A few years ago I was invited to speak at an event in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte was beyond charming, and I loved every minute of it there. The people were over-the-top nice.
On the morning of my presentation, my ride picked me up and we drove towards the event center. She explained that Charlotte was a huge financial/banking hub, and if I remember correctly, second in importance to Wall Street. I didn’t realize how big and important this “little” town was.
We drove through the downtown area, surrounded by majestic buildings that were more beautiful than overwhelming (like New York or Chicago or San Francisco), and something stood out: the people looked grumpy.
Maybe they looked grumpy because of how early it was in the day. Maybe they just had their game face on, and were thinking about all of the things they were going to do.
Whatever the reason was, I was struck by the contrast between these well-dressed, job-ful people, and the hundred or so unemployed professionals I would be meeting in a few minutes.
Speaking of contrast… when I walked into the event center I was greeted by loud talking, laughing, smiles, and apparently happy people. Of course, I know that many of those people were in the midst of their own battles, and the unwritten rule of going to job clubs was that you had to bring a smiley face and a cheerful attitude, but at no point did I feel that any of their smiles or laughing was not authentic.
Contrast. Grumpy unhappy people with jobs vs. happy, smiling people who wanted jobs.
Why is that?
When I was in my own job search, it was a time of self-reflection and recalibration. I’m not saying I was happier unemployed, but I was able to get grounded, instead of running a thousand miles an hour for someone else. I’m not saying that people who are unemployed don’t worry about paying their rent, mortgage or grocery bills… but perhaps there’s something that happens when you get some time FOR YOURSELF, think about who you are, and what really matters.
When you get to (or, are forced to) start over, and you can now pick a career path, do you go after more money, even if it means going into a high stress situation that you don’t like, working with people you don’t like, for a boss you don’t like? Or do you start to think “Hm… maybe we change our lifestyle a bit, and I can do something with purpose… maybe even something that will impact people’s lives?”
I know that in a job search you feel like you are drowning, and it’s unfair to suggest that this is a good or special time.
What I saw in Charlotte, though, was people who were able to see beyond the drowning, and love and enjoy and live, instead of the employed people probably making six figures, who looked like they would have rather been in the event center where I was, with a bunch of happy people.