Last Updated Sep 30, 2010 12:32 PM EDT
1) Structure leads to achievement
People who add structure to their day are more likely to get other stuff done. There's a ripple effect. This is probably why most highly successful people are early risers. It's not that you can't be a night owl to be successful. It's that if you start your day with structure, you are more able to reach a wide range of goals. Happiness is about structure and self-discipline, not a good job.
2) You don't need time to job-hunt.
Often, people think they need an open day to job hunt. That doesn't make sense. Job-hunting does not take all day. You could think of job-hunting as something we do nonstop - which means you can do it when you have a job. You can also think of job-hunting as doing the difficult work of connecting with people and looking for an opening in your network, and that's certainly not something you can do all day. It's too hard. So a bad job does not interfere with a good job hunt. (And if you are wondering if you know how to run a good job hunt, take this test.)
3) Telling yourself you can do anything is paralyzing
If you tell yourself the world is at your fingertips and you must get a good job, you end up not taking anything. Sheena Iyengar, professor at Columbia University who studies how people make choices, says, "When there are too many choices the process can be confusing and frustrating, and instead of being overwhelmed by choice we become afraid. Choice turns into not opening opportunities but offering constraints." Because of this human trait, it's important just to take action - see what's in front of you and make a choice, even if you think there are many better choices there. A job is not marriage. It might not even be a long-term relationship. And that's okay.
4) Picking jobs is a lot of luck
You know the saying that lucky people create their own luck? For the unemployed, that means taking almost any job. People get lucky at work - someone mentors them, a big project lands in your lap, you catch a huge error and save a lot of money. But no one gets lucky in a job without actually being in a job. Also, Iyengar points out the inherent struggle of deciding between jobs: There are many things factors that are simply unknown. We usually have no idea, for instance, about the things that really make or break a job - like if you will get good training on the job, or if the job description will even turn out to be true.
5) A job does not define you
You are not going to find happiness from your job - that comes from personal relationships. Most importantly, a lot of people get paralyzed while they are unemployed because they feel like they are not living up to their potential. But I've got news for you: Living up to your potential is BS. What does that mean, really? I think it means impressing your friends, or, worse, your parents, and you have better things to aim for in life than that.
The good news is that when you're unemployed you are at an inflection point. Something new has to happen in order for you to move you to your next step in your life. And that's always exciting, even if it takes a long time. And if you keep looking at it this way - unemployment is an opportunity - then you'll do well because, frankly, optimists get better jobs.