Ouch, you’ve just realised you need to look for a new job. Where do you start and what should you make sure you do? Unfortunately as a result of COVID-19, many people are finding themselves without a job. This is often a really horrible situation, so let’s dive in and share some ideas with you.
Some say the only certainties in life are death, taxes and change! That may well be true but are you aware that there are two types of change—chosen and unchosen change? Change that we choose ourselves—voluntary change—is often easier to deal with, but still has it’s bleak moments. Unchosen change seems to be filled with many more bleak moments, but can often have a good ending.
What does all this have to do with finding a job though? It depends whether you’re being proactive (chosen change) or reactive (unchosen change). If you have read the lovely little book Who moved my cheese? by Spencer Johnson, you’ll know the importance of continually assessing the situation around you. In the book, the cheese doesn’t disappear overnight, it happens over an extended period of time. If you are on the lookout, you will notice it is happening, but if not, it could take you by surprise.
If you are being proactive, you will most likely go through these five stages of chosen change:
Stage 1: Acceptance – you feel relieved that you’ve made the decision to change. This might last a few minutes or a few weeks, but you’re ready to face the new challenges.
Stage 2: Exploring – you begin to explore your options and try to find out as much as possible. This is often exciting and interesting.
Stage 3: Reaction – you react to your decision and think “Oh no, what have I done?”. You may feel confused, scared or anxious. Some call this stage ‘getting cold feet’.
Stage 4: Acceptance – you accept the reality of the change and its consequences, both positive and negative.
Stage 5: Resolution – you are keen to make the changes work in constructive ways, and try to make the most of the change. You may need to re-skill and make some adjustments to your lifestyle.
With chosen change in your career, you would be looking around you for signs that change is afoot. Is the annual budget for your organisation looking to be in deficit, so jobs might have to be cut? Is the priority or importance of your workgroup within the organisation diminishing, possibly resulting in future budget cuts and job losses? Are you finding it more and more difficult to get along with your colleagues, or worse still, your new boss? Are you finding it harder to get out of bed in the mornings, as you’re getting less satisfaction from your job? All these might be signs that your cheese could be moving.
This is a good time to be observing what’s happening in other areas of your organisation or other places you could possibly work. This helps keep you informed and tell you whether the changes you’re noticing are just in your workgroup or are more widespread. This is valuable information that can help you make an informed decision later on.
Networking is always a good thing to be doing, but especially so if you are looking at making a change. As outlined in What color is your parachute?, Richard Bolles recommends networking to find the person with the authority to hire you, instead of sending out hundreds of random resumes. Networking builds your social capital—the more people you know and the better your connections, the more likely it is that they might be able to help you find a more suitable position. You do not want to be reaching out to someone you have not spoken with for ages, only to discover that things are not any better there anyway.
Instead, make a list of the key people who you know that are working in compatible areas. For instance, if you are currently working with the state government, consider people who might be doing similar types of work in local or federal government. Then start reaching out to them, but instead of making it all about you and your predicament, focus on them and what is happening for them. Ask probing questions to better understand their situation and how they’re feeling about it.
Ask if there’s anything you can do to help them, such as introducing them to one of your contacts perhaps. Then bring the conversation around to you and share how things are going for you. Hopefully by the end of the conversation it will have been mutually beneficial. But do not leave it there. Make a note in your calendar to catch up with them in two or three months time, when you can perhaps go even deeper in your conversation. This is what builds rapport and trust.
Think about your transferable skills—things like project management or facilitation. While you might have been using them in your context of agriculture, you might be just as able to use them in mining or natural resource management.
By scanning the environment and keeping in touch with people, you might decide to initiate change yourself. When John worked in government he did this a few times, as he could see things were just going to get worse in his current position. Mostly John just applied for jobs that interested him, but on a couple of occasions he used a different approach. John set up a meeting with the manager of a group he wanted to work in and then pitched a proposal of how they could benefit from him being a part of their team. In these cases, the manager already knew John and his track record, as John had been informally networking with them. We know in government you usually just wait for positions to be advertised and then apply, but John went in on the front foot like this twice and was successful both times! Each time they arranged for his position to be transferred into their group and he did not need to go through a formal selection process. It is a bit unusual but we mention it as an example of trying different approaches.
Those are some suggestions of how to be proactive. But what if it is an unchosen change—you have just been told your position is being terminated. This can be terrible news and difficult to take. Sometimes there is no way to know this coming—take COVID-19 for example—no one really saw that freight train approaching us, until it hit us. Most likely you’ll go through these five stages:
Stage 1: Denial – you are shocked and stunned. You react by denying the change and its effects.
Stage 2: Self-justification – you experience strong feelings of anger, depression, hurt and resentment. You just want to blame someone.
Stage 3: Acceptance – you start to face the reality of the change and even though you do not like it, you start to accept the decision.
Stage 4: Exploration – you start looking at options and taking responsibility. Your thinking becomes more positive.
Stage 5: Resolution – you are keen to make the changes work in constructive ways. You get on with it and try to make the most of it.
John came across the Chosen and Unchosen change model several years ago, when it was being used by the Building Rural Leaders program in DPI. That however has since finished and we cannot find anywhere that they have published it. (Please let us know if you do know where it has been published by getting in touch with us directly or in the comments below.)
The stages outlined above are similar to the ones that patients with terminal illnesses go through. This is detailed by the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On death and dying. It is easy to get stuck on either of the first two stages. In fact many people cycle between them, spiralling into depression and a sense of hopelessness. When this is happening to you, it is hard but you need to work through those tough emotions and accept that it probably is terrible what has happened to you. Feel the grief and the pain. Blame others and rant and rave. But then drag yourself out of the abyss and accept that it has happened and there is nothing that you can do about it. Force yourself to move on and accept the reality of the situation. You do not have to like it, but you do need to accept that it has happened and be ready to move on. Just remember that what you did as a job does not define you as a person—you are much more than that!
Let us just say that when you are stuck in the first two stages, it can be a horrible place to be. If you recognise yourself being here and struggle to move on, please consider reaching out to others who might be able to assist you work through it. This is where counsellors and psychologists come into their own, and can just ask the right series of questions to help nudge you onto the next stage.
You should then be ready to start exploring options. But to start with, it is good to be aware of your strengths and abilities. Often those around us can see these better than we can, and can offer good suggestions. Sometimes we are not aware of the things we are good at, which is referred to as unconscious competence—you do it without thinking.
If you are not aware of your strengths, then it is something you really ought to explore further. We are reminded of a great book we have both read. Now, discover your strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton was published back in 2001 and then in 2007 it was significantly revised and updated, with a new title Strengthsfinder 2.0 and a new author, Tom Rath.
John really likes its focus on positive psychology, where you look at what you are good at and focus on how to improve that; rather than focusing on your weaknesses and trying to improve them. For example, if your child comes home from school with their report card—what do you focus on—the As and Bs or the Ds and Es? Positive psychologists say you should focus on the As and Bs, as they show natural talent that can be further improved with knowledge and skills. It is better to maximise your strengths rather than fixing your weaknesses.
When you buy the Strengthsfinder 2.0 book, it includes a one-off code to access a website where you answer a heap of questions. It takes about 30 minutes but it then analyses your responses and identifies your top five strengths. For example, Denise’s top five strengths are: Connectedness, Input, Empathy, Intellection and Belief. The book then outlines various strategies you can use to further develop and strengthen these. Just in case you are wondering… John’s top five strengths are Analytical, Learner, Discipline, Deliberative and Maximiser!
But, back to the story! By talking with others and maybe reading that book, you will be more aware of your strengths. Be creative and jot down different ideas. Use a mindmap to tease out different options. But do not just do this by yourself—start getting out and meeting with people again and get their ideas. It would probably be a good idea to be socially active at this stage, as often in the earlier stages of unchosen change, we tend to crawl back into our shells and minimise interaction with the outside world.
You then need to start exploring some of these options and see where they may lead. Remember that you do not have to accept the first offer that comes your way, but it may lead to something else that is even better. And be patient—these things usually take longer than we expect and can involve a lot of deadends.
An extra resource you might find useful is the recent book In the Loop: Of a flourishing career, in which Katherine Street covers how you can work on, not just in, your career. She also outlines how you can increase your chances of success in selection processes. She distributes a handy eBulletin bi-weekly and you can see past topics and sign up for it over on her People Flourishing blog.
So there you go—those are our thoughts about finding a new job opportunity. Sadly many people are having to go through this at the moment, so hopefully something we have mentioned might be helpful. What would also be helpful is for you to add your thoughts and ideas below! Share with us what has worked for you and what advice you might share with someone looking for a job at the moment.
Thanks for reading!
Bolles, R. N. (2020). What Color Is Your Parachute? 2020: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. Random House Digital, Inc.
Buckingham, M., & Clifton, D. O. (2001). Now, discover your strengths. Simon and Schuster.
Johnson, S. (2015). Who moved my cheese? Random House.
Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying. London and New York.
Rath, T. (2007). StrengthsFinder 2.0. Simon and Schuster.
Street, K. (2019). In the Loop: Of a Flourishing Career. Balboa Press.