When the economy is strong the playground is lots of fun. Even the merry-go-round isn’t half bad if the money is good. Some people climb on the jungle gym trying to out maneuver those around them so that they can be first to the top rung. King of the mountain, they guard their post once they reach the top. Others like to swing free with the wind in their hair and their eyes at the sky. When the economy takes a turn the playground begins to feel a bit more threatening. Dodge ball takes on a whole new meaning when it is a pink slip being thrown around. Sometimes the person handing out the pink slip is the next one to get hit. Just like a playground game of dodge ball, nobody seems to have enough padding these days and lots of people head home bruised.
While bruises don’t keep you from getting up each morning, they sure can slow the process. You begin to rethink your past performance, doubt your worth as an employee, and if unemployment drags on long enough, as an individual. Each morning you get up and try to ignore the bruises and hope that they will quickly fade away. Every small triumph, an answered email, a call back, the coveted interview helps the healing. Unfortunately, many of us begin to beat ourselves up again if there are too many days in between. We retreat into our minds and rethink each effort until we are no longer sure we are qualified to even search for the seemingly elusive job. As time continues at a healthy clip, the ideal job isn’t even on your list. Any job that will pay the bills will do. Ever successfully convinced someone that the job you really don’t want is the one you are the perfect fit for? Me neither.
So how do we pull ourselves each day to the new battlefield that is our playground? We get up and put on the borrowed optimism our friends and loved ones have lent us. We dress for the playground, not stay in pajamas. We check all the area sources: job boards, local companies, past business associates, the businesses we still frequent, and any other ideas anyone offers up. We go to that playground and stare down that incredibly high slide. We take the first step up the ladder and then the second one which feels much the same. Just keep climbing. Don’t get distracted or look down, just climb. Some days we reach the top and enjoy the ride down. I consider these the days when my energy is waning and a friend drags me out to treat me to a cup of coffee. Or the moments when I invest in myself, like writing this blog. The slide is my respite. When I get to the bottom I catch my breath and run back to the ladder.