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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Narrowing your scope – keeping your eyes on the (stupid) prize

Instead of broadening your vision for the future, you’re worrying (a bit too much) about finding your next job. Obviously, if you have bills to pay and mouths to feed – your sense of urgency is more immediate.

Yet, even with (or without) those things, the unemployed rigidly stick to making it next to the hurdle. Remember: it’s only during the breaks and stop gaps that we get to recoup, reinvent and restabilize where our career and life are heading.

In the end, a job is what you want – but that narrow focus can cause you to miss other opportunities that may not present themselves again. The problem is not finding a job – it is keeping yourself sane (and satisfied) while you look for one.

The trick: Remembering what you like to do when you actually had this much time on your hands

Expecting more of the same (over and over again)

In other words, your Plan A is also your Plan B, and C and so on. As a seasoned job hopper, I’ve always been able to bounce back. I’m not going to blame the economy or my (lack of) willpower (OK, maybe just a little).  Instead, the disease of my indifference to job hopping  can be a suitable scapegoat for this scenario.

Job hopping is not always hopping up – sometimes you need to slip a rung or two if you want to add to your skill arsenal. If you jump from one professional venture to the other without much forethought, you may doom yourself to unrealistic expectations of the job market (and your place in it).

This is tricky territory because job hopping has a mixed bag of positives and negatives. In this case, if you have been job hopping within an industry in a downturn –  reasonably tweak your expectations. If you are looking for a career change, be prepared to make broad exceptions.

Question to answer: Is it time for career change, industry change or a change altogether?

Embracing Agoraphobia – in a big way

Some of the (un)expected side effects of joblessness is the amount of freedom and time that is suddenly thrust upon you. Nonetheless, you haven’t left the house in days. Maybe, like most job seekers, you are patrolling Internet job sites, mass emailing potential employers, contacts and God-knows-who else.

You’re glued to your computer looking for opportunities that might not be there. Yet, a lot of this activity is solitary in nature and only compounds the reality that you are not in an office or surrounded by other people. 

Life becomes radically different when the usual 8 hours is not dictated by someone else. It feels liberating… at first. Yet, for some, the sheer velocity of trying to maintain and create a centered routine can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to give yourself the task of being active outside your home as well as within it.

If you go somewhere as prosaic as a coffee shop and read The Onion – that’s fine. Immerse yourself in an environment where there will be people, voices, noise and activity.

If you are introverted (like me) you’ll only leave as soon as you get there to relieve yourself of the stress of being in a crowded environment. Don’t. Do yourself a favor and surround yourself with the world outside your home.

Don’t sequester yourself from it.

Today’s Task: Leave the house. Immediately.

You aren’t working for free

Unemployment doesn’t mean unproductive. When given 8 hours to do whatever we see fit – the monkeys start to escape from the cages.  Volunteering while you are out of work can be your saving grace. You already know that the best job development comes at the highest price: your time.

So, don’t waste hours in front of a Monster job board when you could be learning something you always wanted.

Or, if you find the right opportunity, you’re developing the “defining moments” of your career. Usually, this means giving yourself the incentive to move on to something else while working on something new.

Semantics vs. Perspective: Think of it as a job sabbatical

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Jaboney @ Flickr

Photo Credit: Jaboney @ Flickr

If it were up to you – would you really work for a living? That’s a funny phrase. Working for a living. What’s that mean nowadays when so many people are living to work to survive?

Right now, I’m marginally attached to the workforce. I work weird hours (when I want to) and participate in volunteer projects at my leisure. No, I’m not independently wealthy. But, I don’t consider myself to be unemployed. Instead, maybe I’m “semi-retired.” While most of my out of work colleagues won’t feel the same way about unemployment like I do, I feel that semi-retiredness is out of necessity, not out of choice.

Presently, I can spend a lot of my time looking for jobs I truly want.  I’m not beholden to my 45 minute “lunch hour.” I can be flexible with people I want to connect (and network) with. It’s not ideal. I won’t say that some days aren’t especially tough for me. And, when you spend months and years being productive (for someone else), it’s hard to have it come to an abrupt stop or (for you lucky few) have it become cut in half.

There are lots of questions behind how to fill your unemployed hours of the day. I think the simple stigma of unemployment is that you will run out of money. And, since you are not working, it feels you aren’t doing something meaningful, productive and responsible.

You, nonetheless, never run out responsibilities. You have rent, mortgage, kids, spouses, sicknesses, habits to supply and misdeeds to fund – anything, everything. But, even if you had a job, those responsibilities won’t disappear. You still have student debt to pay and groceries to buy. Money only makes handling that stuff easier.

It doesn’t necessarily make anything any better. Yet, people sometimes insist on narrowly placing meaning on the activities they do for 8 hours a day in an office. But, meaningfulness is not merely created in a cube or a vacuum or a job or a work title.

It’s more alive than that. It’s 3-dimensional and fluid. It requires 3 million bits of ideas and all of them breathe from the life you live. So, the time you spend being productive while not working demonstrates just as much (if not more) about meaningfulness than the time you spend being productive on the job (for someone else).

As a semi-retiree, I like to think that my professional “pauses” are my respites. Whether I needed them or not. Whether I wanted them or not. I can’t do much about the state of the economy and the job losses except complain. And, I don’t get paid to complain. But, I do get paid to be productive regardless of the financial value or if I’m employed.

Therefore, I’ll continue my volunteer work, my job searching and my networking.  I’ll continue being semi-retired. I’ll continue doing the things that get me in tune with others.  Being unemployed doesn’t mean you become disconnected from being productive. And, it doesn’t mean you are being irresponsible or losing meaning.

It means I can continue being thankful. I can continue to do all those other things that fill up the hours of my day. I can remain feeling meaningful and valuable. I can continue being connected and feeling worthwhile.

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gwyneth-paltrow2I am a subscriber to Gwyneth Paltrow’s oddly monikered newsletter GOOP.

When GOOP made its inaugural appearance, Paltrow gave teasing tidbits about the newsletter’s forthcoming niche with six plain verbs: MAKE, GO, GET, SEE, BE and DO.

While Paltrow effortlessly floats an easy sense of quiet cool and has been christened as one of many style icons – her trendsetting sophistication online comes across as over inflated and a tad vapid.

The same persona that stretches across on the movie screen recoils into an unattainable (Paltrow deems it “inspirational”) chic via the GOOP’s pages.

One can guess that GOOP’s intended audience should consist of madcap, independently wealthy sophisticates, the Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsens of the world who have the time (and, obviously the money) to embark on Paltrow’s suggestions of purchasing $800 Giuseppi Zanotti boots or jetting off to London to try out the Hempel Hotel.

Given the current economic crisis, dropping demand for luxury and the squelching of available airline flights – Paltrow’s newsletter seems (dare I say it?) ill timed.

That get-away to Paris to see the Alexander Calder exhibit doesn’t have the same ring as it used to in maybe…2005?

GOOP is not all empty fashionista musings, the section BE concentrates on personal development in which several advisors from different helms of psychology, religion and personal growth add their perspectives on how to deal with pessimism.

But she’s Gwyneth Paltrow – she can do that, right? The famously wealthy have those options – it’s the privilege that comes with swirling in such lusciously lavish territory.

Yet, what puzzles me about Ms. Paltrow’s newsletter is the aloofness that comes within its own context.

In other words, why does nourishing the inner aspect (GOOP’s tagline) have to be so obviously and unabashedly rich?

Perhaps, I’m answering my own question.

The abundant, snazzy, swanky good life spills from GOOP and you can’t help but feel ridiculous. The idea of inspirational chic wanders into a distant memory compared to current nightmare of  mass job layoffs and dwindling consumerism.

Even Ms. Paltrow’s gift ideas are laced with a naïve politeness to remind that even as the holidays descend upon us, it’s quite appropriate to purchase a $75 cake knife or $45 cashmere socks – it’s all about the intention (even the luxurious ones).

Ms. Paltrow does not have to clip coupons, investigate clearance sales racks or maybe even suffer buyer’s remorse. Her advice about living life to the fullest requires knowing that eating the upper crust will taste as rich (and cost as much) as she makes it appear.

She provides recipes detailing her love for turkey ragu and buckwheat banana pancakes – she even suggests that we live holistically and get enough sleep (everyone needs more sleep!).

GOOP’s had quite a few critics, and yet I’m not sure how Ms. Paltrow would respond to such cynicism. After all, a life as fabulous as the one she lives has to be shared, no?

Ms. Paltrow only wants to inspire, whether or not the inspiration is more for her benefit than it is for others.

And no, I’m not calling Ms. Paltrow ridiculous – but her newsletter is quite so in every sense of the definition. While it’s fine to show us hoi polloi what a wonderful life is all about – I think GOOP is missing a bit of reality from its simple verbs.

I may not cancel my subscription to GOOP anytime soon, I just don’t take it nearly as seriously as my addiction to Life Hacker.

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I thought it would be fitting to post a more upbeat article since all the gloom and doom on Washington was beginning to bring me down. Congress has passed the mega huge bailout bill, but America is a long way from being out of the woods yet.

It can get overwhelming being bombarded with scary reports of rising job loss, slowed spending and an overall sagging economy.

So, if life gives you lemons, make a rockin’ sangria.
 

Keep a few things in mind next time you feel the crunch of the economy bearing down on you…

  • understand that while there is nothing wrong with being rich, it is always right to make conscious, wise decisions to live within my financial means.
  • save a set amount of money in a separate savings account, develop reasonable financial goals and invest my money wisely
  • appreciate coupons, rebates and other financial incentives that will soften my budget
  • not give into materialistic consumerism and shopaholism
  • treat myself once in a while and know I deserve it.
  • pay for everything I can with cash and save for the things I can’t
  • get in touch with my inner Scrooge and not let budget be a dirty word

Especially with the quadruple-threat holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s) coming soon, money spending on the extra niceties (even just the niceties) will be difficult to do.

But don’t worry, I’m looking out for my readers. Occasionally, The Writerbabe Series will post some interesting money saving ideas and tips that especially come in handy, this is particularly target to those with champagne taste on a free water budget.

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This American Life produced an excellent segment detailing the American economic meltdown (is meltdown even an accurate description?). The three part series includes a medley of interviews with players within various points of our current financial conundrum. The series would be more aptly called, “The Wall Street Trail of Blunders, Lies and Greed” – I think my title is a little more transparent, if I do say so myself.

Essentially, NPR gives a condensed review of the systematic breakdown of (what should have been) a sound financial infrastructure fueled by a combination of capitalistic greed, short-sighted fiscal responsibility and plain ol’ stupidity.

But, am I telling you anything new? Of course not. Yet, for anyone still wondering how we got into this mess, (or, you are a glutton for punishment) I suggest you listen to it – it’s definitely an eye opener.

Unfortunately, no one likes to ask questions when money is flowing freely beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Personally, wild dreams and greedy imaginations are what got us where we are now. The bailout totally tanked  and Washington is scrambling to pick up the pieces. The Dow plummeted over 700 points and Democrats and Republicans are pointing fingers at each other on who is to blame for the House failing to pass the bill.

All this bi-partisan bickering doesn’t change anything. Americans are still losing jobs, having difficulty paying for basic necessities and economic growth remains in question. If anything, we should learn how greed (Swedish style) was solved abroad – we aren’t the first country to screw ourselves. Also, I’m not so sure a bailout would even work, especially since Congress seemed especially queasy about even passing it.

Well, Republicans seemed more queasy about it than Democrats, but, I digress.

It also doesn’t help that the resounding cry from Wall Street is, “Well, everyone else was doing it – and we wanted those profits!” It’s the economical equivalent of the twinkie defense in regard to the financial system.

No wonder why American’s aren’t sympathetic.

Oh, did I also mention that the $700 billion bailout roughly calculates to $10,000 per American family.
(Cha-ching! Why doesn’t someone give me a bailout?!)

The ridiculously bad decision making of banking institutions won’t be solved by a swift punch of money from the government. It may be years before America recovers from its mistakes. Government reform seems to have such a nasty habit of being reactionary rather than preemptive (at least, where it matters). Without implementing better oversight, regulation and performance measures of financial industries to keep greed at bay – we will only find ourselves in the same (if not worse) situation again.

And frankly, I don’t think America will have another $700 billion to spare.

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flagYesterday, I went to a screening of the (not quite so underground) documentary Chicago 10.  Later, that evening, I also went to see Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna.” 

Essentially, both movies cover war and questions of citizenship, although they are set in two completely different types of political and social climate. The common link, however, is the attitudes of citizenship civilians and soldiers develop during wartime, conflict and distress.  

This particular debate has become even more visible in reference to the government’s treatment of its citizens during natural disasters and economic crisis. Hurricane Katrina has led to a mass upheaval of New Orleans residents from their communities with little government assistance for the repurcussions (not to mention, undercurrents of hostilty towards the survivors). Lousianians currently question their place in America and are forced to renegotiate their sense of community. 

Meanwhile, Washington’s mulling over the finer details of a $700 billion dollar bailout  causes Americans to wonder if the financial package will really put the economy back on a solid financial footing. Understanding the link from Wall Street to Main Street has not added much to the fading confidence of struggling Americans in the US financial infrastructure.

Also, the events of 9/11 which place us in the current turmoil of Iraq have created a murky, muddy strain of answers when questions arise of our involvement (and purpose) in the conflict abroad.

What does this have to do with citizenship?

Plenty. 

Recognizing the interconnectedness from me to you, from state to state, from country to country  (and, ultimately, to the world at large) will be equally challenged by the definition of what it means to be citizen.

Does your citizenship include economic stability (should it?)? Does it include government assistance when you are displaced in your own community? What about recognizing your role in the preservation and conservation of nature and humanity? Does citizenshp imply automatic protection?

The simple side of this argument includes that we already know what it means to be a citizen of [insert country here] – what does it include? What parts do individual citizens play in the larger role of contributing to their own nations and communities? What must we expect of ourselves and others (as citizens of America, of the world)? We shouldn’t be allowed to limit ourselves to its base definition.

I know these are broad questions, but they are meant to start an internal dialoge – and then, maybe foster a debate amongst friends. Then, perhaps, it will spread and people will challenge themselves to re-define a simple little word into something more powerful and brilliant than ever before.

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spiralMy weekend’s may look a little less fun nowadays.

As I type this, I’ve been doing some personal research on the state of the American economy (actually, who hasn’t?). More specifically, how the economy is affecting my ability to have good time (and best of all –FREE!).

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a native Chicagoan and a brand new homeowner. I have to be more than conscientious about my spending habits. A girl wants more for her dollar nowadays, (if she can get it.). Gone are the carefree Tazo tea moments –  hello home-brewed Celestial Seasons. That’s why it’s all the more important to invest my time in any social outreach or arts programming that my city provides.

Places like the Chicago Cultural Center, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Humanities Festival are guaranteed to feed my brain – I could go on. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where I attend discussions about human rights and genocide or hear FREE music from klesmer bands, check out shows from progressive dance artists – alright, it’s obvious that Chicago is a mecca for culture lovers. But, don’t be too hard on me for bragging.

But, Lehman Brothers is ruining my weekend.

You wouldn’t really think that a soon-to-be defunct bankrupt investment bank is screwing with my opportunity to have fun (ok, I’m not really that into klesmer, but that’s not the point).

Failing investment banks, credit crunches, foreclosures – these financial debacles spider into everyday life a lot deeper (and harder) than most people would think. Shrinking endowments (which are linked to bonds, stocks , etc. from the failing I-Banks) interfere with NPO operating costs.

This means more staff cuts. The dollar is weaker than ever (although, some experts claim the dollar is now gaining strength), so paying travel costs for bands abroad or foreign speakers is a lot more expensive than it used to be.  

Charitable donations are the first things to get cut in a market’s financial downturn. Even more specifically, the shrinking dividends in Daddy Warbucks’ financial portfolio directly affect if the programs and fundraising events that your (favorite) local NPOs create will have a budget for the coming year.

Americans as a whole are losing trust in big institutions – can you blame them? If they haven’t already, Americans are raiding what’s left of their 401(k)s and spending it or hiding it to under a mattress.

The current economic crisis affects everything: good and bad. Unfortunately, the only real question is: where does it stop?

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