Internet Fatigue and New Job Opportunities

How big is your digital footprint? You might be surprised. Go to Pipl.com and type in your name and city of residence. It will show you how much of your personal data and photos are readily available to anyone who wants to look.

Our footprint increases exponentially as we engage more and more with the giant engines of virtual reality, including mobile and social media, e-commerce, gaming, online fashion, online education, big data, outsourcing, cloud computing, cyber security, healthcareIT, and the Internet Of Things. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, and Microsoft make up 5 of the top 10 companies in the world when ranked by market cap. Them and thousands of other digital companies—such as Uber, Airbnb, Netflix–are disrupting and driving our economy.

Being plugged in 24/7 has pros and cons. On the one hand, these online companies create new jobs and opportunities; on the other, they create online addictions. CBS News reports that famous entrepreneur, Richard Branson, is imposing a digital detox program on all Virgin employees: Branson recognizes that excessive screen time has a negative effect on his employees because it reduces their productivity as it undermines their health and well-being.

One of my clients, Eric, alerted me to the risks of excessive screen time back in 2007 when he admitted to “internet addiction.” He would literally surf the web until he collapsed with exhaustion in front of his computer screen. Eric is not an isolated case, especially as our jobs become more dependent on digital technologies. We are all at risk of “internet fatigue” that undermines our productivity as employees and our relationships with family and friends. Eric’s remedy was an equally extreme antidote—he unplugged from the internet and cycled through 9 different countries over 5 years. You can read his amazing story here.

Social entrepreneurs like Eric are springing up to organize a movement that will help individuals unplug from virtual reality and reconnect with nature and people. They will create digital detox programs for various work and home environments to prevent “internet fatigue,” and develop treatment regimens for online addictions.

I have to admit, I’m discouraged by the recent FaceBook (FB) scandal that shows how quickly and easily my online data can be ‘scraped’ and sold to big business and big government. As an early adopter of internet platforms, I loved how it empowered ordinary people to do things that were previously the exclusive domain of such top down structures of control and power. But, increasingly, our personal power online is being overtaken by digital profiteers like FB.

Predictability is control

The business of FB is data collection from its 2 billion users. FB sells our data to third parties because that is how it makes money. Third parties like Cambridge Analytica mine that data and package it as ‘predictability’ before they sell it to customers. Is it any wonder that big business and big government are buying our data to restore and strengthen their control over what we consume with our minds and money? It might also help to explain why FB & Co. advocate for self-regulation and why governments are reluctant to regulate in the best interests of consumers; one hand feeds the other.

Did you know that Cambridge Analytica and other data miners use computer models that can assess your personality with a startling degree of accuracy from only “10 likes” on FB? From 150 likes it can predict your behavior better than your parents and siblings, while it can do better than your spouse if you give it 300 likes.

When you upload your contacts to FB, the social media giant uses that as a starting point to build a profile on those who don’t have a profile. By collecting photos of unnamed people, or email addresses it knows its users contact, or the results of inane online quizzes, the company can figure out who new people are and who else they know–even if they don’t have a FB account.

Even if you’re not using FB, it is using you. Look at the top of just about any web page and you’ll see a small button allowing you to “like” it on FB; it uses that button to track your online activities even when you aren’t logged into it. FB has tracking software on hundreds of thousands of the world’s top websites. For example, when I search for used items on Kijiji, such as tires, ads for the same then show up on FB’s Marketplace, even though I never mentioned anything about tires in my FB posts.

The trade-off between privacy and convenience is at the heart of social media

You might think all is harmless enough but you don’t need to know how a TV works to understand how TV steals your time and manipulates your buying habits. If you don’t like what TV is doing, you can switch it off. Same with social media. I recently reduced my digital footprint on Pipl.com by simply changing the Privacy settings on my social media accounts.

But, as a result of doing research for this article, I’ve decided to close my personal FB account. It is convenient to see what family and friends and favorite orgs are doing in other cities and countries. However, a self-imposed exile from social media may help me to think more deliberately about bigger issues at stake while exercising my right to privacy.

Now that warmer weather and longer days are upon us, I also want to invest my limited time in offline activities for awhile. I can always open another FB account with another email later if I so desire.

There seems no way to stop the inevitable march towards virtual reality…but the current FB scandal is an excellent reminder that it may be time to slow it down and guard not only our personal privacy but our collective health and human-ness.

Are you ready for the new world of work?

It’s easy to manage your career when the world of work is stable and follows a set of rules that both employers and employees agree upon. This was the ‘cradle-to-grave’ job security that formed an unwritten social contract for decades since WWII. It allowed our society to move forward with political stability and economic affluence.

Hey! rub-a-dub-dub, three fools in a tub,

And who do you think were there?

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker,

And all of them gone to the fair.

This nursery rhyme captures the spirit of that social contract, the notion that a rising tide of GDP floated all boats and carried everyone along on a light-hearted trip to a future of fun.

That social contract has been torn to shreds in North America by changing social and economic conditions, such as the hollowing out of the manufacturing sector and the millions of high-paying unionized jobs that went with it; the outsourcing of other jobs to Asia; the shift to lower-paying service jobs; the pervasive 24/7 reach of cellphones and other technologies that make it harder to establish boundaries between work and home; and other social trends and issues.

Did you know that the top 10 in-demand occupations of 2015 had not been invented in 2000? Or, that more information will be created next year than was created in the last 5,000 years. Or, that the average person will make 7 to 14 occupational changes by age 38?

Yes, it is much more difficult to manage your career in this millennium than the last. Did you wake up this morning dreaming of a future as a:

• Gamification Specialist
• Social networking affiliate manager
• Nano-mechanic
• Old age wellness manager
• Memory augmentation surgeon
• Weather modification police
• Waste data handler
• Personal brander/communications advisor
• Parallel programmer?

Probably not. If you thought about the changing world of work at all, you probably asked yourself: “Where do I fit in this world? What is available to me? How do I achieve a balance between my needs and all of the forces and influences around me?”

Big business, big government, and big unions have shown quite clearly since 2000 that they cannot provide guaranteed careers for a lifetime of work because they cannot control external variables, such as financial markets, climate change, technological revolutions, terrorism, and other influences on the economy.

These questions are best answered, I suggest, by shifting our career management strategy from an objective perspective, one that uses linear thinking–such as go to a good school, get good grades, get a good job, and climb a ladder of promotions and income—because that job-for-life will not be there.

Instead, we need to prepare our selves and our children to think about work in terms of fluidity and flexibility to meet the challenge of much change in a short period of time.

In order to meet these challenges in the external world, we may need to better master our internal world, to get a better understanding of our talents, beliefs, motivations, and values in order to shift efficiently and effectively with the twists and turns of a global economy and social upheaval. We need to know what hard skills we are suited to acquire and sell in the marketplace, and we need to know what soft skills we are suited to developing to sell those skills. In short, we need to think more subjectively.

Prepare yourself and your children to adapt to this rapidly changing world. Moving from an objective way of thinking about career to a subjective way of thinking is not easy but it starts with understanding your “life story” and how it relates to the kind of work we are best suited for as individuals and where that connects to the social world.

In the coming months, I will write more about how you can build and sustain the energy, enthusiasm and skills to be continuous adapting to this changing world of work, and especially how to find the fun in doing so!

The Peter-Out Principle

As we get older, it is harder and harder to do work we don’t enjoy. Why? Because our energy gets drained by such work…leaving us less and less energy for what we really want to do. This is the Peter Out principle, not to be confused with the infamous Peter Principle.

I have written elsewhere about that one, the notion that people get promoted on the job because of their natural flair for doing certain kinds of work until they reach a level of incompetence because that new job doesn’t require any of their natural talents or motivations. Or, to put it in more simple terms, people advance in their career until they stop having fun.

Many others, of course, never find that fun to begin with. They fall into a job, or take a job because they needed to support their kids, or because they don’t know what else to do. Work, for them, often becomes a grind, a duty, or an obligation to pay bills, cover the mortgage, or take care of family. It’s our bargain with the devil of job security that leads to dissatisfaction or worse:

“I’m stuck. I’m shackled in the golden handcuffs. I have good leave benefits and look forward to a half decent pension, but I do not enjoy the work that I am doing. I crave that creative side that seems to be missing from my life and yet I never seem to get around to. I find that there needs to be a buffer of time to get the ‘creative juices’ flowing- time I don’t seem to have after-work commitments and commuting. I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall….” This is a complaint I hear again and again from men and women in mid-career or middle age. It is experienced by huge numbers of people.

This is the Peter-Out Principle in action. The origin of the phrase peter out is thought to be associated with the name St. Peter, which in medieval France may have morphed into slang for the male sex appendage. So, to peter out means to fall off in power, to dwindle away to…nothing.

As far back as 1962, psychologist Abraham Maslow discovered that one of the best–if not the best–way to achieve personal power is through work. “All human beings prefer meaningful work to meaningless work. If work is meaningless, then life comes close to being meaningless.” In his hierarchy of needs, Maslow was simply pointing out what we all know to be true: that work is not just about making money, it’s also about making meaning.

Doing our work well requires some competency, confidence, or power. When our enthusiasm for work fizzles out, fades away, we might say we are petering out. When we work just for money, our desire for meaning, for vitality, for life ebbs away, tapers off, melts away–it peters out!

When considering this truth, I can’t help but think of Hazel McCallion, the mayor of Mississauga, Canada’s 9th largest city, who first won office at age 57 and just retired at age 93. If she worked only for money, she’d have retired a long time ago. No one could accuse her of petering out! She is one example of many who prove it is never too late to find work that energizes you.

As a job change expert, my goal is to help you do so by identifying, defining and mobilizing your Aptitudes, Attitudes, and Appropriate Actions.

Avoid Burnout & Advance Career – Get in the zone!

Flow−the experience we have when we’re “in the zone”−has been studied for decades by psychologist Csikszentmihalyi. During a flow state, people are fully absorbed and highly focused…they lose themselves in the activity.

When your work utilizes your natural talents and motivations, when your daily grind is helping to create what really matters to you in life, then you are in your right work. There is a flow to it, an innate satisfaction abounds from it, and you derive genuine joy from what you do, a joy that is clearly evident to others.

Every job has a downside. We all have tasks we detest. Doing calculus homework in high school, for example, might be boring and hard if you have no knack for solving logical problems through numbers. You start but feel mentally exhausted, and you know you’re not getting the right answers.

But, you might also be an aspiring architect. Your math teacher clearly explains in detail how calculus can help you design more creative and ambitious structures. Your aspiration is personally important to you and the idea of creating interesting structures fascinates you. Suddenly, you see calculus in a new light. Instead of feeling exhausted by your homework, you now feel energized and motivated to learn to solve these problems. It’s the same work, but it now has a very different psychological effect on you.

Similarly, you might be in a helping profession, such as counselling, and have a strong desire to be self-employed in private practice working one-on-one with individual clients. But you can’t practice unless you have a funnel of clients who want your services. You don’t have a sales bone in your body. You once had a sales job and suffered burnout–it almost killed you.
But, now you gladly research sales and marketing tools techniques and implement them because your aspiration for self-employment is greater than you distaste for sales. You start to get clients and feel energized which, in turn, keeps you motivated to do the sales and marketing necessary to bring in clients.

Research shows that interest helps us perform our best without feeling fatigued. In one recent study, psychologists asked a group of undergraduates to work on word puzzles. Before they began, they were told them how exciting and enjoyable the task would be. Then they read a statement that framed the task as either personally valuable or of neutral value.

Those who read the first statement, and who also thought the task would be enjoyable, solved the most problems. Their engagement was more efficient because they were “in the zone” and not simply working on problems for a long period of time.

Psychology experiments often get participants to squeeze a spring-loaded exercise grip for as long as they can while performing another task to see if this increased performance makes people feel fatigued, or if high interest in a task maintains their mental resources. Much like the self-control needed to stay on task when we would rather do something more fun, resisting the urge to let go of your grip when it becomes uncomfortable also requires self-control. And that exertion of self-control is mentally fatiguing.

So, in a follow up study, psychologists found that people who thought the puzzle was highly enjoyable and highly important not only performed among the best, again, but they also squeezed the hand grip the longest. In other words, they solved the most problems, and it was not mentally exhausting for them. In contrast, those who were uninterested in the task generally performed worse, let go of the grip sooner, and were mentally fatigued by the effort.

Interest matters. It is crucial to keeping us motivated and effective without emptying our mental gas tank, and it can turn the mundane into something exciting.

Knowing the subject matter that most interests you, knowing your natural talents and motivations can help you harness “flow” to your advantage—to find your right work or advance your career.

Writing the wrongs of job loss

Have you ever lost a job, been terminated one way or another? Not fun, right? Most people feel considerable anger and hostility about their termination experience–It’s not fair! It’s not right! Why me? Stupid management! Terrible decision!

The conventional wisdom among career professionals is to ignore these highly charged emotions and get their clients looking for another job right away. I beg to differ.

My personal and professional experience has demonstrated to me the necessity of taking time to deal with these feelings of anger, disappointment, and pain of rejection in an effective manner…before it deals with you!

The negative effects of job loss can be devastating for many individuals. I have learned that expressing these highly charged feelings, safely, helps to mitigate their power over individuals.

For example, I have a client who was terminated after 20+ years with the same company; even after six months he still gets angry about the “injustice” of his layoff, then falls into a depressive episode. I encouraged him to sit down, whenever this situation occurs, and write out his thoughts and feelings, just let it flow out in a stream of consciousness, no censoring, no editing. As he says, “the very act of articulating our thoughts and feelings can have a normalizing effect on the emotional state.”

Scientific proof

It is one thing to know this but another to prove it through a scientific approach. Luckily, that’s exactly what was done when researchers Spera, Buhrfeind & Pennebaker (1994) designed a study to address the emotional effects of job loss with 63 recently unemployed professionals (mostly middle-aged engineers). They tested the impact of disclosive writing on their subsequent reemployment activity and success.

Interestingly, results showed no real difference between experimental and control groups on behaviours related to:

a. reducing stress as indicated by self-report measures and physiological markers (blood pressure, weight, and heart rate); or,
b. increasing motivation to look for another job as evidenced by phone calling, letter writing, and interviewing behaviours.

Notably, however, the researchers did find that those who wrote about their thoughts and emotions were reemployed more quickly than those who wrote about non-traumatic topics or those who did not write at all.

They caution both job seekers and their career counsellors about dismissing this psychological processing in favour of immediate job search activity.

do-kids-write-autobiography-themselves-120X120

In addition, the subjects themselves were adamant that the writing process would have been more useful to them at the time of departure from their jobs than it was several months later.

That is why writing exercises are at the core of what I do. Yes, it is important to express feelings about job loss in order to clear some emotional space to move on to another job or change careers. But it is also essential in my view to write about times in your life when you are doing what you enjoy most and well, in order to establish more clarity and confidence about what you offer others through your work.

Discharge negative feelings, then recharge with proof positive of your strengths and value in the world of work!

From Doormat to Driver’s Seat—Career Change in the New Economy

Entering the world of work is like walking through a door.  Previously, we could follow a simple formula—go to school, get good grades, go to college or university, get good grades, which gets you a good job, then live a good life.  We all knew which door to walk through.  This was the “grand narrative” or post-WWII social contract that characterized the working lives of people lucky enough to be born and raised in the Western world.

Not anymore.  The new millennium ushered in a new social arrangement of work, a post-industrial order, fuelled by information technologies, global economics, cultural diversity, and postmodern ideas.

Uncertainty.  That’s the new buzzword for the workplace of 2014 and beyond.  How we respond to these profound changes is crucial to our physical, mental, and social well-being.  In the words of William Arthur Ward “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

We can be doormats and let these new social realities walk all over us (or hope, unrealistically, they never show up at our door).

Instead of being passive, we can be pro-active and cross the threshold of despair or denial by putting ourselves into the driver’s seat to navigate successfully through obstacles.

The cradle-to-grave job security of the Industrial Age still exists but, paradoxically, only in the most non-industrialized sector—the public service at all levels of government, and that security will be challenged by demands for harmonization with less stable private sector working conditions.

For an increasing number of individuals, then, this new reality of work in the Information Age involves job prospects that are far less definable, predictable, or stable…especially for young adults who are finding it increasingly difficult to break into good jobs.

Unfortunately, this is increasingly true for mid-lifers too!  Midlife is a normal developmental life stage that occurs usually between 35-55 years of age.  I’m seeing a growing number of layoffs in this age group.  Take the newspaper industry as one example.  The chances of finding a similar job in the same sector for a senior journalist, editor, manager is very difficult–almost impossible– as online news sources replace the traditional business model of print ads supporting news.  The same goes for many other sectors of the economy that are facing significant changes due to de-industrialization, organizational mergers, downsizing, economic restructuring, and other factors.

While the wider world of work is changing as we speak, what has not changed is the importance of work in the lives of individuals, as a means for survival, power, self-worth, social connection, or self-determination.  The meaning and purpose of work for many of us as will be severely challenged in the next decade. 

Since we can’t count on that simple formula or grand narrative anymore for guiding our career decisions, we need to focus on our individual narratives or stories to help us navigate through this grave new world of work.  For the past 20 years, I have helped young adults find a career job and helped mid-lifers make effective career changes. I do it by constructing a new story for my clients, one that empowers them to see the road ahead and make decisions that put them in charge of their career.  How I do so is explained in this short video and at this link.

Understanding who and what you are in terms of work—not a narrowly-defined job description but the kind of work you are suited for and needs doing in the world—is needed to survive and thrive in today ’s uncertain labor market. Current labor-market realities are changing.  For example, there is a big shift in North America from a manufacturing to a service economy, whether we like it or not.  Having clarity about your career identity—who and what you are in terms of a work-based value proposition—gives you more ability and flexibility to adapt to the changing labor market.  Your story holds the key to your adaptability, your prospects of making a successful change when the time comes…and it will come!

Career transitions are now and will continue to be more frequent and, perhaps, more difficult here in North America.   Are you ready?

From Doormat to Driver's Seat

Hope Springs Eternal for Career Change

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

What do you hope for in 2014?

Empirical studies indicate that most episodes of hope involve achievement-related goals, e.g. success in some academic, artistic, athletic, career, relationship, and so on. “Hope is the passion for the possible.”

When it is allied with our highest aspirations and deepest values, it can give us a general orientation to life that motivates us to take actions…and propel us towards our desires.

Hope is grounded in desire

In the quote above, Pope refers to the desire to be blessed. Do you know someone with the first name, Hope? Ask them why their parents gave them that name.

One friend told me she was born prematurely at 1.5 lbs in a place and time where there were no medical facilities to treat her. Her mother and father put her in an incubator—where she stayed for 4 months—and prayed, then hoped for the best. They were elderly parents and Hope turned out to be their only child—a true blessing in their lives! She felt truly loved by her parents, deeply cared for, and relishes the time she had with them. She feels blessed as their child.

Caring about our future

Hope belongs to a constellation of feelings and attitudes related to caring about our future. On the positive side it is related to optimism, confidence, courage, faith, gratitude, and contrasts with fear, pessimism, resignation, despair. Usually, it is felt less intensely than fear, more like a sentiment that has a positive moral value.

One function of hope is to give goals far away from us their due importance. For example, making a career change usually takes time. Hope rouses feelings necessary to influence our conduct, to motivate us to take actions towards future goals. It helps us to overcome everyday difficulties by looking beyond them to a better future.

Hope motivates us to plan

Having made several career transitions myself, and helped hundreds of individuals make significant career changes during the past 20 years, I have learned that hope—as a general orientation towards achieving future goals—increases the effectiveness of career change tools and techniques, such as visioning, goal setting, planning, implementing, adapting actions, prospecting opportunities.

In the quote above, Pope uses the word expatiates, which means to speak or write at length or in detail. I guide my clients through a process of speaking and writing to uncover their hopes and desires.

I strive to help my clients develop clarity about their strengths, particularly their talents and motivations, in order to foster realistic hope. Clarity feeds confidence and increases self-understanding, both necessary for taking effective actions to realize goals. But hope provides the framework for action.

Hope is the well spring of desire and we deserve to be in a state of desire!

After all, if we have no hope for a better future, why take any actions?

I will leave you with some words of hope from the wise…may they nurture and sustain and help you persevere through the difficult times of the year ahead.

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. (Dale Carnegie)

Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles. (Samuel Smiles)

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” (Pope John XXIII)

Job Change and the Hourglass of Eternal Recurrence

This is the time of year when we are regaled with year end reviews—news, movies, musical hits, championships, scandals, and so on. Let’s step away from the usual sort of reviews for a thought experiment.

Imagine some demon sitting on your shoulder and whispering in your ear: “This life—as you lived it this past year—you will have to live once more, and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and everything unutterably small or great in your life will return to you, all in the same succession and sequence.”

Is this past year, one that you would want repeated again, forever, like an eternal hourglass of existence turned upside down again and again and again? Imagine going through life with chronic stress from work, or dis-ease, anxiety, dissatisfaction, hopelessness, depression. Let’s face it, that’s what most of us put up with in order to make a living to get to a pension and out of this life with some level of comfort.

This idea is sometimes called Nietzsche’s wager, so named for Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19 C. philosopher, who first popularized it. Think of the psychological consequences of eternal recurrence: Each time you choose an action or avoid one, you are making a bet or wager on its consequence for eternity.

How can you not hate this thought experiment?

Imagine being stuck in a job you hate, or don’t like, or feel indifferent to…imagine having to perform the same job duties over and over again…forever…it almost takes your breath away. Imagine that all the choices you make to satisfy others for the sake of duty, obligation, responsibility, or social convention–is your eternal life!

But that was Nietzsche’s objective, to make you hate it. You always have a choice, he said, to live based on hating this idea of eternal recurrence (hoping his theory is wrong), or live in such a way that you love the idea of living forever with the consequences of your choices!

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies, and put her observations into a book. The number one regret as recorded by Ware was expressed as:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

How to find a better career? It’s never too late to start living the life you want to live, doing the work you want to do, creating the results you really want in life. As a job change expert, my job is to help you find that positive eternal groove. You can have a better jobfit, one that matches your natural strengths and motivations to work that will energize you, not drain you. You can have more joy in what you do day in and day out, everyday, always.

Best wishes for a Holiday season and New Year full of eternal recurrences that make your heart sing!

3 Tips For Overcoming Job Loss

In recent weeks, I’ve spoken with several people who lost their jobs after 20+ years with the same employer. One person is angry and bitter and takes every opportunity to vent about the unfairness of it all; another turned to drinking through the day; another is fighting the desire to hunker down in their “cave” and nurse their wound.

Some of these coping mechanisms might even be necessary in the short term as temporary relief. After all, this kind of job loss is often experienced like the death of a loved one. It’s serious stuff. In a previous post, I gave some examples of job losses and what your thoughts might be about it.

But life moves on. Learning to adapt to changing circumstances in life is a necessary skill. Lots of advice has been written about how to cope with job loss, and how to move on. Based on my 20 years experience, here’s what I’ve learned that works for most people most of the time:

1. Take care of yourself. Grieve your loss. Too many people don’t take enough time to let go of this major experience in their life. Think of all the time and energy invested in a job for 20+ years. It takes much longer than most people realize…to dis-engage from their work.

You have every right to be upset, so accept your feelings—anger, hurt, rejection, panic, relief, whatever you feel, go easy on yourself. When you get up in the morning, take a pad of paper and write down everything you feel—for 10-20 minutes, all the things you wished you’d said (or hadn’t said) to your former manager. Do this for as many mornings as it takes to dump your feelings. This is especially cathartic if your termination was handled in an insensitive way.

Then, if possible, take a vacation, get out of town, put some distance between you and the experience. It’s easier to process the emotions, the memories, when sitting on a beach, or in some other safe haven. Eat well, make time for regular exercise, practice stress relief exercises, stay positive.

If basic habits, such as eating or sleeping, are disturbed by the job loss, get professional help from a doctor, a psychologist, a counselor. Ask for the support you need. Don’t try to shoulder the stress of job loss and unemployment alone. Your natural reaction may be to withdraw, to resist asking for help out of pride, shame or embarrassment. Don’t isolate yourself and brood. You will only feel worse. Whatever it takes to accept the situation, get there. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get on with the next phase in your life.

2. Reaching out to others. Over the years, you’ve built up a goodwill network of family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances in your personal and professional life—now is the time to draw on that goodwill! Share what you’re going through with the people you trust, not necessarily the people closest to you, such as your immediate family, who also may be hurting from your termination.

Join a job club or form one with former colleagues who may have been laid off at the same time. Commiserating, talking through your feelings, focusing on shared issues can be energizing and motivating. Personal and professional support will help keep you on track during your job search.

Networking is not rocket science but it is a skill and, like any skill, it can be learned and applied in the real world. It is a simple fact that most job openings are not posted as job vacancies but exist as job opportunities off the radar screen, and filled by word of mouth. That’s why networking is the best way to find a job. Basically, networking isn’t about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself—it’s about building relationships, and getting yourself in the right place so that when opportunities arise…you are in the pipeline ready, willing and able to take on a task! Learn to network—if you persist, it will pay off!

3. Rethink your career goals, or rediscover what truly makes you happy. Not everybody needs to create a job search plan, or keep a regular routine, or list their positives. We all have talents and motivations that will kick in…but now is the time to leverage your natural strengths into understanding how they correlate with specific jobs in specific work settings. This is the central message of JobJoy, so visit our site to find resources that can launch you into a new career or help you build on your existing one.

If you know anyone who has suffered a recent job loss, please pass this post along to them…and remind them that you have an encouraging work, a listening ear, a helping hand, a shoulder to lean on whenever they need it!

Six tips for slipping off the Golden Handcuffs without ruining your career

In the past two years, I have assisted many men & women in their 40s & 50s who got laid-off; some from a job they enjoyed; others who didn’t—but all of them had resisted making a career change until it was forced on them because of the Golden Handcuffs syndrome.

In effect, they felt compelled to stay with their employers because they had an income and lifestyle that offset any job stress or dissatisfaction.

Being let go, for any reason, is a blow to the confidence of anyone. But once they are laid off, almost 60% of them think they don’t need any help with their job search and can figure it out for themselves.

In almost all cases, they are surprised, even shocked, to discover how difficult it is to get another job with a similar compensation package…or find an opportunity that stimulates them.

Before they know it, they are out of work for more than a year, their savings are vanishing, and they soon realize that they need a job ASAP.

But because they had no clear plan or motivation for a job change or career move, the competition for interim jobs-to-get-by-and-pay-bills is not only intense but often goes to individuals with less education and experience because the risk that they will get something better in the short term and move onto another employer is much lower.

We all know people in this situation. When we have good jobs, we often feel powerless to change our situation, so we accept our Golden Handcuffs as necessary…until we too get a pink slip. What is to be done?

If you are in such a situation or know someone who is, here are a few tips to reduce your stress and increase your chances of making a positive change more quickly and easily:

1. Pay Attention. Review your employer’s situation, keep your ear to the ground for any information, even gossip, that might reveal any threat to your job security, e.g. rumors to convert permanent jobs into independent contractors, temps, consultants, or freelancers. If you see any writing on the wall, ready yourself for job change, career change, self-employment, or early retirement

2. Prevent Career Obsolescence. Do whatever you can to keep your skills marketable and your qualifications in mint condition. Whenever possible, invest in transportable skills that you can carry across economic sectors or job situations.

3. Take a Long View. Get a proper career assessment done. Be sure you know the several dozen jobs that you are suited for, based not only on your education & experience (which may have landed you into a Golden Handcuffs role that cannot be replicated elsewhere), but of your talents & motivations, your real value proposition!

4. Reflect on Unsavory Options. Although self-employment is not for everyone, especially for individuals who do not manage financial uncertainty well, thinking about how you could start a business on your own or with partner(s)…it may prove more secure and rewarding than being at someone else’s beck and call.

5. Network Forever. Any business is about relationships. Join professional organizations, community groups, or just lunch more frequently with friends to discuss the changing dynamics of our economy and workplaces. Pay it forward, help out when you can because the contacts that you nurture now can open doors when you unexpectedly need them.

6. Get Professional Help. The digital era is ushering in new job search tools and techniques, and having an effect on how to interview, negotiate, and strategize for better job opportunities. Engage a career professional to update and upgrade your toolbox to optimize your chances of making a successful move if or when the time comes.

Finally, don’t get complacent. Do a few things now to avoid finding out the hard way how Golden Handcuffs can add stress and pain to your life!