Suffereth thee from Character Deterioration?

I’m reading a classic set in the 1800’s in England, and this morning came upon a phrase that kind of ties the post together. There was a person that was called in from another city to take a job as a grain (wheat, corn, etc.) manager, but he got there just a little too late, and the boss had hired someone else that really impressed him. So this character goes and lives where he could afford (in the slums) and you don’t hear from or about him for many chapters. Finally, he enters again, and is about to take the very same job he thought he’d get a few chapters earlier, and the author makes a very very interesting comment:

That characters deteriorate in time of need possibly did not occur to Henchard.” [Henchard is the hiring manager]

Wow, this was written 150 years ago. Nothing new today – I have met so many professionals who were out of work, in a “time of need,” and I was witnessing their characters deteriorate before my very eyes. Let me emphasize that these were once hard-working, accomplished executives and managers. These were not whiners and losers, but they had been put into a situation where their world was turned upside down. It truly is sad to watch this deterioration of character – mostly because people don’t know how to handle a transition from “I’m Mr. VP” to “I’m unemployed :(”

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe that people get into a situation where they transition because… that is just the way it is. No one has a job for 4 decades and then retires anymore. That is a thing of the past, and everyone knows it. So why is it so hard to understand when you lose your job? Its just the way it is.

I am a firm believer in taking the time during a transition and ensuring that you keep your skills sharp (or even expand your skills!). In light of that, I wanted to share some good reading that I’ve happened upon. This is just an example of how to “sharpen your saw” during a time where you may have more free time than you are used to. Note that you may or may not like the posts below, but my point is, develop a plan and read something outside of job search stuff to keep you fresh.

The first set of recommended reading comes from Scot Herrick’s BizBlog, where he writes on working in our society. His tagline, or sub-title to the blog is “Surviving in Cubicle Nation.” In a post yesterday afternoon he suggests the weeks best writings:

First on the list is from David Maister (Professional Business Professional Life). This is a great post on the difference between how a company should risk and how a professional should risk. The comments are also a very good read. This should take you all of 10 minutes to get through. (note, he recommends his own Must Read, one of his posts, and again, has great comments below to stimulate thought about your personal career strategy.)

Next is from Michelle Leder at (think, footnotes in an annual statement). She is an expert in finance and investments at a corporate level, and has a short (3 minute read) on how much some executives made in a merger. Not really intersting to me, because I didn’t fare so well in my finances classes, but it is an interesting point disclosure, as she notes in her second paragraph. So, for all the finance folks out there, here’s a blog you might add to your list!

Third is from industrial psychologist John Orr (For Love or Money). I don’t find this post as interesting as the rest of his blog, and his work (which revolves around employer/employee issues from a shrink’s perspective). I only say I don’t find this post interesting because I’ve lived it, and it is so ingrained in me. I worry about what my kids will do for a living assuming that everything will be offshored in the next 15-20 years! It takes 75 seconds to read this post, with a quote from the Wall Street Journal. Read it… and maybe follow Orr’s observations.

Fourth is from Kelly Forrister at Simply Kelly. Kelly is an organizational genius and blogs on tips to keep organized – which is something that a job seeker needs to do (ever hear of JibberJobber? 😉 I couldn’t resist that one!) Anyway, the thing I like about this post (again, 70 seconds to read it) is that it encourages you to recognize that small window of downtime you have (say, 5 minutes) and do one thing to organize right now – like clean some unused desktop icons, take the soy sauce packets to the kitchen (and out of your desk!), etc. For me it would be “take the 5 McDonald’s cups out of my car and throw them away!”

Fifth and last is from Claire Tomkins of Productivity Goal, also about organizing and decluttering. This take under 2 min’s to read, and made me think “ok, this applies to cleaning my desk, etc. … it also applies to decluttering my NETWORK!” Go read this one.

So my point with those is, make sure you are keeping fresh with something. Take advantage of this time so that your character does not deteriorate, because it will affect your entire job search (note that the character in the book asked for a significantly lower salary than he had earlier – sound familiar?).