8/7/20 • memphis
Bored, Scared, Angry
In 2+ decades as a coach and advisor to business leaders, the very worst workplace situations I’ve encountered have almost always been those punctuated by boredom and bad leadership, usually in tandem. That stands to reason as most often, bad leaders concern themselves more with accumulating and misusing power than having motivated, high functioning teams. At present, through no fault of their own, about 20% of the US workforce find themselves bored, scared, angry, and ‘unjobbed’, or at the least, not fully tasked in a profitable way.
I’m reminded of sitting with my dad in the cafeteria of a WV nursing home, talking with one of my Mom’s nurses, who had recently gotten a cancer diagnosis and short runway prognosis from her physician. She recounted that her doctor, no doubt trying to be helpful, had advised her to quit her job and instead do what she wanted to do for her remaining days. Erupting like a volcano, she shrieked, “Well f—- him! F___ cancer! This IS what I do!” That moment, that phrase will never leave me. Taking the “what I do” away from someone is akin to performing major surgery, minus the anesthesia.
Failed initially by inept federal and state leadership, 30 million or so former wage earners wake up each day, lacking that same sense of purpose, with bills to pay, a very real risk of foreclosure or eviction from their homes, and very little work or food to sink their teeth into. Indeed, at this writing, more than half of U.S. adults live in a household with diminished income, many with food insecurity. Worse yet perhaps, many see little if any near term prospect for a brighter future, with one-third of our economy having been sawed off in the last three months, and a job market that is getting worse, not better.
First things first
It’s time for a reset for most, if not all of us, individually, and as a nation. But first, each of us must do our part to help stop the bleeding caused by that damn virus. It’s not going to be safe for any of us as long as it has both hands on our windpipe and a target-rich environment. Anyone who has not been in an underground bunker for the last six months knows what we’re supposed to do. Spread out, avoid crowds, mask up, look out for your neighbor. It’s time for ALL of us to get in the boat and start rowing… in the same direction. If you or someone near to you is engaging in alternative behavior, knock it off. We have lots of rights in this country, but none of us has the right to engage in behavior that is likely injurious to others. As an aside, kudos to Delta Air Lines CEO, Ed Bastian and Delta crews who are clipping the wings of folks who don’t want to play nice in the sky.
The path forward
If you’re looking for work, then look for work, and don’t just look in the usual places. Get out and really look! Don’t make the assumption that because another million Americans lost their jobs last week there aren’t any jobs and no one is hiring. That’s not true. It’s going to be tough, but doable.
There IS work, important work to be done. Our decrepit and decaying national infrastructure needs $trillions of renewal. Hundreds of thousands of contact tracing specialists are needed immediately to mark the likely forward path of COVID. Some of these initiatives will take time. Others await us now: We’ve a critical shortage of nurses, radiology techs, hospital food service workers, family practice physicians and gerontologists, especially those skilled at tele-health. Similarly, a shortage of farmworkers, notably in the dairy industry. The same for truck drivers and warehouse workers. As a case in point, my alma mater, FedEx, despite being a world class employer can’t find enough workers to staff its Memphis sort facility. As robots are introduced to the mix, they take on the pure grunt work, leaving higher order tasks for us humanoids. Tell ‘em I sent you.
Make sure that your online profile is neat, fleshed out and working for you. Tune your resume to better highlight your skills and experience relative to the requirements for each job, but don’t make stuff up!
Realize that there’s about an 80% chance that your next job will come as a result of contact with someone in your direct or extended network. Take steps now to burnish those relationships. Pay it forward. Make a list of organizations that do the kind of work you’re good at, and then look for some connectivity between you, your network, and people who influence the hiring process in those places. Then get ready, really ready for the job interviews. Be like a pro baseball player and take your interview “batting practice” before the game.
Here’s something that may help. Earlier in this COVID saga I made available 3 hours per month of professional coaching (targeted to leadership skills or job interview prep) for those who have lost their jobs and are really watching the pennies. I’m resuming that offer, effective immediately. If that sounds like you, and you feel a session or two would make a difference, reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org)and tell me what you need to work on to improve your chances of landing that next gig. If it fits my wheelhouse, we’ll make it happen.
In the meantime, reach deep down inside you and muster the resolve to keep putting one foot in front of the other. As Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raymond said on CNN recently, “We can’t rest in fear.” Rather, put a smile on and let’s get moving!