Thursday, August 6, 2009

Small Steps, Big Leaps

By ALEXANDRA LEVIT Until recently, I was a glass half-empty kind of girl. If 10 good things happened and one bad thing happened, guess what I would focus on? I put tremendous pressure on myself to achieve immediate success, and when my career didn't progress splendidly in all respects, I'd feel miserable. Job Hunting Isn't Easy For some, this may sound familiar. However, for job seekers and career changers, it's a recipe for disaster, because landing a dream job usually isn't a smooth or expeditious process. "It's easy to get discouraged, because in this market, getting hired will take longer than you thought," says Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire and author of "Fired to Hired: Bouncing Back from Job Loss to Get to Work Right Now." "The danger is that you'll stop trying and start slacking." So how do you settle in for the long haul and avoid sinking into a pit of nonproductivity? Ms. Johnson suggests taking some form of action every day -- such as calling a mentor to brainstorm or researching area firms on LinkedIn -- in order to sustain momentum and keep yourself in a "doing" mindset. "There is a lot of activity that leads up to closing the deal, and each time you inch ahead, you should feel a sense of satisfaction," she says. Ms. Johnson knows of what she speaks. The primary work of her company, Women for Hire, is job fairs. As corporate hiring has slowed down, so has Ms. Johnson's revenue stream. "A good day for us used to involve making a big sale, but in a recession, we have to adjust our expectations," she says. " Now, we try to be happy when we receive a promising lead." Of course, it's easier said than done. I overcome my tendency toward negativity with a simple exercise. Every day, I write down all the things I accomplished that moved my career in the desired direction. Even if it's something small -- for example, doing an interview with a new source -- I add it to the list. I also write any career setbacks in a separate column, and when I compare the two lists side-by-side, I inevitably realize that I'm taking three or four steps forward for every one step back. An upbeat frame of mind infuses everything you do, and it can make you more competitive in the job market too. "Optimism alone won't get you a job, but pessimism will keep you unemployed longer," says Ms. Johnson. "In competing against high-caliber people, you have to have the right attitude as well as the right skills." Reward Yourself When my motivation flags, I find it helpful to treat myself to something I enjoy. While dinners out and massages are nice, if you're strapped for cash, a reward can be as simple as indulging in your favorite TV show. I also take comfort in knowing that there are others in the same situation and commiserating with them from time to time. This way, instead of feeling alienated and alone, I go through my day understood and supported.

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