Not to rub it in, but I’m pleased to share that I just got back from a week of wonderful, restful vacation. And during this coveted time, I finally had the chance to engage in some “pleasure reading” for a change, since it’s been a while since I picked up a book that wasn’t strictly business- or career-related.
My book selection of choice? I picked up and read a copy of “Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned” by Kenneth Davis. Essentially a short, highly readable history of all 235 years of this country, this book hits pretty much every major note about what we’ve been through since we parted ways with Great Britain. The establishment of the early colonies. The civil war. The robber baron years. The great depression. The world wars. The sixties. The Iran/Contra scandal. It’s all in there. But interspersed with wry humor from the author and condensed in a way that keeps your interest, throughout.
What caught my attention most, though, and what I wanted to quickly blog about, was one key takeaway from the book. When you look back at all 200+ years of U.S. history, from the 10,000-foot level, you can’t help but realize that any perceived “stability” of our past is an illusion. Our nation has ALWAYS been in a state of flux and transition. We’ve essentially weathered an endless succession of intertwined triumphs (e.g. ending slavery, women’s suffrage, winning world wars…) and major calamities (e.g. great depressions, Japanese internments, Teapot dome scandals…) one after another, over the years. There have been countless heroes along the way. And villains. And historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson, whose behavior (e.g. owning slaves) can be tricky to judge, in the hindsight of the morals, norms, and cultural standards that existed at the time.
But any real period of stability? Not from what I can tell. The book never jumped ahead and said “oh, that decade? nothing really interesting happened during that period, one way or another…”
So I know it’s a bit of a stretch, since again, my brain is still getting back from vacation — but this book really reminded me that our lives (and career paths) share a lot with our own country’s history. They are a journey rather than a destination. And for those currently seeking a new job opportunity, keeping this perspective in mind might be useful, since viewing your situation in the stark context of either “working” vs. “not working” is a very limiting way to look at things — and again, not likely even all that accurate. Sure, whether or not you’re earning a paycheck at the moment is pretty much a yes/no proposition — but in the larger context of your career, aren’t you “working” in the sense of developing your skills, building new contacts, clarifying your goals, and applying your skills (whether you realize it or not) to the process of finding your next opportunity?
That’s what you should be doing, at least, if you’re actively on the hunt for a new assignment!
Those people out there who can achieve this elevated view of things, and recognize that their unemployment period is just a temporary stop along the way in the “flux” of the typical career arc these days, are likely, I suspect, to allow a lot more room for good things to happen during their unemployment stint. These folks seem to recognize that their lives, and the associated tangle of learning opportunities that come with them, don’t suddenly stop simply because they now have to submit regular reports to the WorkSource office.
Examples? One of the many job hunters I know who suddenly landed a new position this past week wrote me to say that the employment search process, and the networking he’s done as part of it, has resulted in him becoming friends with “three of the best men I have met in quite some time.” And another successful seeker, looking back, commented to me that “I’m just happy to be employed, getting a paycheck and insurance benefits, since my unemployment runs out next week — and I’d be GLAD to now help anyone else after having gone through this experience.”
As always, my point is that there some positive things to gain from these “periods of transition” or whatever euphemism we choose to apply to them, if you stay open to the possibility. Just as our country, despite all of its setbacks and shameful episodes, has still accomplished some pretty amazing, rock-on things over the past two-and-a-half centuries — if we choose to look at the whole picture, not just dwell on the “dark” chapters!