Will I Ever Get My Confidence Back?
KEVIN: Liz, I am in a bad spot in my career. I would say that I'm going through a rough patch, but it's been going on for over five years.
LIZ: Tell me the story, Kevin!
KEVIN: My career was in great shape. I was the Production Manager for an electronics distributor and I was sailing right along. That was a great job.
I got laid off when the company was bought and everyone I knew said "You're going to get hired right away."
Five months later I found a pretty lousy Production Management job and I really tried to make it work, but the management in that place was awful.
As a manager there they wanted me to treat my employees horribly, with ridiculous policies, and the kind of fear-based management style you write about. I couldn't keep doing it. I quit and I took a contract job.
LIZ: Is that what you're doing now?
KEVIN: Yes, and I have to psych myself up to go to work every day, because it's pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as jobs go. There's nothing fun or interesting about it, the job pays nothing, and they still treat me like the contract guy, which I am, and there's nothing brighter coming up in the future as far as I can see.
I feel like a loser for quitting a bad job and taking a worse job but I have a wife and a kid. I didn't feel like I had a choice. I got the job offer and I took it.
LIZ: What do you think about looking for another job, while you're working?
KEVIN: Honestly, that's where I'm stuck. I should be job-hunting at night and on the weekends, but I have no confidence. This current job and the last job I had look terrible on my resume.
I don't know how I would explain in an interview how my career got derailed. I just don't have the self-confidence to job-hunt right now. A lot of people are going up and up in their careers. I'm going down. I don't know what happened to my career path!
LIZ: What activities make you feel great?
KEVIN: Apart from the obvious one?
LIZ: There's a bit of mojo creeping back in!
KEVIN: Well, when you throw me a softball...
LIZ: But you remember how to joke and have fun. Who do you joke around with?
KEVIN: Not at work. It's not that kind of place. The atmosphere is tense.
LIZ: No one enjoys it?
KEVIN: Yeah, some people do. There are people who don't know any better. This kind of workplace is the only kind they've seen. They have a good time, I guess.
LIZ: I think you probably carry around a lot of the thoughts you're sharing with me: I'm a loser. How could I lose my great career? This job looks terrible on my resume. I really messed up. I'm stuck. This is hopeless.
KEVIN: From my perspective, those things are true.
LIZ: They're opinions, right? You sound like a smart and capable guy to me. You've kept your sense of humor through all the turmoil you've experienced. You get up and go to work every day at a job that isn't your first choice.
KEVIN: Or my second, third or fourth.
LIZ: But you go there anyway! You have your priorities straight. You take care of your family. Where's the loser part?
You got laid off. The economy was bad and you didn't find a great job right away so you did whatever you had to do.
KEVIN: I just think my resume looks like a downward slide, these past few jobs.
LIZ: It makes sense that when your mojo fuel tank is depleted, you would see things that way.
KEVIN: What other way could I see it?
LIZ: You know how to jump from lily pad to lily pad, and when the first one got shaky, you jumped again to the job you have now. You read the signals around you and you respond.
A lot of people wish they had the gumption to quit a full-time job and take a contract position.
KEVIN: I couldn't find a full-time job when I looked for one.
LIZ: And maybe it worked out perfectly because now that you're working on a contract, you can job-hunt with an eye toward walking into a new job -- in Production Management or something completely different -- the minute your contract is up. It's your choice. No one will have a negative impression about your recent career history if you don't.
KEVIN: No one?
LIZ: No one you care about. Remember what I always say? "If they don't get you, they don't deserve you." The first person who has to believe that is you!
KEVIN: And I'm not sure I do believe that. I want to, but --
LIZ: Your mojo is depleted. If your car were out of gas, you wouldn't blame the car. You wouldn't blame yourself. You'd say "I need to fill up this gas tank."
It's a practical problem. Now your mojo tank is empty. You have to fill it back up.
LIZ: What do you like to do outside of work?
KEVIN: I used to be involved with the robotics team at my son's school.
LIZ: What about doing that again, next school year?
KEVIN: They even have things during the summer. I've been so stressed with this work situation --
LIZ: What work situation? You go to work every day, right? You give them what they pay you for and probably lots more. You won't solve your reinvention in your head, Kevin. You have to throw yourself into new experiences. You have to be open to messages coming in. Could you make time to get involved with the robotics club again?
KEVIN: I could. My son would love that, actually. I miss it. I also want to hit the weights and really get in shape this summer.
LIZ: That's a great idea too. You know how to ease into it, so you don't get hurt?
KEVIN: Oh yeah -- my brother is a personal trainer. We work out together, but I haven't been doing it.
LIZ: Now's the time!
KEVIN: What else?
LIZ: Get a journal and write in it. Sometimes people say "You need to change your eating habits," or "You need to change your sleeping pattern," right?
LIZ: Well, right now you need to change your thinking pattern. There's nothing wrong with you and your career is fantastic. You have to believe it. I can see your Human-Voiced Resume in my mind right now, and it looks amazing.
You have been thinking that it's a big deal that your job is a contract gig, but it's not. It's just the next step on your path.
You went to that place to ease their pain and that's what you're doing. Who cares if it's contract or full-time? We're all entrepreneurs now.
KEVIN: You too, right?
LIZ: Yes indeed! I woke up unemployed today like I do every day and like my teammates do, too. It was awesome. You know why?
LIZ: Because anything I can dream up is available to me, just like it is to you. You get to decide what to do in your career, and in your life for that matter.
You don't have any shackles. You don't have any restrictions. You have an amazing story to tell and you are an incredible guy.
You just have to ease up on yourself and stop criticizing yourself because the wind changed direction a few times. Would you prefer a steady state with no learning and nothing new until retirement? That's a zombie life! You are a living guy!
KEVIN: This is good for me to hear.
LIZ: Kiss your wife and your child, don't forget the obvious and hit those weights with your brother! Get back into robotics.
Get a journal and write about what you want in your life and your career. Everybody experiences a Mojo Drop at some point. You're going to grow big muscles climbing out of this one.
KEVIN: This talk with you is my anniversary present from my sweet wife.
LIZ: She sounds like an angel! You are already on the upswing, Kevin.
KEVIN: Thanks for knocking me back into reality, Liz. I was sinking into a pit of confusion and self-pity.
LIZ: There is a lot of that stuff around. It's okay. You have to know it when you see it. Then you won't get bitten by the same snake again!
KEVIN: Thanks, coach!
Our company is called Human Workplace. We're a publishing, coaching and consulting firm, and our mission is to reinvent work for people.
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