Don’t let the bastards get you down:
This festive time of year is usually not so merry and bright for those who’ve been having a tough time. The problem is that those who are enjoying a fortunate life can sometimes not recognize when a friend or relative hasn’t been as lucky as them. This lack of understand only compounds anxiety and makes things feel just that much worse. So I want to be the non-judgemental ‘friend’ that reaches out and let’s you know that things can change for the better.
1. Remember you’re awesome.
If you’ve lost a job or feel trapped working in a difficult situation for a small paycheck, remember that you’re awesome. Friends and loved ones who haven’t lost a job or faced hardship often can’t comprehend just how devastating this setback can be. They may get impatient or pass judgement telling you that your turn-around should be happening faster in an attempt to push you to move faster.
The problem with judgement is that it’s an opinion formed and based on the personal experiences of those others — and that makes the person being judged feel worse. Most of the time people don’t even realize that their ‘support’ is so hurtful and unhelpful. The world has changed and things don’t happen so fast anymore. A ‘job for life’ no longer exists.
Factors beyond an individuals control are at play and I understand how deep it cuts when a pal makes a quip that you should be doing better already. Since the recession there have been fewer manufacturing jobs, fewer media jobs and overall just fewer jobs. In the U.S. where job growth is slowly increasing wages have lagged behind. In the U.K., data shows workers haven’t had a pay raise since the recession. Ten years without an increase but with inflation means workers today are worse off across Britain.
We know you’re working 24–7 looking for better opportunities, a higher wage and a more fulfilling career. Just remember when the judgement starts stabbing that you’re awesome. Block-out this unhelpful noise, keep your focus and you will achieve the change you desire.
2. Learn to leave employers that don’t appreciate you.
After a deep recession when jobs are cut and wages suffer it is easily to get stuck in a bad employment situation. But being unhappy at work will only negatively impact the whole of your life outside of the office and maybe even your health too.
Employment is a two-way street. It’s not just about the value you add to your company’s bottom line. It’s also about the career development, compensation and satisfaction an employer provides to employees.
We know you take pride in doing a good job and want to ensure your employer is successful. However, if the situation at work is bad for you and has been bad for some time, and does not appear to have any chance of being remedied, then you have to leave this employer — even if you wholeheartedly love your job. It’s time to accept the signals they’re sending and find your fulfilling career someplace else. The sad reality is that your employer will survive fine without you. However, the longer you delay taking steps to move-on the longer your struggles will last.
Of course I understand that this sounds like a massive luxury if you need that paycheck — especially if you have children. Friends who tell you to quit your job without anything lined up might be offering this advice because they have a safety net and going without a paycheck won’t hurt them. Not everyone is in a position to just walk-out. However, you can start to do small things to initiate change. Networking can help make connections for new opportunities. Additionally, never stop learning and improving your professional toolkit. This is because employers want the best candidates with current skills. This too might sound difficult if your finances are pressured but continued learning doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
Local libraries and the internet are great free resources. Watch TED talks, industry workshops and business videos. Follow some of your heroes plus industry leaders on social media to get inspired and learn from them. Borrow resources from your local library. Attend free meetups. Get yourself out there and in front of people. You’ll not only start to feel more confident after a period of oppression but you might just make a wonderful contact that leads to your dream job.
3. Learn to say no to projects that aren’t worth your time.
This can be very difficult if you’re out of work but the sad fact is some nasty projects will slow your progress down. Being under serious financial pressure can lead people to taking substandard opportunities just to keep cashflow moving. Despite the criticism of friends and family — you will have to walk away from things that are going to take more from you than they provide in return.
There’s a famous story in the UK from the current Coach of the Wales football team. Chris Coleman had a successful career as a British player before moving into coaching. His coaching career was progressing nicely and took his first international coaching job in Greece. While working in Greece for the club Larissa, it became clear the club was in serious financial trouble. Chris and his players weren’t being paid. Months after joining Chris still hadn’t been paid and he eventually felt he had no choice but to quit over the lack of payment. He courageously talks about how hard it was to work for so long without payment. He was passionate about the job and he did care for the team. But he had to take himself out of a bad situation to get back on track.
In this scenario a boss will keep telling you how valued you are and how much they need you but that you have to wait for the money. People stick around because they believe it will happen but also at a certain point they are so invested in the job that they really need that money to come through. If you’ve experienced this, don’t feel like this happened because you’re not good enough. Bad and cheap companies exist at all levels. It happened to the Wales Coach and it might have just happened to you too.
If you only realize that you’ve gotten yourself into an unfavorable situation once the work is in progress, still don’t stick around. There are actually some characters out there who will want to get you invested enough so that you can’t quit because ‘the money is coming’. If the payment hasn’t arrived when it was promised and delays repeatedly occur, it is probably never coming. It’s despicable but it does happen. When this happens you have to cut your losses early, even if nobody in your circle supports this decision, because if you remain hopeful in the face red flags — you’re just extending your suffering and keeping yourself locked in a bad situation.
Maybe the work is for someone you already know. This can be a tricky situation. Perhaps you’ve been approached to take a contract from a friend or member of your network. But as you get into the particulars the client starts to become demanding and the scope creeps while your compensation shrinks. If people are rude and cheap at the start this will not change no matter how much you contribute or how fantastic your work is. People who don’t want to pay, won’t pay.
Lawyers often won’t take on lawsuits for unpaid consulting work because recovering money from parties that won’t pay is nearly impossible. Even if a court judgement exists, if they don’t have money or don’t want to pay, they still won’t pay. If you don’t believe me, just ask your lawyer.
Dirty, rotten, scoundrels:
Don’t assume that just because you’re having a tough time that everyone who approaches is there to help. Sadly this isn’t the case. Cockroaches come out of the wood and they do try to benefit from your bad fortune. I have personally seen this happen.
I think there should be a special place in hell for network members who prey on and exploit the difficult situation of another person. Get away from these scammers, manipulators and gaslighters as quickly as you can. Yes it will hurt to accept that someone took advantage of you at a time when you were vulnerable but the faster you get toxic detractors away from you, the quicker you will recover.
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.”
Anyone with sales training will tell you that a common dodgy tactic to get more from you than a customer is entitled to is to get aggressive and insult you to get you to demonstrate trade secrets to prove your worth. This embarrasses most normal people so they then give more than they should, to please the customer and get the job.
The problem with this is that some people just don’t want to pay and they will do whatever it takes to get out of giving you cash for your work. Don’t bother with these people. You don’t need your confidence to become more damaged at a time when you’re probably already feeling fragile.
Additionally, if you’ve been job hunting for a long time its common to hear ‘why don’t you just get a job at the burger joint’. As if you haven’t tried (but we both know you did and even the burger joint rejected you). Don’t get down on yourself if jobs below your skill level won’t hire you. There’s science behind the negative impacts of under-employing someone and managers are aware of it.
This means bosses know if they hire an unemployed superstar the effects could drag your moral down further than if you weren’t employed at all. That low energy in-turn then deflates the rest of the workforce. So its not about you being insufficient — its about the bosses of hourly jobs wanting to preserve their work atmosphere by protecting their motivated and engaged team.
Depending on your education and experience — you may never be able to land a quick fast-food type of filler job. Even if you “dumb-down” your CV, bosses can tell by the way people interview if they’re not the right fit for the team even if you’d be the hardest working person they’ve ever employed for the short time you’d be there.
Finally, walking away from a bad opportunity is never popular with the friends and family that have decided you need to be doing more. This is unhelpful. A scarcity mindset with regards to work will never get you the job you desire — or the payment you need — instead it tends to just lead to more crappy situations.
None of us want our loved ones to suffer. But if they haven’t faced hardship it is hard for them to understand that taking a freelance gig that has such bad terms you end up working 24–7 and as a result your real payment won’t keep a roof over your head but it will ensure that it takes even longer for you to get that dream job. Remember you’re awesome. Don’t let others force you into an exploitative situation just because you’re having a rough time.
4. Never let the bastards get you down.
If times have been tough, you might have had to give up a vacation trip or accept that this year your family will have a smaller Christmas or Hanukkah. You might even need to downsize your house or move back in with your parents. You won’t be alone if you do. Nearly one third of American millennials currently live with their parents according to the U.S. Census. If you are lucky enough to have friends and family to live with — be happy about the downsizing — because many people do not and their situations is so much harder than yours.
Here’s a scenario you can pull inspiration from: a few years ago I was working with Amnesty International in London on a special project for their marketing department. Amnesty as an organization does so much to help fight for human rights around the world. On a much smaller scale, every winter the marketing team would come together and cook a meal for a nearby homeless shelter. After all having access to safe housing is a fundamental human right.
This particular year the team cooked for a nearby church that opened its doors at night to give people who had been turned away from overflowing traditional shelters a warm place to sleep. At the dinner, my team learned that the majority of the homeless in the shelter were just like you and me. Educated, talented and hard working. But something bad had happened in their life and the system didn’t support them. Many had friends and family but a sofa wasn’t extended for a variety of reasons.
It might be easy to scoff at this except everyone has something going on in their lives and in some circumstances it just might not be possible for a friend to accommodate an extra person. Meanwhile, others might not have any living relatives anymore or relatives nearby.
The vast majority of our diners told us that they’d either lost their job or that they were self employed and had work dry-up. They were struggling to get paying jobs and being without stable housing (and wifi!) made the search even harder. The problem with losing a job or having work end is that many people in this situation terminate their leases to save themselves from an eviction. At this point they aren’t eligible to collect housing benefits because they have no lease and no fixed address. So by doing the ‘right’ thing and preventing an eviction for past-due rent, these people had sealed their fate into homelessness.
I promise you that if you ran into any of our diners on the street you would not be able to tell they were homeless. The assumption that someone must be sick or greedy and stupid to land in that situation is deeply flawed. Unfortunately, this can be the sad reality of a difficult employment situation these days.
What I learned from our friends at the dinner that night was that none of them were letting the bastards get them down. Neither should you. They were working hard to turn their luck around and trying as best they could to keep a positive outlook. You can too.
Life is fragile:
It’s a reality most people do not want to face. Life is fragile and far too many people are just one small disaster away from having their living standard destroyed. As a result, some people just can’t deal with seeing others suffer because it hits too close to their own insecurities. At the same time, for those who have been fortunate it can be difficult to understand devastating challenges. It’s easy for others to assume that just because your efforts aren’t producing results that you’re not trying hard enough. That assumption is deeply unhelpful. These people aren’t watching over you to see all that you’re doing.
We know you’re trying 24–7 and not updating everyone on every move because loved ones get excited and expect a job interview to turn into a job offer and when that doesn’t happen, then you again have to deal with negative judgement and disappointment beyond your own sadness over the rejection. This situation can become overwhelming. Take a deep breath, keep you focus and power forward. All of these points are of course common sense but we somehow forget the basics when the going gets tough. If you’ve struggled at work this year, keep these points in mind as we enter 2018.
If you’re just not feeling the festive vibe, don’t hesitate to share this article with your friends and family but don’t be sad if some reject your reaching out for help. A positive about having a hard time is it clearly shows you who your real friends are. You’ll be surprised. The group is probably smaller than you expected. But these people are your tribe and they will be with you through good times and bad. Appreciate them.
Most people mean well and think they are offering needed support. Of course none of us wants to see our friends and loved ones face hardship and for those who haven’t it can be hard for them to comprehend a dynamic situation. Keep your focus and good doors will open again. I wish you nothing but good health, wealth and wellbeing for 2018. And remember, you’re awesome and never ever let the bastards get you down.
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Cambridge MBA | Marketing Consultant | Speaker | Author | Ghostwriter