Job Search 101: What Won't You Do For Work?

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There are just some things you won’t do for money.

No no no no no, you tell me. I’ve been unemployed for six months. I will do anything for a job.

I don’t buy it. Just because your situation is desperate doesn’t mean that you are desperate, and I’m sure there are some things you wouldn’t do for a paycheck.

  • Cook meth.
  • Sell yourself as a surrogate mother.
  • Work as a day laborer at a construction site.
  • Drive a truck for a private contracting firm in Afghanistan.

Those are extreme examples, sure, but you do have boundaries. Limits. Standards. Pride.

No matter how broke I am, I would never work at a zoo because zoos are sad. I love animals, and I don’t mind animal poo — but I don’t believe in caging animals for entertainment. Also, I would rather lift a pile of rocks than work as a waitress. For what it’s worth, I could never take a job in a meat factory. If my kids were starving, I’d find another way to earn cash. I might cook meth. I’m not kidding.

I know these things about myself because I left my job in Corporate HR and made a few lists.

  • Things I would never do for work.
  • Things I might do for work.
  • Things I really want to do for work — whether I have the skills right now or not.

I’m not much of a dreamer, and the lists were tough for me. On my list of things I would never do for work? My old job — planning and coordinating layoffs for large companies. I have done this twice in my career. I’ll never do it again. Okay fine, whatever, I might do it again for a large sum of money.  Let’s move it to the might pile.

But you know what I mean. I had to take an honest look at my job options and what I would really do if I needed a job. I believe there are Americans out there who are exiled from the workforce and linger in the purgatory of unemployment insurance checks and extended COBRA benefits because they think they have to go back to their depressing jobs/careers/industries.

I say you do have a choice and you don’t have to go back to work doing the same thing.

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So I made those three lists and learned some important lessons about myself.

  • I want to write.
  • I want to travel, see the world, and interact with people without delivering bad news.
  • I would rather work at Target than plan a global reduction-in-force.
  • I would rather work as a barista than mediate a dispute between two employees.
  • I would rather earn 80% less money than I earned at the peak of my career than sit through another Myers-Briggs training and talk about INTJs.

Now that I know those things about myself, I make my choices accordingly. If I wanted to go back to work in Corporate America, or anywhere America, I would find companies and businesses that offer opportunities closely aligned with my standards. I am willing to put up with quite a bit from my employer in order to have dental insurance, but I’m not willing to lay off another employee without greater accountability from the c-suite. Knowing that about myself, I’m probably not going back to work in the Corporate Human Resources department for a Fortune 500 organization. I’m better suited to writing, speaking, and consulting. I reduced my expenses and I made some tough choices in the short-term to make my life better in the long-term.

I’m willing to settle because I’m an adult and I have responsibilities, but I’m not willing to sell my soul.

So my point is simple: you have to do the work and figure out the psychology behind your unemployment before you post your resume everywhere and pray that someone calls you for an interview. That’s now how life works, anymore. An honest list that outlines standards and expectations will help you to redirect and redefine your job search.

PS — Are you lucky to have a job, right now? Your job probably sucks. Get to work on your lists, too.

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