One of the saddest facts we face today is that so many people have quit looking for work. These are people who would like to work but can’t find a decent job. In many cases they can’t find any job.  Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts our unemployment rate of about 6.3% that number is almost meaningless. If you add in people who have been unemployed for over six months and are too discouraged to actively look for work the unemployment number is well over 10%. Almost as bad is the number of people estimated to be under-employed.
 
These are people who are either working part-time or whose skills, education and experience significantly exceed the requirements of their job…like bartenders with Masters degrees.  Almost 25% of working Americans are under-employed…wow what a waste. One of most heartbreaking segments of the long-term unemployed are people over age 50 caught in job elimination schemes due to mergers or restructuring.
 
As you may know, most businesses want younger employees with smaller salaries so being jobless at 50 or 55 is especially gut wrenching. I try to help many of these people who have enough of a sense of humor to call themselves suddenly retired. Yet there’s nothing funny about it. Gallops’ research on personal well-being puts work satisfaction at the pivot point of our lives. Of course people’s health and family relationships are more important than work but the quality of our work life has the most impact on our daily stress, our sense of personal security, and future opportunities. Lousy work makes for a lousy life.
 
If you think I may be overstating it consider that research on depression shows that it is more difficult to overcome the negative mood effects of long-term unemployment than divorce or the death of a spouse.
 
This is true even when someone finds a job after a long stint of being unemployed. At another time I will write about how the leadership mindset in our current economy is more designed to exploit labor now than in previous decades. For now I’ll just say our economic–political system is operating at the intersection of stupidity and self-interest that is toxic. And let me assure you this is not something theoretical to me. It is something I witness almost daily as I work with leaders.
 
So what are we to do?
 
Well as you know I am a raving evangelist urging you to take complete control over your career and the quality of your work life. Here’s why. Today, employment is an illusion. We used to have a social contract with our employers in which we would give up our personal autonomy for promise of security. Since that contract has been broken as far as security goes, we are foolish to give up our autonomy. Today we are in business for ourselves no matter who signs your paycheck. We are all contingent workers. Your career is your business.
 
Whatever job you have today is a temporary consulting contract.
 
You are always working for yourself. Period. End of story. What this means is that you are never unemployed. Wait…what? Look, your career is a constant. You’re either working or looking for a new client or temporary employer. This is the mindset you need to not be thrown off your game when you suddenly find yourself terminated by external events. This mindset is essential to your psychological well-being and your practical success.
 
Now, there are two critical success factors you must pay attention to. 
 
The first is you. People will only hire you if they are clear that they will make more money by paying you versus what you will cost. You have to present yourself with a unique value proposition just like a business. Why do you shop at Target rather than the Dollar Store? Why would you buy an iPhone over a Samsung or vice versa? Every successful business needs to offer a clear bundle of distinct benefits to attract customers. So do you.
 
It’s absolutely necessary if you are serious about attracting a stream of employers or clients…or if you want to start your own enterprise. Remember, your economic security is not based on who is paying you now. It’s based on your ability to create value for others and sell that value. The most powerful selling message is being very clear on how you will help other employees or clients either make money or save money… grow or profit.
 
The second success factor is to focus on your customer.
 
If you’re working for someone your customer is your boss. His or her goals are your goals. Treat your boss like a client and they will be pleased. Just remember your bosses’ satisfaction with you has little to do with you keeping your job. In crazy world, all of that is outside of your bosses’ control. If working for someone else has become too much of a grind I encourage you to start your own business. You won’t be alone.
 
It’s interesting that women are getting very excited about taking charge of their future. According to American Express, they are starting an estimated 1,288 companies each day.  For either men or women most businesses start during a recession. But our recovery from the last recession has been so uneven that new business formation is rising even as the economy recovers.
 

If you are starting a business you will most powerfully attract customers if you have a distinctive product or service that helps them:

  • Enjoy their lives more
  • Makes them healthier
  • Make them smarter
  • Makes them richer
  • Make them more popular or attractive
  • Makes their lives simpler
  • Makes their lives more meaningful
I’m sure there are other benefits that successful businesses offer but these are the big ones. Now if you are thinking of starting a business don’t be discouraged by anything you’ve heard about the high failure rates of new businesses. They don’t really apply to you.While it’s true that for businesses backed by venture-capital only three make money and only one is a hit. Don’t worry about that.
 
In businesses that are self-financed and grow themselves through customer revenue, 7 out of 10 generate enough net income to be self-sustaining.
 
The key is to make enough money from your business to stay in business for at least five years. 93% of all new businesses change their product or services to achieve success. You’re plenty smart enough and agile to make those adjustments. The number one reason why small businesses or consulting practices shut their doors is because the owners decide to do something else…not because of business failure.
 
So the key is to do something that is both enjoyable and meaningful…those are the two drivers that will sustain you during the storms of self-doubt and dicey cash flow. The benefits of personal and psychological freedom are profound. Research confirms that you have to make twice as much money when you are employed by others to equal the job and life satisfaction of being self-employed. Now that’s something to think about.
 
As I hope you can tell, I feel very strongly about this topic…so strongly that I recorded a free course I titled How to Stop Looking for Work and Start Working.
 
This is not so much a course in entrepreneurship as it is an unusual set of principles and tips about how to take charge of your work opportunities right now. You don’t need a business plan just some gumption. It’s a series of videos and study guides that you can access by clicking here.It is absolutely free.
 
Many of you have been through a workshop I present call Supercharge Your Career… this is not that. This is for people who are out of work or thinking they may be soon. I think you will find many useful ideas you have never heard or seen anywhere else. I filmed it in my living room with my good friend Michael who is an award-winning filmmaker. Marcello is the videographer who makes it creative and interesting on a tiny budget. Please take a look. If you don’t have a need for this kind of thinking right now I’m sure you know somebody who does.
 
Just pass it on.
 
Yesterday someone asked me why I created this course.  The answer is simple…I am so sick and tired of seeing so many people who have been made very sick and tired by a crazy economy.The best investment you can ever make is not in the stock market it’s in yourself!