The job of finding a job
For many of you, looking for a job will be your primary focus as you leave college. You may have had an internship or some other role in the industry. You might even have something lined up. But, I’m willing to bet 80% of you don’t have a job yet – and I’m here to say that’s not unusual. After all, the hardest job is finding a job, and part of finding a job is knowing what you want to do.
I’d recommend looking at the overall landscape and try to focus your attention on parts of the industry, which are growing and show the most potential. Thirty years ago, I was told cable TV was the future, and I left broadcast to help several small cable networks (USA and CNBC) grow. Ten years later, I started a job at AOL and I was told my TV experience made me a “dinosaur.” Of course, that TV experience came in handy after AOL collapsed and I was looking for a job again (now bolstered by valuable digital experience). Looking for a job is something you may be doing now – but learn from it, and take lessons from each step, each job, along the way. You will need these skills again, possibly more than once in your future. I'm no stranger to the rodeo known as “The Layoff,” and while I hope none of you ever have to experience it, the odds are you will at some point. It's been more than ten years since my last bumpy ride, but a lot has changed since then. LinkedIn was available, but the tools and resources it provided were much more limited. It wasn’t a “must have” tool like it is today. Now, it is a lot more robust, and a critical tool for anyone looking for work or to move up.
All things considered, when I was recently laid off, I faced my future with much less trepidation than last time. My previous layoff ten years ago was a lot more stressful. The economy was still reeling from the 2008 crash and hadn't really recovered yet. I had two sons preparing to head off to college, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to get both of them through all four years. We had purchased a new house at the peak of the market, which had taken a downturn, and one of our cars was on its last legs. Thankfully, the car held on until I got a new job, and everything worked out. But it was tough going for the eight months it took to land my next gig. Prior to that, it had only taken three.
This time, I have fewer concerns. The boys are out and working; the cars are new; my doctor says I'm in great shape; the mortgage is well-serviced; and in the last ten years, I have expanded my network substantially using LinkedIn's impressive toolkit. This time LinkedIn is playing a major role in finding my next ‘gig’.
As my father told me 37 years ago, when I sought my first job, “the hardest job is finding a job.” It has taken me a bit of getting used to, but I have learned to treat job hunting like a 'gig' in and of itself.
A ‘gig’ can be any number of things, but for the purpose of this story, consider it a small, light carriage that is drawn by one horse, or a light, fast, narrow boat known for maneuverability. A gig is also a spear used to catch fish with a quick motion (I used to use it in the mountain streams as a youngster). Therefore 'gig' seems applicable to having agility and maneuverability in a changing market in order to catch a great new opportunity.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about the direction(s) I want to take my career as I am moving forward. I can see many opportunities presenting themselves, often in businesses that didn't exist 10 years ago. I have always been able to meet those new opportunities, blending the best of what I've experienced and learned and advancing to the next growth opportunity. Where fear and anxiety existed ten years ago, hopeful optimism resides today, knowing I have the skills, experience, and adaptive mindset that are essential to meet today’s leadership and management challenges.
But, what gives me the most hope are the people I’ve met along the way. The source of my optimism grows from each response, sometimes from people I don't know who reach out to or speak with me. Posting on LinkedIn about my job search has highlighted for me how valuable a network is, and I have been heartened by the number of people sharing job opportunities and offering to have meetings. In times of uncertainty, to see the number of people who are willing to help, make introductions, present ideas, or even offer a kind word, is encouraging.
As many of you enter the job market, take heart knowing that your experiences and struggles are shared, you are not alone, and that you have access to tools and resources and organizations like FUTURE NOW that can assist you along the way.
What goes around, comes around. Do your part by helping others when you have the opportunity. I have found that extending myself when it seems like I should be focusing on myself allows me greater flexibility and increases opportunities. Call it karma, but by helping others, you can wind up helping yourself just as much or more. So, do things not just for your own advancement, but for others. It can repay you many times over.