Well, this is it.  My very last post of 2009.  It’s hard to believe that I only started this blog a year ago, to the day, since it’s become such a regular staple of my life and such a critical “content” element of my career coaching practice.  Hopefully, though, those of you who have been following my writings for these past 365 days have walked away with a few useful and inspiring tidbits, here and there.

My goal right from the outset was to focus on discussing some original, practical, and nuanced career topics that would stand out from the endless sea of “generic” career advice out there regarding job hunting, networking, resume development, and such.  I hope I succeeded in this objective.  If not, I promise to try harder in 2010!

As for the last topic I want to tackle here, as the clock runs out on 2009, it’s the phenomenon of “unemployment guilt” and the degree to which such guilt, in my experience, severely hampers the ability of many out-of-work professionals to continue leading happy, productive lives.  I’ve never come across any specific writings on this subject, but based on numerous conversations I’ve had with my clients in recent months, this guilt a very real and palpable thing.  And it’s definitely something worth having a dialogue about.

In a nutshell, I’m talking about the inner conversations job hunters frequently report along the following lines:

1) “If I’m not job hunting each and every minute of the day, I must be cheating the process or not trying hard enough.”

2) “If I take a trip, go see a movie, or do something even the slightest bit enjoyable for myself, I don’t deserve it and am just being selfish.”

3) “If I spend a few extra bucks here and there, or treat myself to a few affordable luxuries, it’s tantamount to financial suicide.”

4) “If I wasn’t able to buy a wagonload of lavish Christmas presents for my kids this year, I’m a failure as a parent.”

5) “Given the amount of time I’ve been looking, and my inability to find a job quickly, there must be something wrong with me.”

Given the chance, I’m sure many of you out there could contribute additional items to the above list.  My basic point, however, is that you can’t allow this type of self-criticism, blame, and guilt to paralyze your life or prevent you from continue to pursue your potential as a human being.  Allowing this kind of “arrested development” to set in benefits nobody, least of all yourself.  Sure, you don’t have a job.  And sure, there are certain things in life that come with a price tag attached.  But there are still millions of ways you could devote your time, each day, toward pursuing goals that will enrich/fulfill yourself and those around you.  Don’t allow yourself to feel like a second-class citizen or that you aren’t allowed to enjoy yourself and live life a little bit along the way, just because you’re not drawing a paycheck.

So whatever pressure you’ve put on yourself as a result of your employment status, resolve to let go of some it as we head into the new year.  Lighten the load.  Ease the burden.  Muzzle those inner demons.  And recognize that there isn’t a single job hunter in the country right now who is utterly to blame, themselves, for the inability to find work.  The unemployment problems plaguing us are systemic ones, and societal ones, and every one of us is at least partially to blame for this reality based on the shopping/voting/house-buying habits we’ve indulged in for the past few decades.  And if the people around you, including your spouse, choose to tear you down or belittle you because you don’t currently have a job title under your belt, have a serious conversation with them about the subject.  Or distance yourself from them to some degree, if that’s a possibility.

Guilt and shame are the last things you need right now if you’re trying to maintain your confidence level and convince an employer you’re the “white knight” riding up and ready to solve their problems!

Is this a free pass to avoid taking your job search seriously?  Of course not.  No serious job hunter is exempt from having a solid game plan in place and doing their best, each day, to follow it.  But you’ve got to cut yourself slack along the way, as well.  So beat yourself up, if you must, for failing to follow through on things under your direct control — but try not to torment yourself over things (like external economic conditions) that are outside your control.  You’ll be a happier person as a result, and ultimately, a much more effective job seeker.

Best wishes to all my readers and here’s to a happy, prosperous 2010, full of positive career developments!