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4 things George Bailey can teach you about job disappointments

At holiday time, it's good to revisit the message of this article which continues to have meaning for the unemployed and miserably employed. Merry Christmas! -- Kathy 

Every time I watch the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, I pick up messages I never noticed before. For instance, some of the things George Bailey experienced and learned could help unemployed and miserably employed people today. For example, I learned that …

1) George HATED his job, but that wasn't the end of the story.
He dreamed of being an explorer and building something important. Instead he gave up his dreams to keep his father’s business going.

What we can learn from George: If you are in a horrible job situation (and hey, I’ve been there!), you can learn from George that you aren’t the only one who dreads going to work and feels trapped by overwhelming responsibility. Many people have stuck it out in bad jobs during the recession since so few other opportunities were available.

The good news: The job market is slowing picking up so now is the time to dust off your resume and reinvigorate your job search by building your LinkedIn profile and network, and updating your skills so you can move from a bad job into the right one. Find help on all these subjects on my Job Tips by Topic page.

2) George made a difference far beyond what he realized.

Despite hating his job, the work George did was tremendously important. His “penny-ante” Building and Loan provided homes to people (including dear friends) who otherwise would have lived in slums.

What we can learn from George: When we are disappointed in our job or grieving a job loss, it’s easy to think what we do (or did) makes no difference, but Clarence, the angel, gave George the profound blessing of being able to see what his life would be like had he never been born. One line Clarence said to George has always struck me deeply, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole.” An “awful hole” is an apt metaphor for what remaining coworkers have to contend with when good people are forced from their jobs.

The good news: If you did good work and were respected in your position, former coworkers, customers, suppliers, and even some company leaders may be much more willing to help you land a new position than you realize, which leads me to my next point …

3) George’s friends GLADLY helped him, but they didn't know he needed help until they were asked.

George thought he had nowhere to turn, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. His friends flocked to help.

What we can learn from George: George didn’t want his friends to know he was in trouble, but when his wife, Mary, let them know, they went to extraordinary lengths to help him.

The good news: Your friends and former coworkers who respect your good work and care about you may be as glad to help you in your job search as the folks of Bedford Falls were to help George. But you have to ask for help.

Send people an e-mail or a LinkedIn message and let them know you are seeking work, explain specifically the type of position(s) you seek, and ask them to send you leads or recommend you for positions -- Networking tips. Send reminders on occasion and keep them informed of how things are going. And finally, take a cue from George and be a beacon of help and friendship to others ... such efforts will pay dividends when you need help.

4) George’s most profound growth came when he thought he had lost everything.

George was in crisis – he faced imprisonment and the loss of his business and reputation. If you are unemployed or fear you will be soon, you may be experiencing similar feelings of loss and panic. But, and this is an important but, George had the opportunity to learn that he had so much to live for despite his problems. When his perspective changed so did his life.

What we can learn from George: It can be easy to dwell on our disappointments and miss the blessings. For example, the blessings of unemployment could be more time to care for elderly parents, fix your house, or improve your abilities. Job loss may also give you needed time to focus on what you really want to do. Likewise, the blessings of a bad job could (potentially) be good pay, insurance, friendships with coworkers, an easy commute, etc. Even in the bad, there can be good, if you look for it.

The good news: If you are discouraged by job loss or work frustrations, it's important to remember that there are resources available to help you. If you need mental or emotional help, seek out free or low cost resources in your community. Such programs did wonders for a loved one of mine suffering from depression.

Visit the Services page to learn how we can help. Have a very blessed holiday season and a wonderful new job in the new year. Kathy

Share your thoughts! What have you learned from It's a Wonderful Life or other classic holiday stories that could help others struggling with job frustrations? Share your comments via the Contact tab.


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