June 24, 2018

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Answering Your Wake-Up Calls

Very few of us progress through a job search without getting bruised. Being unemployed means being challenged, sometimes quite painfully so. It also means being confronted by situations that, if faced in the way some behavioral experts suggest, are difficult but which are also learning experiences.

How we handle these scrapes and disappointments commonly referred to as “wake-up calls” is, to many of us, a measure of our personal growth, the yardstick by which we determine what kind of person we really are. Wake-up calls deliver the lessons that need to be learned; they teach us to understand the truly important things in our lives.

In his 1992 book aptly entitled Wake-Up Calls, Eric Allenbaugh, Ph.D., writes, "Life's gifts of learning, growing, and self-correcting are often delivered in the form of wake-up calls. A timely wake-up call can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves you and those around you more effectively.” Defining them as "significant emotional events," Dr. Allenbaugh maintains that these wake-up calls -- from illness to divorce, through job loss and beyond -- can persuade us to view our lives in a completely different way, sometimes in the space of a moment.

Wake-up calls all have one thing in common: they momentarily force us to interrupt the thought and behavioral patterns we normally practice. And those awareness shifts can lead to transformation. A divorce, getting fired, a major illness, losing a key client, flunking an important examination ... these are the more traumatic methods of calling attention to important issues. Yet each contains value, if we are open to the learning. As most of us mature, we are aware that knowledge, especially self-knowledge, often comes at a heavy price and can sometimes be an almost staggering burden.

During a job search it is extremely important that you answer your wake-up calls by putting your life into perspective. Thinking about other components of your life, such as family, friends and hobbies, can help you feel more hopeful after a job loss. To remind job seekers that they still have full lives, I perform a short exercise, which helps the majority of job seekers to keep their job loss in proper perspective. I draw a diagram of a pie and ask them to draw the slice that represents the space work takes up in their lives. I then ask them to divide the pie into the other pieces of their lives -- family, health, friends, relationship, etc. We then step back and begin to discuss taking a broader view.

Can the most terrible moments of our lives also be the most enlightening? Can a job loss really be a good thing? Yes, life is a difficult school; from the first shock of birth we are destined to meet pain as well as pleasure. Although we cannot always avoid the storms in our lives, we can control our responses. As the saying goes, "What doesn’t kill us strengthens us."

- Joe Hodowanes, Career Strategy Advisor

J.M. Wanes & Associates

Joe Hodowanes, M.P.A., SPHR, is a nationally recognized career coach, syndicated columnist, and president of Tampa-based J.M. Wanes & Associates, J.M. Wanes & Associates is a career coaching, outplacement, and executive search firm specializing in executive-level opportunities.

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