…well, we weren’t quite sure. But I was going to do it there—that was the point. In fact, I worked with them on their in-house marketing, until they went with an outside consultant. I was offered another position there, but decided to move on.
Bottom line here—you’re allowed to create, not simply wait. Look for solutions that use your skills, experience, and interests—and propose them.
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October 2012 is a series of daily posts about “A Wilderness Hike,” taking readers through the healing of wilderness experience and glimpses of my work at Kwan Yin Healing and of my book, “Getting Unstuck.”
You can read the series from the start via the links here:
Oct. 1: A Wilderness Hike
Oct. 2: The Sixth Hour
Oct. 3: Snowy Mountain
Oct. 4: Letting Go of Baggage–the Wilderness Way
Oct. 5: “Bear” the Thought
Oct. 6: Mountain. Buddha. Impermanence.
Oct. 7: The Rewards of Rain
Oct. 8: Finding the Keys
Oct. 9: “I’d love to, but times are bad.”
Oct. 10: Attracting the Law of Attraction
Oct. 11: We are not our thoughts
Oct. 12: Honesty, Forgiveness, Healing
Oct. 13: Getting Unstuck: Feeling Overwhelmed
Oct. 14: Money is remarkably easy to come by, if that’s all you want.
Oct. 15: To be Time Rich, Learn to Be
Oct. 16: Changing Thoughts for Changing Work
Oct. 17: Finding and Sharing your Gifts
Oct. 18: Do you want to be the boss? Be sure you want to run the show.
Oct. 19: Finding jobs within jobs
Oct. 20: Bright Mountain Dream
Oct. 21: Escape the Wilderness of Addictions
Oct. 22: The Importance of Spiritual Direction
Oct. 23: In Search of Enlightenment
Oct. 24: Relationship Thoughts from the Wilderness
Oct. 25: We learn in realtionships
Oct. 26: Chrysalis
Oct. 27: Self-Healing, part 1
Oct. 28: Self-Healing, part 2: Time for a new perspective
Oct. 29: Dix Mountain
Oct. 30: The Mist-Filled Path
Oct. 31: From Wilderness to Wondrousness