Hard Times

Let’s face it, no one enjoys going through hard times. No one likes feeling as though they will never make it out of a bad situation whether it be a bad relationship, bad job, joblessness…

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve experienced something difficult, depressing, discouraging.

WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE

I have more than a few friends who are struggling right now to find their purpose. These folks don’t fit the the stereotypical image that likely popped into your head when you read the previous sentence. They are well educated, have work experience and a desire to work. Yet they apply and apply for work and are met with rejection after rejection. For years I have maintained that there is something very wrong with a workforce where you have job vacancies but can’t match job seekers effectively to the opportunities.

I was one of those people who had great difficulty finding a good fit for my skill set. Do you know what I heard the most that drove me nuts?

Marta, you are amazing, but we know we could never KEEP you.

(Pause and Reflect)

I cannot stress enough how important it is to plug into a supportive network of people so that you don’t succumb to the depression that ongoing job rejection can bring. When I was in my last really dry season of unemployment I don’t know what I would have done after my 200th rejection notice had it not been for my family. (Believe me, that was not a typo.)

Here are a few tips I can offer for those struggling with unemployment or underemployment.

1. Building Relationships With Real People Matter

A lot of employers have moved toward using electronic applications to complete the initial screening of job candidates. That makes it harder for you as a job seeker to distinguish yourself from everyone else. So it is important for you to make yourself known to people who can influence a hiring decision. I know this will be more difficult for those of you who are introverted, but you have to put yourself into networking environments. Attend your local Rotary meeting. Volunteer with local nonprofits. Serve on community boards. It makes a difference when people KNOW you.

2. Job Descriptions Can Be Misleading

I dislike most job advertisements that I see. It’s nothing personal against the people who write them. I have written a few in my time. In my experience, they can often discourage really good applicants from applying. Many times language like (10 years of relevant work experience required) will be included in an advertisement for an entry level position. I have often also seen advertisements that require a certain degree when the position duties have little to nothing to do with the skills needed for the job in question. So, before you wade into those waters, find someone you know at that company or someone familiar with that company and investigate to discover whether your credentials are likely to get you past first base. There is no sense in wasting your time applying for jobs in places where the gatekeepers will dismiss you on the basis of your degree.

3. Entrepreneurship Is Not For Everyone

As a serial entrepreneur I can tell you there is a whole lot of rejection potential over in this world as well. Expect hard work. Expect hard rejections. This route is not an easy one, but for those who have the appetite it can be delicious.

4. You Deserve To Work Within Your Passion (or at least adjacent to it)

People can tell when you are just looking for a job versus pursuing a career you are passionate about. Most employers want happy employers because they hate hiring and retraining new people. So do the work of figuring out what drives and energizes you and pursue work that involves those things.

5. Keep Yourself Surrounded By Supportive Friends and Family

You need positive people in your life when you are struggling (and also all the time). Don’t allow yourself to isolate and withdraw from people. That can take you to a very dark place and the world is much better with you in it active and engaged than not.

6. It’s Okay To Be Scared, But Don’t Surrender Your Life To Fear

Everyone gets scared. When bills come in and you know you don’t have the money to cover them all, it is terrifying. When your spouse is having to carry all the bills and you are struggling to find a job, it is terrifying. (Seriously, I’ve been there more than once.) It is human to feel fear. What we do with that fear determines the overall quality of our lives. You have a choice. Wrestle that fear to the ground and get on with your life, or surrender to it and remain stuck.

There is a line from a musical I love called Hamilton that is powerful and profound.

Dying is easy, young man, living is harder.

This journey we are all on was not designed to be an easy one. We are met with challenges every, single day.

I choose to view hard times as opportunities to innovate and practice new ways to win and help others.

How do you deal with hard times?

Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.

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