Throw Down Your Professional Gang Signs

So this morning on my usual miserable commute to Brooklyn from Queens I was dangerously cut off by a 10+ year old red Ford Explorer. What’s the only thing worse than that? It had stickers on the back that it was part of an SUV driving ‘riders’ group like motorcycle gangs have. I forget the actual group name, but the car was named “Apple Bottom,” as in the trashy clothing line.

Wow, there’s a group of people who have banded together because they recklessly drive SUV’s for kicks? Then about 20 minutes later I see another one, guy driving a different color SUV, also not a nice or new one, different SUV club.

So in today’s salute to trash, let’s learn a few things – like drive safely or you might end up being called out on someone’s blog (or killing yourself or someone else, but don’t let that stop you, ride on sister, ride on).

And learn and harness the power of groups. Gather a gang of your own that supports you and your goals. Most people have friends and family, but a lot of times these people may be knowingly, or unknowingly sabotaging your current or future happiness. These people may have known you most of your life, and they may love you more than anyone else ever could – but they also may be holding you back.

When you’ve played a certain role in your life, those around you expect you to keep filling the same role – and that can be hard to break free from, especially if you’re looking to make any change that involves an element of risk – which most major changes do.

So if you know you’re ready to start your own business or practice, or want to change careers at the age of 50 – start slow and try, and find people to help and support you with it. By the way, I’m not saying it’s OK to be reckless and throw away a career on a whim and ignore everyone around you either. You may have resistance also because you’re embracing a really bad idea – so heed warnings of those close to you, but don’t let them hold you back if it’s a logical decision.

Luckily nowadays finding people to bond with is easier than ever online. From craiglist.org, facebook, myspace, or whichever industry you’re looking to bond with people from – there’s an online group. Meetup.com and eventbrite.com also have specific types of meet-ups for different industries and hobbies all over the world as well.

So if you’re ready for change, but those close to you aren’t onboard – join or start a new gang. Find people who also love and believe in your mission, and embrace it. Just screen them really carefully before meeting in a public, well-lit area. You want to cover your bases in case the crazy comes out.

Now you don’t need gang colors, gang names, or gang signs, but hey, why not. It’ll help you bond and identify others just like you. I doubt the dangerous jalopy SUV drivers’ mothers are thrilled with them ‘riding’ for kicks. But I’m sure it makes them happy, or they wouldn’t be doing it.

Once you have a team to support you, it’ll be easier to pursue your dreams.

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Job Market Floods & How to Present a Layoff

I remember my dad telling me what it was like trying to find a job when he got back from the Vietnam war. A depressed economy, with thousands of soldiers returning home to find out their positions were eliminated or that the companies they worked for had closed, all fighting again, but for a few jobs this time.

I can see that happening pretty quickly over here…assuming our troops are actually brought home in the next few years – but there’s a different kind of flood – an ‘end of unemployment’ flood. Details based on what date you started receiving benefits & cut offs can be found here: http://www.labor.state.ny.us/ui/claimantinfo/ExtendedBenefits.shtm

If I know a lot of people who’ve been on unemployment since their layoff in 2008(ish) who have been floating by on those weekly sign-ins for their checks, I’m sure there must be thousands more in the same position. If I had a dime for every time I heard the attitude of, “I’ll find a job when my unemployment stops getting extended,” or “I’m just letting the government pay me back for all the years I’ve contributed to unemployment benefits.”

Well kids, the day has come. No easy check will be deposited into your account this week, and there’s non-stop press about employers who say “Unemployed need not apply.” But let’s be realistic. Target is hiring. If you needed money bad enough, you’d walk in and take the night shift (great benefits, you won’t run into anyone you know, team morale, physical work so you won’t need to go to the gym, and higher pay than the day shift).

And now you’re competing with all the other soldiers who also just got their last check & will be flooding the market.

So is everyone running to apply to Target now? No. It’s beneath your dignity. You used to make 4x the annual salary and can’t bring yourself to do it. It’ll look bad on your resume (who says it needs to be there? Keep up your volunteer work & put that there instead). Pick your excuse of why you‘re not willing to take one of the thousands of jobs posted on monster.com. Yes, you all want the 6 figure career you used to have – and that’s who you’re competing with to get it – everyone.

Someone will get those big ticket jobs, but will it be you if you’ve been laid off? I think every smart recruiter (or hiring manager) should know the difference between a mass layoff and a weakest link layoff. I think a lot of how this comes across is going to be how you present it.

So what’s the ‘correct’ way to swing it that you were the weakest link at an interview? That you were the only person from your division eliminated? I’d say honestly, but with a positive spin, let’s try these.

  1. Fit problem: You were passionate about the mission of X organization, but weren’t placed into the correct role. Then present immediately without taking a breath why you are the correct fit for the job you’re interviewing for.
  2. Cite irreconcilable differences 1: Either between you and your company, or you and your manager, as in divorce court. No-fault of your own, just a different strokes for different folks situation. “Any sort of difference between the two parties that either cannot be changed or the individual does not want to change can be considered irreconcilable differences.”
  3. Fess up: “I made x huge mistake due to y factor which could never possibly happen again thanks to a & b factors. I’ve learned the lesson that z and have grown from it in c & d ways.”
  4. Wrong place at the wrong time: “Budget cuts made my position impossible to fund, and I’m sure the company would have kept me if they could have afforded to. I’d be happy to provide references that can attest to my excellent work ethic and company contributions.” But do NOT include the last part if you don’t have at least 1 coworker or supervisor who liked you enough to back it up.

 

So in conclusion, I’m all for only taking jobs that will continue to advance you within your chosen career path (more on that another time), but if you need to make the mortgage & look cute in red, Target takes walk in applications! Best of luck to you all, I know it’s a disheartening situation you’re in, but give it your all, lower your expectations & you’ll be back in the swing of things in no time at all.

References

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreconcilable_differences.

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