Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 2004 /14 Tishrei, 5765

Marty Nemko

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Consumer Reports

‘Deep Down, I Don't Wanna Work’ | When pressed, many of my clients admit they'd rather not work, except on something unlikely to earn much money such as the arts or homemaking.

If that's an option, fine, but often, not making money can mean you'll be eating cat food.

So how do you get yourself motivated to look for work?

First, avoid these strategies. They rarely work:

  • Taking a vacation. Many clients figure if they allow themselves, for example, a month to play in France, they'll return ready to look for a job. In fact, most of them find themselves even more inert. The less you do, the less you feel you can do; the more you do, the more you feel you can do.

  • Psychotherapy. Too often, you gain insight into why you're stuck, but you're still stuck.

  • Saying or writing daily affirmations. Just today, a client opened her DayPlanner, and in large letters, a post-it read, "I am capable and responsible." She's been unemployed for two years and done essentially nothing to land a job.

  • Praying/meditating. Many clients have tried to pray their way into a job, following the advice of such hymn lyrics as, "There is no situation that God cannot fix. I don't care what your friends, your family says… Stand still and look up." At least in my clients' experience, standing still and looking up rarely results in a job descending from heaven like Manna.

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Strategies that usually work better

  • If you're so scared of failing you won't look for work, at least as an interim step, take a job that's easy and fun, even if it pays poorly. A client who had been a chemist for 20 years quit, and stayed inert for a year. What got her unstuck was to take a job as a barista at the Starbucks in a Barnes & Noble. After a couple of months, she regained some confidence, took courses in medical transcription, and now is happily (well, sort of) working at Kaiser as a medical records tech

  • Join a job search support group. If you tell your compatriots that you promise to make ten cold calls, the thought of having to tell them you made no cold calls can embarrass you into picking up the phone.

  • Go back to school. Even though it's expensive, time consuming, and these days, is no guarantee of employment, a certificate or degree does increase your odds. You learn something, make connections, and sometimes, a job effortlessly comes your way, for example, a professor touts you for a job or an internship turns into a job offer.

  • Do a painless job search. Just tell a few friends you're looking for work. Occasionally, a job drops right in your lap-even if you're not sure you want it to.

  • Find a source of financial support. I have had a number of clients who refused to

  • look for work but made prodigious efforts to meet Mr. Right (or at least Mr. Sugar Daddy.)

  • Dump your source of support. Sometimes, people are unmotivated to look for a job because they have a parent or romantic partner paying the bills. Have the guts to refuse to take your parents' handout, and if the main reason you're staying with a romantic partner is the money (That occurs more often than people like to admit), consider cutting the cord. When you're facing poverty, your motivation to land a job can suddenly skyrocket. It's like when welfare reform threw millions of people who claimed to be unemployable off welfare, facing destitution, most found jobs.

  • Have something to work toward. A Realtor was refusing to prospect, ranking 39th of the 39 agents in her office. Her coach asked her, "If you made more money, what would you love to spend it on?" She said, "a trip to Africa." The coach said, "Put a picture of Africa on your desk." She went from being #39 to #3.

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09/14/04: How to tell what career you should choose
08/23/04: Nemko's Rules: A contrarian approach to career and job finding
07/29/04: Are you lazy?
06/17/04: We already send too many students to college
06/11/04: The case against work/life balance
05/13/04: The Dumbing of America … and how to make it (and you) smarter
04/26/04: Do you talk too much?
12/08/03: How Open-Minded Are You, Really?
11/05/03: Driven to an early grave
08/18/03: The Truth About Teaching
05/12/03: Today's #1 hirer
04/30/03: What Are You Good At, Really?
04/10/03: Career advice I'd give my child
03/04/03: Under the radar: The One-Week Job Search
02/11/03: The World's Shortest Course on Managing Diversity
02/03/03: The Good Employer
01/29/03: What do you want to be when you grow up?
01/15/03: Passion Finder
12/18/02: Curing procrastination
12/12/02: The World's Shortest Course on Self-Employment
12/05/02: Men as Beasts of Burden
11/21/02: Beware of going back to school

© 2003, Dr. Marty Nemko