Oct 31

Understatement: involuntary unemployment can cast a pall over things. Even if a sense of relief accompanied the loss of a job that had felt like a daily root canal, confronting a dried up revenue stream and a wilted economy is no walk in the park either. The bills find your mailbox, the refrigerator needs reloading, and the hard work of job-hunting is not cost-free. It is a time when one’s sense of control over one’s life takes a major hit; if you don’t at times feel really stressed, check your pulse.
When caught in the throes of high-stress, high-anxiety events such as unemployment, our thoughts can become our enemies; fear, self-doubt, worry, despair, and anger can get the upper hand. Although it’s necessary to embrace the realities of one’s situation, managing one’s thoughts to stay positive and proactive becomes essential. Hence, the relevance of the fourth meeting of the Managing Your Work Search series: Mental Self-management, or how to make that reciprocal relationship between thought and emotional state work for you, and not against you.
As anyone who’s tried to keep their thoughts on a positive track during hard times can tell you, it’s not easy; mental patterns are as resistant to change as any other habit, but staying positive keeps the energy and creative juices flowing. It can and is being done by increasing numbers of people through the practice of mindfulness meditation, one of the most effective ways to take charge of your mind. The field of mindfulness has gained great traction of late, its benefits extensively researched, measured and documented by neuroscientific, medical, and psychiatric researchers, with books abounding on the subject.
Given the many emotional (reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety, enhances well-being and calmness), mental (improves memory, mental clarity, productivity, decision-making, perspective, creativity, intuition, insight), and physical (strengthens the immune system, reduces blood pressure, may help reduce cholesterol) benefits, it is no wonder that the use of mindfulness is promoted in medicine, mental health, the professions (e.g., Google “mindfulness and lawyers”), business, education, the military, and even corrections.
Mindfulness is a very simple (but not easy) practice of intentional mental and physical stillness that will begin to produce these self-reinforcing benefits within the first week of daily practice. And you will likely find that it supports other valuable disciplines of self-care, e.g., good nutrition, adequate exercise, volunteer work, social contacts, and the enjoyment of nature, music or other favorite leisure activities.
It’s hard to argue with any activity that offers so many payoffs, although some take issue with its “religious” origins. Various forms of contemplation and meditation did, in fact, originate in the context of religious practice. While it is not religious, per se, it is spiritual in that it offers personal foundational support (Talbot & Love call it spiritual development) that involves:
(1) an internal process of seeking personal authenticity, genuineness, and wholeness as an aspect of identity development;
(2) the process of continually transcending one’s current locus of centricity;
(3) developing a greater connectedness to self and others through relationships and union with community;
(4) deriving meaning, purpose, and direction in one’s life;
(5) an increasing openness to exploring a relationship with an intangible and pervasive power or essence that exists beyond human knowing. (See Talbot & Love, Defining Spiritual Development, 1999, NASPA Journal, pp. 364-367.)
The use of mindfulness meditation helps you remember that your life doesn’t end when the paychecks stop. It changes. And when you roll with it, staying mentally strong, committed, positive, and determined, you will ultimately create the best possible outcome.
Nancy Brown, LICSW

Oct 24

Getting the Job (of finding a job) Done (Part 3)

Our most recent speaker, Phil Segaloff, Esq. at the LCL, Inc./MBA “Managing Your Work Search”, session three, held the group in rapt attention as he spoke about how to successfully network during your job search to not only find job opportunities, but also to become more aware of one’s skills and desires, and thus target appropriate employment opportunities.
The most important job hunting activity, by far, is networking – or to spin it more elegantly, “strategic outreach.” This is one of those activities that powerfully evoke the urge to procrastinate. Drawing from his own experience when a lay-off landed him “between jobs” nearly 4 years ago, Phil Segaloff, Esq., now happily employed in-house as an Associate General Counsel, could identify with the struggle to leave a comfy warm house in the depths of winter to meet a total stranger for an “informational interview.” And he could speak to the angst of those initial meetings where he felt anxious, awkward, and inarticulate.
In the course of those countless interviews, however, he became increasingly clear about what he wanted, what he had to offer, and how he would be of value to a prospective employer. He quickly improved his interactive skills to the point that he actually enjoyed those encounters, all the while, acquiring new information, building his professional network, clarifying the area of legal interest he would pursue, and preparing himself to speak knowledgeably, cogently, and confidently at interview time.
Familiar as he was with that understandable fear of “imposing” on a busy lawyer when requesting an interview, he urged group members to recall that most folks are gratified by the opportunity to help another person, enjoy the chance to talk about themselves and their experience, and usually welcome that time-out for a coffee break that you are offering them.
In order to capitalize on the contacts he made, Phil mastered the art and science of recording (on Excel) and tracking everyone he met, noting the date of each contact, company/firm, position, contact information, additional networking contacts offered by that person, and useful personal data. By doing so, he followed up at reasonable intervals, updating that individual on his recent activities, and again expressing his appreciation for their interest.
No, it didn’t happen overnight. It was an on-going one-foot-in-front-of-the-other effort. Not everyone will find, as Phil did, the ultimate payoff of a “perfect fit” job that was conveniently situated at the end of a painless 10-minute commute, but it is certainly reasonable to hope for a position that is a distinct improvement over the status quo.
(If you are interested in participating in the next Managing Your Work Search series, please watch at this site or at www.MassBar.org for start date and registration information.)
Nancy L. Brown, LICSW

Oct 18

In our talks on behalf of LCL, we often refer to the significantly higher incidence of substance and mood problems among lawyers (not generally prior to law school but apparently in reaction to lawyer culture).  Well-known and well-regarded treatment and publishing center Hazelden has done a nice job, in their September Research Update, of pulling together this data from various studies.  Click here to go to their online pdf.

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