Control in Out-of-Control Times

This is the first post in a new category here: 

Job Search

I hope you’ll find some encouragement in this category, some helpful ideas, links you can use, etc.

I’m writing from principle, but also from experience.  My position was eliminated last summer.  The day I got the phone call my responsibilities were offloaded to a colleague in another part of the country.  One call was all it took – seemingly out of nowhere.  Suddenly I was unemployed. In five minutes I went from over-ambitious to job-less.

I’ve since found work  but it’s part-time and at a fraction of what  I earned before.  It helps while I look for something that matches my skill set and experience. So at this writing I’m what you’d call under-employed.  I’m not going to whine here or anything.  I want to forget that dreaded phone call, put some serious distance between that day and this, and get on with life.

So you’ll find no self-pity parties here — they’re poorly attended anyway.  These posts will be to help and encourage, pass along useful tips and ideas.  Take what you find here, use it, and pass it along.

Here’s the first.

I have a 3 x 5  sign in view when I’m at my desk – C-O-N-T-R-O-L.
I used it when my work had me running an ambitious schedule but I’ve found it’s just as useful these unemployed/under-employed days.  When we’re looking for work it’s obvious SO much is outside the realm of our control:

  • We have no control of how a potential hiring manager responds to our resume and cover letters.
  • We have no control of a prospective company’s hiring schedule or budget
  • We have no control of the weather – how cold or hot it’s going to be during this interim period where every dime gets scrutinized in our family budgets, even utility payments.
  • We have no say in how much they charge for a gallon of gasoline.
  • We have no control of  when people call — or if they do.

I’m sure you can think of more.

As a result, it’s easy to slip into a who-cares mindset, thinking “When it’s time to ramp up, I will. I’m not going to waste energy being ready, when my phone hasn’t rung since ______________.”

I’ve discovered there are some things I NEED to remain in control of for my own well-being, if nothing else.  I NEED to stay in control of my spiritual disciplines, my diet, my basic demeanor, etc.  or I become a product of inactivity.  Laziness is deadly in the job hunt and I can’t afford to go there.  I have to stay in control of a few things, even  in the midst of this lack of control.

Here’s the chart, a summary of a longer magazine article I’ve long-since lost track of –


Can the Clutter


Out with Excess Paper


Say “No”

Not now, thanks, maybe later?


Talk UP ( uphill, to a natural end)

“I’d like to be able to talk with you but…”
“Can you describe this in about 25 words?”
“So… how should this conversation end?”


Read only what matters

Future, Soul, Life


Operate Early

Early in the day
Early in the process
In advance whenever possible


Lighten Up

Don’t expect perfect
Look for Unexpected Opportunity

When I let clutter move into my zone I find myself spending way too much time looking for information that should be at my fingertips.   It helps me to keep my hard-copy and my computer files and folders clutter-free so I can find what I need *snap*  just like that.

Back when I had so much to do I had to make it a point to leave the office on time, excess paper was part of the problem.  I made it a point to read and act on paper documents, either filing or tossing them – once.  It’s just as important now that I wish I had a job that tried to make me late for suppertime.

People don’t realize that you’re working just as hard as an unemployed worker as you did as an employed person.  A lot of times it feels like I’m working HARDER. My full-time job is finding one!  So I have to say No.  No to invitations to coffee or lunches that become time-thieves. No to TV that yields no results.  To time-wasters.  To over-doing.  To sleeping in because nobody’s watching when I start my day.   Unemployment / under-employment calls for incredible self-discipline.

Talking up,  or directing conversations to gracious but definite conclusions works great when you’re trying to max your efficiency and cram 50 hours into 40.  But it’s just as important when conversations go on and on.  Not having a (paying) job doesn’t mean you’ve nothing to do so can talk all day.  On the contrary, looking for work often means more to do. Multiple demands on your time. Projections for several scenarios rather than expediting one.  Getting a house ready to sell if you relocate, but not spending so much you’re in trouble if you accept a position with a lesser salary closer to home.  Keeping track of your conversations and making your time work for you is important if you’re going to stay in control of at least a few things.

If you’re an insatiable reader as I am, Reading Only What Matters is a challenge.  Not watching or pushing the clock gives some of us the impression we can read all of everything we want.  Follow internet links to several related news stories, more than we used to.  Re-read the Hardy-Boys mystery we stumbled on cleaning out the basement.   While I’m taking a little softer approach on this one than others in the list, it’s still important not to sit and read at the expense of more important tasks.  “I’m going to read until  _____ and then I need to get moving.

Operate Early.  I used to have a sign  “NOW” in plain view.  N.O.W. stood for “No One Waiting – at least not on me.”  My responsibilities made it imperative that information get to my team and to prospective clients as quickly as possible.  I’m finding that operating early in the process is still important. Maybe more so in the employment search.  Early in the process – early in the day (so I don’t feel guilty having a second cup of coffee or tea later).

This last one is the hardest for me.  It is SO hard to lighten up when my family’s livelihood depends on my finding gainful employment.  When every day potentially contains the lead that will bring my search to a close.  When the bank, our church and charities, vendors and utility companies all want to be paid – on time.   As long as I can remember, I’ve been prone to underestimate how long it will take to do just about anything.  So in this under-employed phase I’ve traded time management for task-management:  Each day I need to spend some good time with my Bible and in prayer first thing in the day.  I need to complete two applications or submit two resumes.  I need to follow up with two potential employers.  I need to finish two items on my (long and detailed) to-do list at home.   If those things all fit together nicely and I’m able to spend a little time doing something I want to do,  great.  If it goes slow today it’s still OK. I’m not watching the clock so much as I’m working through today’s list.  When I’m done – I’m done for the day and can lighten up with a clear conscience.

Control – it’s tough to keep when we feel like we don’t have any.
Maybe that’s  when it’s most important.

Something to think about – hope this helps.

3 Replies to “Control in Out-of-Control Times”

  1. Jonell

    Once again, excellent thoughts. Like you said, these thoughts come not only from principle, but from experience. I’m sure there are many that will benefit greatly from your thought process, and the steps to success that you’ve written down for us to read and apply. 🙂

    Let me encourage all of the readers of this Vibrance Blog Site to uphold Phil and his family in prayer, that God would provide:
    – just the right job
    – at just the right time
    – at just the right pay
    – in just the right location.

    God is in control of all things and we ask His help in opening doors in Phil’s life and ministry.

    (Phil’s sister)

  2. Phil

    Thanks, Jonell – for the kind words and for the encouragment to pray.

    I’m 101% convinced that prayer is a hugely under-utilized key in the whole search process.

    We need to enlarge the role of prayer in these matters, not so we’ll get better jobs and sooner, but so we’ll have more opportunity to point to God’s greatness as we tell the stories of what He does in response to our asking. (Matthew 7.7)

    Words fitly spoken. Thanks
    Phil —

  3. Jonell

    You’ve said for a long time:

    “Prayer is our first resource –
    Not our last resort!”

    How true!

    When you wrote: “so we’ll have more opportunity to point to God’s greatness as we tell the stories of what He does in response to our asking. (Matthew 7.7)” That makes me think too of Joshua 4:6,7 where the kids ask, “Dad, what is this pile of stones for?” and Dad gets to tell of the greatness of God and His marvelous works in our lives.

    Be assured of my prayers for you and yours!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Article/Post Archive