New year, same old you

Plan Your Career by Julie DesmondAt life’s turning points, people expect change. Birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, holidays are supposed to magically transform us into new and better versions of ourselves, right? Maybe, but not usually, or at least not for long. Remember Y2K? This New Year’s Day is unlikely to change things any more than that one did. Unemployment will be up again in January, along with foreclosures and lines at food shelves across Minneapolis. The obstacles to your happiness are not likely to melt away overnight. Except one. If you are standing in your own way, it is time to take control where you can and change something you can change: yourself.

Never underestimate the power of your attitude. Even if you are able to keep your job for the foreseeable future, you will likely be impacted in other ways by our stumbling economy. Decide in advance how you are going to approach imperfect situations. You may have to accept a pay cut. Will you complain? Or immediately start looking for ways to make up the loss? I recommend accepting the cut graciously (something is better than nothing), and very promptly and quietly beginning a search for something more stable.

Unemployment is not contagious, but negative attitudes are. If you have friends who are out of work, be supportive wherever possible, but draw the line at listening to sob stories. While you wish the best for your buddies, listening to them complain will not solve anyone’s problems. Steer conversations toward the future: how’s the job search going? Where have you applied? Did you follow up on that lead I gave you? Or, if all else fails: how ‘bout those Vikings?

Wear your optimism every day, in the form of an easy smile (practice if you must), a great outfit, good hair and something pleasant to say about something. Anything. If you think you’re not fooling anyone, think again. Most people who see someone smile will instinctively smile back. You might actually be able to convince yourself that your situation is better than you realized.

When you return to work (or your job search) after the holidays, you might hope your boss is better, your paycheck is plumper, or your commute is shorter. While your control in those areas is pretty limited, you can make significant improvements to your life and lifestyle by realizing that the one thing you can change this year is, very simply, you.

Julie Desmond is a Senior Recruiter with the Walstrom Group in Minneapolis. Write to

January 13, 2009
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