In my December 1st, post, I wrote about the fifth session of a six-week workshop, “Mindfulness for Job Seekers,” that was recently offered by the New York Public Library’s Science, Industry and Business Library’s (SIBL) Job Search Central Department. The workshop instructor was Laura Jackson, a UCLA-trained mindfulness facilitator who has been practicing Zen meditation for over 12 years. The workshop description read:
“Learn mindfulness techniques that bring relaxation and effortless focus to challenging situations and relationships. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing full, nonjudgmental awareness to the present moment. The struggle of searching for a job can be overwhelming at times. See if the practice of mindfulness meditation and some easy to use on-the-spot techniques can help you during these challenging times.”
The sixth and final session of the “Mindfulness for Job Seekers” workshop drew nearly 30 attendees, many there for the first time. One new job seeker said that she started meditating to feel more peaceful about changing her career.
After the group engaged in some quiet meditation, Laura talked about the importance of being present. She said that as job seekers, the skill of being present and in the moment is enormous. Laura reminded the job seekers that the person conducting the interview is also a person, and that they should interview the interviewer! Job seekers should be certain they are going to an organization where they want to work. Laura stated that there is a place in the world of work where they belonged.
I observed that there were quite a number of mature job seekers attending the workshop. Having suffered through two bouts of unemployment myself, I know how soul killing it feels to be unemployed. And when you are a mature job seeker fearful of age discrimination, it can be so overwhelming. But Laura stated without hesitation that everyone in that room, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, disability, whatever the background, had a place in the workforce.
Crying was a much discussed topic. Laura said that too many people have grown up being taught that it was not okay to cry. One job seeker stated that she has been experiencing some difficulty in her life and was told by others not to cry about it, even though she was so overwhelmed and wanted to. Laura called crying “an energy flow.” She mentioned a woman who attended the last mindfulness group who reported that she cried in an interview and still got the job!
Since it was the final session, more job seekers spoke up and shared their experiences and concerns. One job seeker talked about recently receiving three job rejections. He said he was at peace with the situation and is learning to accept the uncomfortable. This man stated that he is confident that there is something for him.
A job seeker reported that he had a job interview on the following Friday and was feeling nervous. Laura talked with him about learning acceptance, which is also part of mindfulness. She suggested that he think of the worst possible outcome of the interview, that he would not get the job, and accept that. Laura said that if he was right for the job, he would get it. She told the man to “keep meeting and acknowledging the nervousness, but do not defend it.” Another job seeker recommended to the man that instead of saying “I’m nervous”, say “I’m excited.” I really liked that, because it encourages one to focus upon a positive statement. For example, I am appearing on a local television program soon, and though I feel nervous, I am focusing more upon the excitement of talking about something for which I have tremendous passion—mentoring.
One of the most important themes from Laura’s final workshop session is that job seekers have to believe that an employer will truly benefit from their working for them. Job seekers should not be acting like the employer is doing them a favor by hiring them! As an acquaintance of mine says repeatedly, “you have to know your worth.”
Laura talked movingly about our difficult times and healing our sick world. In addition to meditating, and finding peace within oneself, however, she said that it was important for people to stand up for what they believe. She talked about how she had been arrested last year at a Standing Rock protest. Laura said that it was uncomfortable, but that she was at peace with her decision to make her voice heard and be arrested.
Of course, there was a feeling of sadness that the workshop was ending. The attendees agreed that the workshop needed to be offered again, and we completed evaluations for the library, urging them to keep offering Laura’s workshop.
Laura’s parting words to the job seekers were: “Let’s go out and clear some obstacles.” The job seekers who attended the workshop now have a few simple mindfulness techniques to use to help them do just that as they seek meaningful employment opportunities.