Saturday, November 14, 2009

Anger Won't Get You Anywhere

A few weeks ago, Duncan and I published an article called “How to Network Without Sounding Phony, Lame or Desperate” on the AOL/Careerbuilder site. At last count, there were 73 responses, most of them angry, resentful, hopeless and raging. One commentator simply wrote, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.” How’s that for effectively moving the conversation forward in a helpful way?

As I read the responses, I got lower and lower in my own spirits. And then I thought, “It’s bad enough to be out of work, and hunting in this terrible market. But how much worse is it to be hauling around so much anger. These people are wrecking their own chances, just by their attitudes.” No, I’m not suggesting you behave like Shirley Temple and tap dance your way through adversity, as she had tap danced her way through the Depression. (Although, many of those songs she sang – “Be Optimistic” is going through my head right now – did have a point. Only now we call it positive psychology.)

Shirley Temple singing \”Be Optimistic\”

I wouldn’t in a million years suggest that you deny your very real feelings, and stuff them down only to have them pop up later like a beach ball submerged in a swimming pool. But I would like to suggest that you take a look at those feelings, recognize what damage they might be doing to your prospects, and decide which ones you really want to hold on to. And then which ones you might want to replace with a more productive attitude.

Anger is wrecking your chances for getting out of these economic times with an intact career (however interrupted it might be). Researchers have discovered that negative thinking actually inhibits your ability to come up with creative approaches for your situation. When you approach your life and world through a negative frame of mind, you inhibit what is known as your temporary thought-action repertoire. This is actually an evolutionary phenomenon…a positive attitude helped us survive in the wilderness by coming up with creative solutions to that tiger making a bee-line for us. Conversely, a negative attitude would freeze us in his sites, with a big deadly “duh” overwhelming our brains. And soon we would become tiger mortadella.

Anger only attracts other angry people. When you’re in a good mood, it’s not long before you want to move away from someone who is doing nothing but complaining. You know that. So do you really want to hang out with other people who have nothing to add to the conversation beyond agreeing with you that it’s hopeless out there? I’m thinking you’d probably want to spend at least some time with people who have an upbeat outlook on life. Well, what do you need to do to change yourself so they’d want to hang out with you?

Anger keeps you from seeing things the way they are now and changing your strategies accordingly. A lot of people are angry because it’s not as easy finding a job as it was three years ago. Okay. So? The New Age crowd has an expression that absolutely drives me up the wall. And that is: It is what it is. As much as I hate that expression, it fits here.

We can rage that the present isn’t what the past used to be. But where is all that expenditure of energy getting us? If we’re so busy mourning the fact that the old opportunities have gone away, we’re not using this precious time to discover what the new opportunities are. Okay, so the old methods of job search are as extinct as our negative-mindset ancestor staring down the charging tiger. What would be more productive from this point forward? Focusing on what’s past? Or identifying what the new skills and techniques are today that will land us the jobs we’re looking for?

No one’s going to want to hire you if you’re angry. You may have been a rock star in your profession last year. You may look flawless. But if you have given yourself over to anger and frustration, that smell is going to seep through your pores just as unmistakably as if you had just been on a bender. Your interviewers won’t be able to get you out of their offices fast enough.

Do I really have the nerve to tell you not to be angry? Not on your life. But what I would like to suggest is this: Don’t let your anger keep you from achieving your dreams and meeting your potential. Feel that anger if you want to. Wallow in it every day if it makes you feel better. But assign yourself a budget of time in which you can go there, break things (only cheap, replaceable things that belong only to you), holler so loud the neighbors can hear you, if you have to (although I wouldn’t recommend it). Set a timer, if you must.

And when that timer dings, show’s over. Settle back down to the business of building the life that will make you happy.

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