"Deep Down, I Don't Wanna Work!"

When pressed, many of my clients admit they’d rather not work, except on something unlikely to earn much money such as the arts or homemaking.

If that’s an option, fine, but often, not making money can mean you’ll be eating cat food.

So how do you get yourself motivated to look for work?

First, avoid these strategies. They rarely work:

  • Taking a vacation. Many clients figure if they allow themselves, for example, a month to play in France, they’ll 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 you’re stuck, but you’re still stuck.
  • 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.” She’s 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 like Manna.

Strategies that usually work better

  • If you’re so scared of failing you won’t look for work, at least as an interim step, take a job that’s 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 tech
  • 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 it’s 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 you’re looking for work. Occasionally, a job drops right in your lap—even if you’re not sure you want it to.
  • 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 Daddy.)
  • 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 you’re staying with a romantic partner is the money (That occurs more often than people like to admit), consider cutting the cord. When you’re facing poverty, your motivation to land a job can suddenly skyrocket. It’s like when welfare reform threw millions of people who claimed to be unemployable off welfare, facing destitution, most found jobs.
  • 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.

© 2010, Marty Nemko

*    *    *

Marty Nemko holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently taught in Berkeley’s 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 Cool Careers for Dummies. and author of The All-in-One College Guide. E-Mail.

Contact Us | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
Menstuff® Directory
Menstuff® is a registered trademark of Gordon Clay
©1996-2019, Gordon Clay