Chapter One: Hopes & Dreams
Anyone can search for a job. Embarking on your quest to find the ideal job can be both exciting and anxiety provoking. This booklet is designed to teach you essential employment tools (skills), empowering you to polish your professionalism. Hopefully land a job you want.
This booklet has activities to complete and questions sprinkled throughout. To get the most out of this booklet, I recommend you stop and complete the activities and questions, rather than just reading through it from start to finish. Taking time to answer the questions and complete the tasks will strengthen your potential to find a job.
I took time to write out these essential employment tools because until I mastered them, my job search was futile. However, as I gathered my employment tools and became more familiar with them, I became more skilled in knowing when and how to use them. My newly developing skills increased my confidence. The more confident I felt, the less overwhelming searching for a job became. Hopefully these employment tools will allow you to calm anxiety, focusing entirely on the exciting opportunities ahead.
Daring to dream working at your ideal job requires answering a couple questions to help you better visualize what kind of job you want.
What is the difference between getting a job to simply put food on the table/pay the bills and one which will allow you to provide for essential needs while leading to an even better job?
Planning a career initially begins with imagination and day dreaming. If you’re going to dream, why not dare to dream big? It might sound outrageous to dream about your employment, especially if you are just starting out, completely starting over, starting after a prolonged break or come from a background where no one really believed in your ability to achieve your dreams. I experienced each of those categories at some point in my life, finally re-entering the workforce after more than a decade of acute illness. When I attempted to start working again, I was recovering from what my doctor described as a severe brain injury while living with symptoms of schizoaffective disorder bipolar type.
Not only did no one think I would be able to handle a job, people really didn’t think twice about telling me their feelings. It hurt. By the time I got up the gumption to try again, I realized that I had failed so much; I really had nothing to lose. In many ways, my life really couldn’t get much worse than it already was. I determined that more than anything, I needed to prove myself to myself. I already was acutely aware of my limitations. I needed to discover my strengths. For 12 years I had become so brow-beaten by my limitations and the limitations that others imposed upon me that I struggled with what Martin Seligman describes as Learned Helplessness. Learned helplessness occurs when a person is in a terrible situation and has tried every possible solution without success. Fail after fail, the person’s ability to find the strength to continue trying gradually weakens and slowly disappears. Trying unsuccessfully to move forward in my life (for more than a decade) without seeing the results I desired—left me feeling like a helpless victim of circumstance, powerless to change anything.
But I had a problem, how was I going to get out of my current circumstances if I felt powerless to make it happen? How could I find a job if I didn’t even believe I could work?
One day I was reading Dr. Seligman’s book, “Flourish” in which he explains this concept of Learned Helplessness and then teaches how to move past it. He described a simple exercise which improved the authentic happiness of those who diligently completed the simple assignment for 90 days. He said that on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being severely depressed and 10 being exceptionally confident and satisfied with life, even those who met the criteria for major depressive disorder, improved three points by completing the “What went well and Why” exercise.
Task: Daily identify and write out three things that went well. For each thing that goes well, identify and write out an explanation as to why it went well. Here are some examples:
- I got out of bed this morning and took a shower because I wanted to start things off on the right foot.
- I worked on writing a draft for my book because I am determined to publish it.
- I was able to talk to a friend today because I chose to call and see how they were doing.
I feel that the difference between this exercise and other gratitude type exercises is the process of writing out your explanation as to why you feel the thing went well. Physically writing out the reason to which you attribute what went well works to build neuro pathways, solidifying that something really did go well.
For me it took about a month or more to stop having problem thinking of something that went well that day. When I started this exercise, after staring in tears at the blank sheet for more than 30 minutes, overwhelmed by all the things that weren’t going well, I finally wrote down something snarky, “I didn’t slam my head in the wall when I got out of bed this morning BECAUSE I have an amazing sense of balance.” Even though it was sarcastic, it still began laying the groundwork for confidence. It may take 20-45 minutes initially to identify a single thing that went well. That’s okay, don’t give up. Like physical exercise, this will become easier with time and practice.
After two weeks it took about 30 minutes to come up with three things and explain WHY each thing went well. After a month, I could come up with 3 things in about 5 minutes. After 6 weeks I could come up with 5-8 things that went well with an explanation as to why they went well in 10 minutes. After 3 months, I filled a page of all the things going well with an explanation as to why–daily. It wasn’t that my circumstances had changed, they really hadn’t. The exercise began enabling me to recognize things I would have never even recognized as having gone “well,” were actually counted as genuinely feeling like they went well.
By the end of the third month, I felt different. I felt a little more confident. The confidence started coming as I realized many things I wrote down actually went well because I made them happen. That gave me a boost.
Additionally, previously I had felt completely ignored by the universe, but the further along I got into this three month exercise, the more I realized that there were quite a few things going well in my life that I did not make happen…in fact, I could not explain WHY they went well. When that happened, I began to see that the Universe was watching out for me.
I wrote out simple things like walking alone through a scary part of town to get to an appointment without incident. Or having a gorgeous sunset and actually recognizing it was gorgeous and stopping to watch it…knowing a higher power put it in motion.
I can’t really explain how it will affect everyone. But the most important component of the exercise is writing out the “why.” It was only by writing out the why that I was actually gradually able to FEEL that something had really gone well.
Over three months it helped me recognize that the things going well in my life usually fell into three categories:
- I made them go well which meant I was a powerful agent of change—not powerless over all circumstances.
- Family, friends, acquaintances and even complete strangers made good things happen in my life which meant I was not alone and actually worthy of help and life.
- Things went well without any identifiable cause which I could only attribute to the universe/God having my back—in which case, it really didn’t matter what others said because I knew a higher power thought I was worth the extra effort to make things go well.
If finding a job is difficult for you because you struggle with self-esteem, don’t be surprised if when you sit down daily for the first two weeks to identify and write out what went well and WHY (most crucial component of the exercise is the “why.”), there is difficulty coming up with a single thing that went well. That is common for those of us who’ve been slammed by life’s circumstances one too many times.
Please consider doing this exercise and/or helping someone complete this exercise for 90 days. Confidence will blossom, allowing you to approach your job search with eager enthusiasm. It’s unlikely to will land your dream job on the first try. This exercise will embolden you to keep searching for a job that can lead you to your dream job.
There could easily be a host of life circumstances which kick the chair out from under you as you keep searching for a job, but with an armor of confidence, it really won’t matter what others say and do or what circumstances befall you, because you’ll know and FEEL the reality of your worth and potential. Nothing can take that away—you’re born with infinite potential which has no deadline or expiration date.
Once we begin feeling more confident in our abilities and the power that we have as a human to make things happen, daring to dream about finding that perfect job begins coming more naturally.
Finding a job which becomes a career requires exploration, planning and dreaming big. People choose their career for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you learned so much in a specific personal situation that you want to help light the path of hope for others. Perhaps you wanted to be there for someone because someone was there for you. Or perhaps you feel compelled to become the missing link you so desperately desired in your own journey. Whether you chose to come into a profession to achieve personal satisfaction or because of financial need, I encourage you to take time and continue dreaming about your ideal job with me.
It’s important to look at your degree of comfort in certain situations and work styles. For example, when I started college, I determined that I wanted to be an elementary school teacher because I love teaching and I love kids. It seemed a natural combination. For two years I worked hard to knock out the prerequisites. I went to a liberal arts junior college which had a fantastic elementary education program. In our final semester of our sophomore year, they let us student teach in elementary schools. I quickly learned that although I adore teaching, I abhor crowd control. Elementary school teaching was not for me.
You might be thinking, “Sarah, I just need a job! Any job will do!” Will it? Really? If you find a job and discover you hate it, how long will be excited to show up and work? I want you to find a job which you will want to stay. If you have no idea where you really want to work or if it all sounds equally exciting/boring. This is how you begin.
- Take a stack of 3”x5” cards (paper (preferably 5”x11”) divided into 8 slips of paper works well, too). On each card, write out job titles you might consider working (i.e. Gas station attendant, car salesperson, professor, cable installer, fast-food worker, lawyer, race car driver, radiology technician, sky diving instructor, banker, etc). Once you have 20 cards
- Sort those cards into jobs into two stacks: interested & not interested.
- From those two stacks, take your “interested stack” and sort those cards into two new piles: Very interested” and “kind of interested.”
- Take the cards in your “Very interested” stack and pick out your top three or five. These are the 3-5 jobs to include in your search.
- Looking at those 3-5 job titles, pick one job title and make a new stack of cards for every company in your area which hires for that job.
- Sort the cards based on which companies you would be most interested in working for down to the least interested.
- Repeat this process for all 3-5 jobs.
Congratulations! You now have an idea of which jobs you are interested in and where you would like to work!