"Deep Down, I Don't Wanna Work!"
When pressed, many of my clients admit theyd
rather not work, except on something unlikely to
earn much money such as the arts or homemaking.
If thats an option, fine, but often, not
making money can mean youll be eating cat
So how do you get yourself motivated to look for
First, avoid these strategies. They rarely
- Taking a vacation. Many clients figure if
they allow themselves, for example, a month to
play in France, theyll 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 youre stuck, but youre
- 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. Shes 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
you're friends, your family says...Stand still
and look up." At least in my clients'
experience, standing still and looking up
doesn't result in a job descending from heaven
Strategies that usually work better
- If youre so scared of failing you
wont look for work, at least as an interim
step, take a job thats 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
- 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 its
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 youre looking for work.
Occasionally, a job drops right in your
lapeven if youre not sure you want
- 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
- 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
youre staying with a romantic partner is
the money (That occurs more often than people
like to admit), consider cutting the cord. When
youre facing poverty, your motivation to
land a job can suddenly skyrocket. Its
like when welfare reform threw millions of
people who claimed to be unemployable off
welfare, facing destitution, most found
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.
© 2007, Marty
* * *
Nemko holds a PhD from the University of
California, Berkeley, and subsequently taught in
Berkeleys Graduate School of Education. He is
the worklife columnist in the Sunday San Francisco
Chronicle and is the producer and host of Work With
Marty Nemko, heard Sundays at 11 on 91.7 FM in
(NPR, San Francisco), and worldwide on
400+ of his published writings are available free
on that website and is a co-editor of
Careers for Dummies.
and author of The All-in-One College Guide.
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