Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.
Your environment needs to be conducive to success. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have the newest or bestest “stuff,” but rather than you have the resources and relationships necessary to achieve the objective you set out for yourself. In many cases, your objective may be to fix part of the environment. Starting with: you need to get out of your room and into the world where there are people who can and will help you.
No matter how difficult that may seem.
Questions to ask yourself as you focus on your environment include:
There are three elements to the environment, and you can apply these questions to each:
There are two ways to let the “people” side of the environment work against you. The first is to surround yourself with people who hold you back. The second is to shut out the people around you who can help you when being around them makes you feel inadequate. Let’s address both issues.
“Birds of a feather flock together.”
“You can tell a lot about a person from the company he keeps.”
“Successful people hang out with other successful people.”
“She fell in with a bad crowd.”
How many times do you need to hear about the impact of your interpersonal environment on your performance before you’ll believe it?
When your closest friends are just trying to make it through the day before heading out for a(nother) bender tonight, then you’ve got an open parachute providing resistance to your progress. No matter how hard you’re working, no matter if you’ve known these people since you were in diapers, you’ll be held back by a support network that’s no good.
Remember the scene in Good Will Hunting when Ben Affleck tells Matt Damon that Matt has to get out of town? Matt plays a math genius who’s ready to let life pass him by out of loyalty to his friends; it’s good buddy Ben who takes the high road and says, in essence, “Go make the most of who you are, and if it means letting go of me, so be it!”
And there is a corollary to all this: You need to let go of the concept of “closure.”
Be emotionally ready to never again bring a bad relationship to closure. This is probably the most painful, difficult part of establishing the right environment for Quality Events. Both of us know personally how hard it is to walk away from someone who just stuck it to you. The urge to go ask what happened, and why, and to ask for another chance, can be intense.
But you can’t go back. Quality Events require you to be forward looking at all times. Forward. That means what’s done is done, and there is no value in understanding a failed relationship because right now, we’re not about understanding, we’re about action and forward progress. Maybe there’ll be time to go back and patch things up after you’ve reached success. Maybe not. It’ll be a decision for another day, regardless.
Don’t burn bridges—that’s not what we’re saying—but if someone burns a bridge with you, don’t waste your time on repairs that are just going to get torched again as soon as you’re not looking. Move on.
Also, it’s not enough to be free of negative influences. You need active, positive influencers in your life. Friends, family, neighbors, members of your church, civic organization… don’t do this alone. Not only do you have nothing to prove to anyone, but ultimately, getting a job “on your own merit” means developing the relationships that you need on your own; it doesn’t mean “doing it without any relationships at all.”
Now the other thing you need to focus on from a people perspective is making sure you’re not the only person in your life. Job searching can bring out feelings of inadequacy, rejection, intense uncertainty, and of being overwhelmed… plus it can make you feel like there is a intensifying, white hot spotlight trained right on you whenever you step out of your bedroom. Everyone knows you’re looking for work, so everyone is going to ask “How’s it going?” And every time they do, your head is going to spin. Maybe you don’t want to waste their time. Maybe — despite being vaguely aware that you’re receiving an offer of help — you’re at the stage where such offers aren’t really registering and you struggle to process what action you should take. Maybe your last dink letter just arrived and the question immediately puts you in a bad mood.
Not surprisingly, you may not want to show your face when you’re in a rough patch between successes.
The problem is, human beings are social creatures. As painful as getting knocked down a few rungs in the social pecking order is, getting shut out hits us even harder. It’s worse. Don’t show your face long enough, and you’ll find yourself lonely, depressed, and unable to get out of bed.
Let me pause: if this is you, your first objective is to get people back in your environment. If you can’t bring yourself to do it face to face, then do it online with an alias. But if you’re in such bad shape that the comforter feels like it weighs 400 pounds when you try to crawl out from under it in the morning, then you have to start there, right now, before anything else.
The upshot: be sure to surround yourself with people who will challenge you, support you, and point you forward. More importantly, be ready to engage with people even when doing so seems to highlight your own shortcomings.
When I was writing How to Self-Destruct, one of my favorite places to go was the library in Highland Park, IL: quiet, no cell phones or noisy cappuccino machines, no irresistibly cute offspring of mine vying for my attention, and no one I knew milling about hoping to engage me in a fly-by chat. Willy, on the other hand, writes One Day One Job from home. Two hours a day in his favorite chair. We do what works.
You don’t need the finest, best, most expensive, name-brandiest stuff, but you do need stuff that works. If the jobs you are applying for require online resume submissions, and you don’t have access to a computer, then you need access to a computer before anything else. If you’ve got a cell phone that drops calls when you walk from your bedroom to your kitchen table desk, and The Call comes in while you’re in your bedroom, you’re going to be sweating bullets if the information you need is in the other room. And if all you have are jeans to wear to the country club function you got yourself invited to, you’ll be nervous the whole time when everyone stares at you. In that bad way.
Make sure you have the stuff you need to get the job done. Keep extra quarters in your car if you might need to park in the city. Carry a pad of paper and pen at all times. Back up your computer. Don’t wait until you are totally out of clothes before doing laundry. Throw a Clif Bar or two in your bag in case an interview runs through lunch. Have phone numbers for key contacts and know your schedule a week out in case you get the opportunity to schedule an unexpected meeting. Live far away from the jobs? Hop a ride to the epicenter of activity, park yourself in a store, restaurant, or park, and make your calls from there so you’re available if someone can meet on short notice.
In short, get ready. For what, you ask? For a job, silly. When opportunity knocks, you had better be able to answer the door! Whatever form opportunity takes — a call, a meeting, a tryout — if you’re sitting in front of the tube, unshaven and unshowered at 11am, with no clean clothes and no way of getting anywhere, when your break comes, you are going to want to kick yourself in your arse. With steel toed boots.
(1) Find a place to work that is clean and conducive to extended periods of concentration. It could be the library, a coffee shop, a friend’s office, or your own apartment.
(2) Clean your apartment, or at least do the laundry. Right now. Get in the habit of doing small chores every day that are designed to clear away clutter. You’ll need that skill because we’re going to need to transfer it to how you work with others a bit later in this program.
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With a high threshold for chaos I’m not sure how much I want or need to eliminate. How do we determine what’s right for optimum productivity?
Annie, here’s an entirely personal answer to your question:
I know when something is coming my way because I get two urges simultaneously: one is the urge to clean, and the second is the urge to buy something reasonably big and unnecessary. I’ve discovered that these two things in combination—when sustained—signal to me that I’m out of sync and I need to recalibrate my environment to get back to flow.
I’m not sure what your signs are that the chaos is “too much,” but my guess is, they are there!
But physical chaos is often my visual barometer for accomplishment. Then again, I guess I have to admit that I appear to be more accomplished in an organized, orderly environment. I guess the truth hurts, and that’s why I’m trying these exercises, again with my new attitude. Thanks.
Wow, I totally realate to this topic. Last Fall, I was in my last semester of school and job searching wasn’t going so well; of course, all my professors/family/coworkers/class-mates were constantly asking me what I was going to do and how job searching was going. Since I didn’t have any great responses to their questions I gave them vague answers to make myself feel better about my situation. I realize now that all these people in my life just wanted to help me and I made my own situation worse by not being honest and denying the reality of my situation. I have to let down my defenses and accept help/feedback from people.
As for the homework, it seems so easy to put off doing chores, projects and other little things right now because I don’t have the same deadlines, routines and mental stimulation I did when I was in school. I know that letting things pile up, literally and mentally, will make me scatterbrained though.
How can I evoke the same sense of routines and deadlines that I had in school?
I can attest to the influence of environment. Since my senior year of college, I have only lived in sublets or hostels or my parents’ house and understandably have never felt entirely at home. Last month I moved into a brand new apartment with a friend and her friend where I have a room that I can finally call MINE. It’s a refreshingly blank canvas, unlike my various sublets where I had to adapt to environments with rigid limitations that had been established by someone else. I’m making big progress in getting my space clean and organized in the past couple of weeks. I’ve also been finding it so much more pleasant to live with these two girls who are roughly the same age as me and fun and easy to talk to, which hasn’t always been the case with my roommates. I’ve been noticeably happier and more at ease since making this change (an overhaul of both physical clutter (moving to a new place) and mental clutter (dissatisfaction due largely to my living situation)), and I’m sure it will help improve my outlook as I embark on the path toward landing a job.
i find that even if i just work at the kitchen table, i can think better than if i’m in my room
Funny this topic came up because this is exactly what I’ve been trying to do for the last week. After graduation, I had some intense family issues that forced me to stay in my hometown longer than I had intended. I love my family unconditionally (of course) but the amount of weight their issues were putting on my shoulders prevented me from getting on with my life. Family, friends, etc. kept asking me what I was doing with my life and it would upset me because I’ve always known what I wanted to do, I just wasn’t able to do it in my current environment.
After 6 months, I knew I had to get out and start my career. I moved to NYC a week 1/2 ago and just finally found an apartment (which is a full-time job in and of itself!)…clean slate…and couldn’t be happier!