Don’t Let Illness Derail Your Job Search

Posted on February 16, 2009 on EmploymentCrossroads.com.

Depressed?It’s just an unavoidable fact — the stress of a prolonged job search can cause physical illness that makes it even harder to find new work.

If you have ever been unemployed for more than a few weeks, you know what I’m talking about — cold and flu, depression, headaches, chronic tiredness. All these symptoms are triggered by the stress and worry of your job search, and the economic problems that come with being unemployed.

But there are ways to fight back.

Take care of your physical health. Concentrate on eating right and exercising. Take a walk every day — this will help with both stress and keeping your immune system strong. If you already exercise regularly, then keep it up! And eat right — this is not the time to be vegging on your couch eating Doritos all day. Stick to three healthy meals, and you’re likely to improve your health and save money in a difficult financial time.

Take care of your mental health. Stress reactions that worked so well for our evolutionary forbears on the Serengeti — panic, anxiety, fear — don’t help us so much with modern problems. It’s one thing to be concerned about your career and financial prospects, and quite another to paralyze yourself with negative emotions. Don’t pretend you can deal with this on your own. Talk to friends, family members, clergy or professional advisers about your fears. If it’s really bad, see a psychiatrist — you don’t have to be crazy to seek medical help. If your emotions are getting in the way of your job search, then please see a doctor. If you have no insurance or benefits, then look online for free help in your area.

Don’t exaggerate your problems. Yes, this is a very difficult time to be looking for work, and it’s not helpful to pretend that it isn’t. But if you convince yourself this is the end of the world, it may become a self-fulfillng prophecy. Commit yourself to your job search — work on it every day. Open yourself up to the prospect of relocating, or changing careers, or taking on work outside your field that you may see as beneath you, even if just temporarily. America will get through this economic downturn. Your family will get through it. You will get through it.

How to Tell You’re Going to Lose Your Job

Originally posted on Feb 17, 2009 on EmploymentCrossroads.

Getting the axe!In this economy, everyone is in a precarious position career-wise. But there are ways to tell if a firing or lay off looms on your horizon.

You don’t have enough work.

Symptoms: Your boss isn’t assigning you enough work to keep you busy all day. This could be because he or she doesn’t want to give you an assignment you won’t be around the finish. Or, maybe he or she no longer trusts you. Or the reasons could be innocent — maybe the whole company doesn’t have enough work. Perhaps your boss simply isn’t aware you have free time.

The cure: Don’t be afraid to go to your boss and ask for more work. Even if you really are on the short-list for a layoff, asking for more responsibility may change management’s mind. And if they won’t give you more work, it’s time to start updating that resume.

You’re out of the loop.

Symptoms: You used to get invited to all the good meetings. Your boss would stop by to chat. People asked for your opinion, and not just about whether last night’s Lost made any sense. Now, you’re not in the loop anymore. If you hear about important office issues, it’s through the rumor mill and not through official channels. You’re feeling isolated.

The cure: Again, go to your boss. Or if he or she won’t help, then your boss’ boss. Maybe there’s a good reason you’re out of the loop — to help give you more time to get your work done, for example. But simply asking to get back in the action may be enough to deal you back in.

Your boss gets fired, or quits.

Symptoms: One day you get to work, and your boss is gone. You’re assigned to a different supervisor (or if you’re very unlucky, multiple supervisors). But you’re still associated with your old boss, and to some people, this makes you expendable. And if they replace your superior with a new hire, he or she may wish to fill your position with someone of their choosing.

The cure: Communicate directly with your new supervisor. Don’t try to be “loyal” to your old boss — who does that help? Not your old boss, he or she is gone! Make sure your new boss knows you are on their team.

Your firm is recruiting to fill your position.

Symptoms: The company keeps bringing in people to fill a position suspiciously similar to yours. They may even ask you to interview the candidates! And if you’re skimming through craigslist and see your job up for grabs — well, how much evidence do you need?

The cure: Get out. Now.

Save Your Health — Eliminate Stress at Work

Originally posted on Feb 9, 2009 on EmploymentCrossroads.com.

Auuuugh!US News & World Report published today a story called “Why Your Job Could Be Making You Old.” The story cites the claim that stress contributes to health problems and rapid aging.

Physicians have long observed that people with stressful careers and lifestyles tend to develop health problems–especially when their jobs carry extreme consequences for mistakes. According to a theory advanced by Michael Roizen, chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic and co-founder of RealAge.com, many American presidents have aged approximately two years for each calendar year in office.

The author, Emily Brandon, then discusses ways to to cut back on stress, and advises exercise and healthy living to to build up an immunity to stressors. She only briefly touches on employment stressors, so here are a few more valuable tips for avoiding stress at work.

Build a Firewall Between Your Work and Home Lives

Allowing your work problems to follow you home can have a devastating impact on your home life, your family and relationships. It’s not the easiest thing in the world just set aside your work issues, especially if your job requires a huge time investment, or if your career is central to who you are as a person. But it is possible.

Likewise, stress at home can adversely affect your work. They key here is to remain mindful of your emotions. If you’re stressed at work, ask yourself if what you’re really upset about isn’t an issue from your personal life.

Maintain Good Communications with Your Superiors and Co-Workers

Work stress often comes from being in a position of ignorance. Does my boss like my work? Will there be layoffs? Will I ever get that promotion? Yet workers often don’t try to find their own answers to these questions, out of fear — fear of their boss, or fear that they will get an answer they don’t like.

Instead of wallowing in stress, just talk to your boss and your co-workers about your issues. Be professional, of course, and don’t ask inappropriate questions or spread gossip. But if you’re worried about how your boss perceives you, then ask. You may be worrying about nothing. But if you do get negative feedback, that’s good too — you need to know these things if you want to keep your job. Don’t wait for a performance review to find out how you’re doing.

Be reliable.

If you’re late for work a lot, or miss too many work days, then you’re creating your own stress. It’s not as hard as it seems to change your life and health habits so that personal issues don’t get in the way of your career.

However, there are issues — serious illness, family problems, etc. — that will affect your work, and you can’t do anything about. Or at least, solving the issues will take time. This is a common source of work stress, but it’s easily fixed. Talk to your HR manager. Your firm may have policies directly related to your situation, and might be willing to help you out with paid time off or extra money.

Even if your company won’t help you out, at least they’ll know your work is being affected by serious issues, and that you’re not merely irresponsible.

Got some advice of your own? Comment below!