Many of you here today have been unemployed for quite some time. You have been searching for jobs, sending out resumes and networking your days away for months on end. Some of you may also have given up at some point–discouraged by the lack of results or response of any kind from prospective employers, who are no doubt inundated with resumes from people just like you: highly qualified, highly skilled professionals who have suffered at the hand of a historic global recession.
In a way, it reminds me of the bullpen in a baseball game. The pitchers are there, warming up, trying to stay sharp, focused and limber in case they get the call. They throw pitch after pitch to the catcher who is warming them up. They don’t know when–or even if–they will be called to the mound. It could be any second, any minute or not for another few games. But they have to be ready in case today is their day and now is their moment.
They have to stay confident and continue to believe in their ability to get the job done once they are given their chance to shine. Yes, there is tremendous uncertainty and unfathomable pressure, yet they cannot allow any of it to distract them from the job they know is ahead of them. The call may come in the 8th or the 9th ….and when it comes it may be a do or die situation with the game on the line. You face a crucial moment in your life. Are you going to gear up or give up?
When they finally do take the mound, they face an entirely new challenge. They are stepping into a work situation that they did not create, but they have to make better. Just like you. Because when you do become gainfully employed once again, you will likely be entering workplaces that have some extreme challenges and unimaginable constraints to deal with given what they’ve been through in this bruising economy. But just like Tony LaRussa when he calls for a closing right hander from his bullpen, you will have to take the ball and then start throwing your own pitches. You will have to contribute, no matter the circumstances, based on your unique strengths and abilities.
Officially there are 14.6 million who are out of work in America of which there are 6.6 million Americans who have been out of work six months or longer. They say that the longer one is out of work the greater the risk that your skills atrophy and prospective employers wonder if something is wrong with you. They want to know if you’ve been practicing your skills, developing new skill sets. What they want to know is have you taken a temporary or project-based assignment, even while you are looking for full time work.
Skill building: This makes sense as employers are more likely to hire someone who’ve they’ve already seen on the job, even if only in a temporary role.
- There is no denying, the difficulty millions of Americans are having right now is finding work. But giving in and giving up is a losing strategy for sure.
- Focus on your strengths and don’t overlook your weaknesses.
- Look forward, not back. Conquer, don’t complain. Support, don’t judge. Play the game the way you know how then get that win….those days of languishing in the bullpen will be far behind you!
- Now is the time to prepare. Like a professional athlete it is your job now to be on the top of your game. Keep up with the latest news, local business trends and the latest in social media technology. All three are important in any future job opportunity.
- Now is the time to review and revise your networking plan. Are you using every opportunity to meet and engage new people? Networking is more than meeting new people to get connected in the workplace. It is the art of conversation to gather and dispense information. If you are not learning something new every day about the people you come in contact with you’re not taking advantage of networking’s power.
- Now is the time to dream big. Who says your next career has to be something advertised on line or discovered through networking? Who says you can not create your future? Look into businesses that impress you and figure out what they lack that you can deliver on. If you’re in technology, are they using the latest most up-to-date systems? If you’re a communicator, do they need help setting up and maintaining a social media plan?
While you are in the bullpen:
Don’t limit yourself to just one pitch. Develop a portfolio of pitches that will prepare and position you for consistent long term success. Reinvent yourself – listening, work habits, compromise, engagement.
Have Courage. You cannot have courage if you are not first afraid.
Remember that the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit (Fabienne Fredrickson)
And that a consensus is what everyone agrees to say collectively, who no one believes individually.
Don’t expect the world to standstill and wait for you. Embrace social media as a communication skill.
The future belongs to only those who can see it.
Dean Akande’s remarks are part of an address given at Go! Network St. Louis – a community initiative that empowers personal and professional growth through life, education and career opportunities. It was found at St. Patrick Center in St. Louis.