Saturday, June 30, 2012

Handling Depression

One of the biggest killers of a job search is depression. Depression is very common after a job loss and also if the job search continues longer than we think it should. First, we grieve the loss of a job, and second we fear what will happen if we don't find another job. We may also feel ashamed and unproductive while we are out of work. All of these feelings can contribute to depression.

The problem with depression, besides the fact that it doesn't feel good is that it's very difficult to get anybody to offer you a job if you are depressed. After all, who wants to hire somebody who's a downer? The fact is, you must get your depression under control if you want to find a job. It's that simple.

Let me say up front that I'm not a therapist and am not giving mental health advice, but I've lived a long time and have learned some common sense methods for maintaining a positive attitude. I think those common sense ideas are worth sharing.

So what can you do about depression? The most important thing to do is not to ignore it. If you ignore it, the depression will continue unabated. Instead, you have to recognize it, acknowledge it, and take action to manage it.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made one of the worst decisions of my life while depressed. I left a great job I'd held for 16 years because I was depressed by a layoff and did not recognize or deal with the depression. If I'd had any sense at the time, I would have found a good counselor and talked through the grief and depression I felt over the layoff of my coworkers. This is the best medicine for depression--get treated by a professional.

It's also important not to over-indulge depression. Acknowledge it, yes, treat it, yes, but after a reasonable time of working on it, a month or two, perhaps, simply put your foot down and determine that you will do everything you can to maintain a cheerful attitude towards life no matter what the situation. Even when you don't feel well, "fake it until you make it." That is, put on a cheerful face and attitude, and often your internal emotions will follow. By the way, don't leave therapy while you do this; keep working on your grief, fear, and depression with your therapist, but make the decision that these emotions will not control your life.

Here are some things you can do to lift your attitude:
  • Start each day giving thanks and counting your blessings for what you DO have.
  • Pray, read uplifting spiritual writing, and meditate on God or positive ideas every morning.
  • Sing cheerful or spiritual songs. Cheerful music can't help but lift your mood.
  • Smile at everybody and even sometimes when alone. It feels good to smile, even if it's forced.
  • Watch comedies and read stories that make you laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine.
  • Make a special effort to be kind and helpful. When you help others, it takes your mind off yourself.
  • Trust God or the universe or whatever you call it. Things do have a way of working out over time.
  • Keep moving forward in life and your job search. Positive action makes you feel less like a victim.
In closing, I want to emphasize something I said in an earlier post: You do not have to let your emotions control your life. Recognize them, understand where they're coming from, and deal with them constructively by taking the positive actions listed above, but don't let them control you. YOU decide how you will behave from moment to moment. If you put on a positive attitude--even when you don't feel like it--your emotions and your life will follow, and things will go better for you. Your positive attitude just might even land you a job!
Chuck Petch (

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Releasing the Pressure

Pressure disguises itself in many ways. Depending upon what your circumstances are, pressure presents itself both externally and internally. Allow me to share my circumstances.

As mentioned in the first post, after forty seven years I have moved back in with my parents as a result of a job loss. Also mentioned was the struggle with losing my dignity and my identity. Living at home brings forth a challenge for me regarding my role in life; was I a grown adult, or a vulnerable child?

Although not clearly spoken, expectations existed upon my relocation. It was expected I would find work within 3 months, save money, find a place and be able to go and get my dog Deakin from Idaho. It's been 5 months, 24 days. The expectations evolved from my parents, which in turn influenced my mindset. It was soon after the 3 month mark that I began to feel pressure. Where was it coming from? Was it the fact that today's job search is nothing like it used to be? Was is that my parents, both in their eighties, couldn't understand why their daughter, educated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Training and Development, would not be hired by any prosepective employer? Again, expectations surfaced. The pressure I felt stemmed from many different directions; my parents, the frustration of the daily grind, missing my dog, and the consistent rejection from employers.

Aside from these contributing factors, somehow I pushed forward, began to meditate and realized the significance of releasing the pressure. I began to see the psychological barriers ( as written in previous posts) that were preventing me from being me. I was putting pressure on myself. Barriers of guilt, not meeting my parents expectations, and fear of things not working out, all played leading roles behind the pressure.

Pressure has a way of sneaking up on you. I have become atuned to it and have learned to recognize it before it does damage. Here's the thing; job hunting is a job. In the beginning, I was out there every day, resume after resume, applications, want ads; you name it, I was buried in it. As time went on, I began to see myself as a person who could do other things.

 I determined that it does no good to approach employers on Mondays ( just back from the weekend, not focused on the workweek yet) or Fridays (one foot is already in the weekend!). That left Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays to actively do the resume and application thing. I was beginning to balance my inner self. I began attending church each Sunday, applied my creativity with crocheting, made business cards to assist people with yard work, animal and house sitting, and even sold some Avon! This enabled some cash flow, hence relieving the pressure I had put on myself.

Presently, I am involved with 2 networking groups, I do yardwork for cash flow, attend a spiritual group 2 times per month, apply to positions I qualify for, and provide hope to others in similar situations. Being still with yourself does not come easy, yet I strongly recommend it. Doing so will allow you to see your hidden heart within. We all have one. Once revealed, you will come to recognize your true self; not just an individual who has to find a job or the world will come crashing down on you. Release the pressure.

 All you have to do is believe.

Laura Papke

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Finding Your Calling

Recognizing our partnership with God, as described in the previous post, should not mean that we consider God or the universe as a vending machine where we put our prayers and intentions in and selfishly get back what we want. Rather, we should look at it as following our god-given calling to serve humanity in the way God intended using the talents God has given us. For example, the Bible says, "Delight yourself also in the LORD; and he shall give you the desires of your heart." 

You can understand this passage two ways: (1) God will give you what your heart selfishly desires, or (2) God will put into your heart what to desire, and you will then fulfill his will and calling by pursuing that desire. I prefer to think of the way the universe works as the latter. This makes discovering and following our god-given calling a great humanitarian adventure. 

Often the adventure includes some interesting and difficult detours that are part of our life-learning experience. However, as much as we are able, we need to remember that the challenges are all for the sake of our learning and finding the right direction. The sooner we understand the lesson in each challenge and accept it, the sooner we can move on. 

Because life's challenges and detours can be many, it's easy to get distracted and miss our calling at any given phase or even for our entire life. For this reason, it can be helpful to use the tools available to counselors and career consultants. Typically, these include personality tests, personal values inventories, interest inventories, and guided career research and exploration. Many of these tests are available free online or for a very low fee.

By taking personality tests and cross referencing the results to labor codes from the US Department of Labor, we can find lists of professions suitable to an individual's personality at this time in life. For some people this may be a new concept. Here's how it works: Career researchers have found that specific jobs attract certain personality types who feel most fulfilled and satisfied when doing those types of jobs. For example, people who like order and structure tend to like jobs such as accounting, law, science, and engineering--jobs where orderliness and rules are built into the work. People who are sociable tend to like jobs helping people, such as teaching, social work, receptionist, pastor, and so on. And people who are creative tend to want to be artists, writers, graphic designers, interior designers, and other professions that allow creativity.

Among the better known tests are the Myers-Briggs personality test resulting in a four-letter type code (MBT), the Self-Directed Search personality test resulting in a Holland Code, the Strong Interest Inventory, and the O-NET series of tests. All of these tests will tell you valuable information about your personality that you can then match up with lists of professions that would be a good fit for you. Of course, in addition to tests, there's a certain amount of introspection, prayer, and followup investigation of the possible careers to do. By testing and investigating in this way, you can find the kind of work you are currently called to do based on who you are at this stage in your life. When you do find and follow your calling, you will receive greater satisfaction in your work than you thought possible and you will be serving yourself, God, and others to the best of your ability by doing the job or business you were made for.

Chuck Petch (

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Overcoming Problems Using the "Secrets of the Universe"

So you say to yourself, but I'm very shy. I'm afraid to network, or I'm afraid of job hunting, or I'm afraid to go to college because I was never smart, or I don't know how to run my own small business. The good news is that you're normal. Those are normal be afraid of doing something new, to be afraid of being told no, to be afraid of failing. The even better news is that there some simple ways to overcome your fears and do what's needed to move your life and career forward.

The first step is to start overcoming your fears. You can't think outside the box to make your career dreams real if you have psychological barriers holding you back. Take some time to think about it. What are you afraid of? Is it your own fears or the fears of someone close to you holding you back from taking that next step? Or maybe it's not fear but anger at the past that holds you back. If you can name it, you can challenge that specific fear or anger and work on it until you overcome it. There is more good news. Emotions like fear and anger are just thoughts, and you don't have to listen to your thoughts. Let me say that again: You don't have to listen to your thoughts. They don't have to control you. You can create new thoughts that will get you where you want to go.

You can choose to think or to believe something more positive than your fears. For example, have you ever approached a cliff where you wanted to get to the edge to see the view, and you thought, "If I get too close, I might go over!", but you carefully inched your way near to the edge anyway and enjoyed the view? Well, (a) you didn't listen to that scared thought, and (b) you're still here reading this post, so it looks like you didn't die. Instead, you succeeded! You challenged that thought and did what you really wanted to do. You enjoyed that view from up high. In the same way, you can beat the thoughts and fears that hold you back and rise up higher.

So what do you do to beat the fears? The first thing is to recognize exactly what they are and counteract them. Let's say you think you are not smart enough. Is that really true? Haven't you been learning new things all your life? You're reading this, so obviously you learned to read. You learned how to dress yourself, how to ride a bike or drive a car, how to do each of the jobs you've held. So really, the idea that you're not smart enough is a lie, isn't it? Next time that thought comes to you, just let it go and remind yourself that you've learned a lot of things, and you will continue learning until you achieve your dream.

The second thing is to find others who can help you. If at all possible, don't tackle job hunting or college or any new enterprise alone. Enlist others to support you. Do you have a friend who might be willing to drive you around while you turn in job applications? A friend who will go with you to that first visit to the college campus to find out about financial aid and registering for classes? Tell him or her that you're not sure you can do it alone and ask that person to go along. Do you know someone who runs a business, or do you know about an agency that helps small businesses get started? Ask them to help. Do you know someone who went to college and could give you advice about how to get through? Ask for help. And  finally, if you are a person of faith, go to God and ask for help and guidance.

An amazing thing happens as we involve others in our search to find and fulfill our career dream. Suddenly we don't feel alone because we aren't alone. We have a "wingman" to give us strength. It sounds sexist, but this military aviation term offers a great analogy. When fighter pilots head into harm's way, they go in pairs so that if one gets into trouble, the other pilot, the wingman, can fight back to protect his friend. In the same way, Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs to tell people the good news about God's love for them so that if others came along who intended them harm, they could defend and draw strength from each other. Do your best to join up with somebody who can help you go at least part of the way to your destination, and as you go and begin to gain confidence and strength, look for someone else whom you can help in the same way.

At this point, let me share a profound secret of the universe. When we confidently envision and pursue our dreams, and when we band together with others to make our mutual dreams happen, a strange thing occurs. Reality brings us amazing "coincidence" after amazing "coincidence" to help us move forward. We make connection after connection with the right people and the right circumstances to get us where we want to go. Being a Christian, I believe this is God acting on our behalf. When we clarify for God what we want to do by having a clear and confident vision (as long as it's really good for us and others) God helps by making all the arrangements so we can get there. Even when we seem to be taking a detour, it all eventually works out to take us to the right destination. It doesn't matter if you don't believe in God. It is still an astonishing truth that the universe is ordered in such a way as to partner with you to get you to the place where you are supposed to be. I can't explain it; I just know from years of observation that life works this way.

Your part of the partnership is simply to get out and network with people who can help you advance your dream. Your job is to get out into the world and take action together with others, no matter how clumsily you do it at first. The more you do so, and the more people you get to know, the more "coincidences" can occur to move you forward. You don't have to be Prince or Princess Charming, the suave and sophisticated life of the party. Just go to meetings consistently and be as friendly as you are able, and people will get to know you. As they do so and learn what your dream is, you will be surprised how many of them will want to support you.

So find your wingman and pick a meeting or two to attend, whether it's a meeting at the career center for job seekers, a meeting at college for women returning to school, a chamber of commerce meeting in your town, or a support group of some kind at church. Once in the group, volunteer to help with the group or help others as a way of doing something constructive and getting to know people. Bring your dream and a positive attitude with you, and just do your best without worrying about any awkwardness in the beginning. Just do it, and you will be amazed at the progress you will make, both in overcoming your shyness and your fear, and in achieving your dream.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Networking Knows No Boundaries

What is networking? This question to center stage as I began to seek employment after losing my job in Idaho. It did not take long before I realized that the traditional job seeking methods were not working for me. The few people I spoke with all mentioned the need to "network". Frankly the concept scared me.

I did not know many people in the community and this proved intimidating for me . It was a small support network group that finally enabled me to open up and allow networking to work it's magic.

Networking doesn't just happen. It takes time. It takes trusting yourself and others to help you. It means taking the time to look within, and find the person you are. We are all born with instinct. Deep inside all of us is a yearning. Networking helps to discover what you have to offer. Often there is a mindset that tells us the world owes us something, especially when we are hurting and cash flow is lacking. Networking allows us to move beyond this mindset, taking the focus off the negative and onto the bigger picture. Networking means reaching out and facing fears.

Once engaged in networking, a beautiful thing begins to happen. People are helping people. Visions are shared. Motivation emerges. Encouragement presents itself through a kind smile. Instinct becomes a driving force. Fear is overcome. Thought processess become clear.
It becomes second nature to network. Networking opens the mind, the eyes, and the heart.

Having said this, today  networking knew no boundaries. Allow me to share. The day began with a job seeking networking group where ideas and brainstorming filled the air. People shared their stories and in return, others offered guidance and direction.

Next, I attended a luncheon for thirty volunteers for a community computer learning center. Here were people, giving of their time, to help others learn skills necessary to their circumstances. Here, was opportunity. An opportunity to get involved and let others know my needs and help to fulfill theirs.

Finally, my day ended at South Yuba State Park, Purdeon Crossing to be more specific. The river is my sanctuary and I make it a point to take one day out of the week to experience it. Before I go on let me say this, I love dogs and will write more on this topic in future posts.  Today I met many people, along with their dogs. One dog inparticular caught my attention. For hours we played in the water and bonded. Upon leaving, I walked up to owner and thanked him for sharing his dog. He told me it was too bad I couldn't watch her for him. I told him I certaintly could, as I was jobseeking and also do animal and house sitting to supplement my income. He couldn't believe it! Long story short, networking presented an opportunity to leave my contact information with him. The glory of the whole thing was that everyone's needs could be met, and a little cash to boot!

Networking ought not be intimidating. Networking is connecting. Job seeking, as with anything, cannot be done alone. People need people. Just as the South Yuba River, the current within us is everchanging; and you know what? It's ok.

Laura Papke

Think Outside the Box

To be able to see job endings as opportunities, you have to think outside the box. Every ending is a chance to do something new. So what would you like to do? What would you REALLY like to do if you could have your dream job?

A gentleman I met at a job search meeting had spent years in inside sales. It was an OK way to make a living, but he never felt he was really good at it. Still, it was all he knew, and others in his life expected him to stay with it, so he was looking for a job in sales. During a break, I chatted with him and asked him, "If you could have your dream job, the job you REALLY want to do, what would it be?" Without hesitation, he said, "Landscaping! I love being outdoors and making the yard look perfect." I said, "Do you see how you lit up when you talked about landscaping? It doesn't take any special education or preparation. Why don't you just do it?! Print a few business cards, get a few spot jobs, and try it out." "Yeah!" he said. "I think I will."

Next time I saw him, he was very busy earning a satisfying living in landscaping. It was exactly the right thing for him, but he couldn't see it at first because he was "supposed to be" doing something else. Don't let "supposed to" get in the way of doing what you love!

So what's your dream job or business? What's stopping you? The obstacles are never insurmountable. Just get started and be creative. If it takes a lot of education or experience, take it in small steps. Go to the college and talk to the Financial Aid department about how you can get the funds you need. Then go for the first step. If you want to be an architect, like George Costanza, the Seinfeld character, maybe get a one- or two-year certificate in architectural drafting. Then work for an architecture firm as a drafter and see if they will help pay your way for the rest of your degree in architecture.

Whatever it is you dream of doing, there is a way! Just get started, and as Larry The Cable Guy says, "Git 'er done!"

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Seeing the Layoff as an Opportunity

When it comes to layoffs, I've been around the barn quite a few times. My first layoff experience happened in 1996 when I was a department manager in a medium-sized company, and I had to lay off half of my department. I won't describe the gory details, but I can tell you it was a gut-wrenching experience for each person who was laid off and for me. I cared a lot about the people who worked for and with me, and laying them off was like laying off my family. I became so depressed that I only lasted a few months after that before leaving the company I had been with for 16 years.

The next experience came in 2001 when I was laid off for the first time. I had only been with the company for two years, so I was not strongly bonded with the company, but I took it as a blow to my professional self-esteem. I again experienced depression and a sense of loss and rejection.

The next two layoffs came close together. I took a temporary job that lasted a little over six months before I was laid off. Even though it was temporary, I had enjoyed the job tremendously, so I again felt a deep sense of loss.

The third layoff came in 2003 from a government job that I thought would be mine until I retired. Within a year and a half after I had joined up, the agency lost grant funding, and I was the first one laid off because of their last-hired first-fired policy. Others of my coworkers soon followed, and the agency itself was reorganized. This was the hardest layoff because it had been a career transition for me into a new career that I dearly loved, and I had hired into an agency with great people whom I dearly missed after the layoff.

The fourth and last layoff was in 2010 from a company I had worked for twice, in two three-year stints. In that layoff, about a third of the company was let go, and we were told our jobs were being outsourced to India. What a blow! We had been training our Indian coworkers for years and thought we were all going to keep working as two parallel departments half a world apart. I had grown to really love and appreciate my Indian counterparts. What a surprise to come in one morning and find out that our Indian friends were getting our jobs, and our department was reduced from five people to one person. Try as I might, I could not hold it against the wonderful, charming, kind-hearted people in India that I had worked with, but it was still a shock and a disappointment to be losing my job.

The layoffs brought many lessons that I'll share in future posts, but two stand out in my mind as the most significant lessons. The first is that it is vitally important to get lots of counseling after a layoff. Grief and depression over the loss of a job are inevitable for most people, and you cannot make good decisions about your future career when you are grieving the last job. Even if you are one of the ones who gets to stay while other coworkers are laid off, it's very likely you will experience a sense of loss. Please--get some help. At the very least, talk it out with a trusted friend until you can let it go and move on. Ideally, get professional counseling. I made some faulty career decisions after my layoffs because I was upset. First get your head clear, and then make your career decisions.

The second lesson that stands out with crystal clarity for me is that every layoff brought with it wonderful opportunities. At the time, each one seemed like a terrible ending. The reality is that each one propelled me into a new, different, and exciting phase of my career. For example, the layoff in 2001 resulted in a two-year career change into career counseling. My next two jobs were about helping others deal with job loss and find new jobs, and it was the best, most satisfying work I've ever done. Because of my layoffs, I have met many wonderful people while networking, and I have had a diversity of job experiences I would not have had if I had stayed with my first company until I retired. I even started my own consulting business, which taught me that I really can be an entrepreneur. In short, the layoffs were difficult endings, but they resulted in a richness in my life and career that I could never have experienced if they had not happened. Every layoff is a great opportunity after you grieve the loss and then start looking forward.

Chuck Petch (

The Beginning

After eighteen years of living in Twin Falls, Idaho, I lost my job. Throughout the duration of this time, I certainly had my share of tribulation. This time was different. Blame the tough economic times, yet I choose to see it differently. A person can only do so much before being faced with a decision; one that is life changing.
It’s been 6 months,  since I, at forty-seven years old, moved back home with my parents.
The decision to come back home appeared at first, an easy one to make. Why not? Here was an opportunity to get back on my feet; a fresh start with all the comforts of home. Yet, I found this notion to extend beyond this reasoning.
  As children growing up with our parents, home is never-ending. Home will always be there with its memory making experiences; however, once grown and life deals you a hand full of uncertainty, as it did me, home can take on an entirely new meaning.

Losing a job is losing your dignity. A feeling of failure sets in. Fear of what the future holds is embellished within the mind. At the very least, moving back home with my parents has been a humbling experience. The idea of home as I saw it as a child, transitioned to a feeling of obligation and guilt. My identity came into question. Am I a grown woman? Am I a vulnerable child? Where is the boundary? Do I live by my parent’s expectations or live up to my own?  It became clear to me I was not here for an annual visit, but to begin a new life.
Laura Papke