AmeriCorps This Week #9

It is that time of year again! With January comes the promise of a new year and the hope that we may achieve some of our New Year’s Resolutions. We see gyms filled with eager new members, an influx of shoppers in the produce and organic sections of the supermarket, and even an increase in the customers that come to our Workforce Centers. We share their hope that this year, they may find work and thus a chance at a new life. But exactly how does one stick to keeping a resolution?
While January may seem like the appropriate month to make sweeping changes in our lifestyles and character, it is actually best to use this period to reflect on the past year and decide on positive improvements to make instead. Indeed, it is through setting small, attainable goals throughout the year that we can achieve the most change, says Lynn Bufka of the American Psychological Association. Bufka states, “It is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”
Therefore, in helping our clients (or even ourselves) achieve the goals they may have for the new year, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, start small. While the end goal may be to secure a job, perhaps the first task we want to achieve is simply creating a resume, or deciding which field would be best for our customer. Also, talking about our goals with family and friends can make achieving them much easier. When we publicly commit to doing something, research shows that we are far more likely to follow through. Additionally, having support and encouragement along the way from people who are vested in our happiness can help us to accomplish our goals more successfully than if we were to try alone.
Furthermore, it is important not to beat ourselves up for a perceived lack of progress. We are bound to slip up, face rejection, or even failure in the path to securing a job. Reminding our clients that minor setbacks are common and that persistence is the most important aspect of the job search can be helpful. For example, today I spent two hours working with an older worker at the library who had 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, has been applying for jobs since October, and has not received a single interview in the past three months. She was incredibly discouraged and doubtful of her chances of securing a job. However, we worked on updating her resume (she has not looked for a job in decades!) and discussed the benefits of informational interviewing. We discussed the importance of promoting oneself, which is something we learned at the AARP training for Mature Workers last week. She left the library feeling much more empowered and hopeful about her job search.
Clearly, achieving the goals we set involves a combination of strategic thinking, hard work, and a positive attitude. By setting out to make small changes, anticipating setbacks, and seeking out support, we can make sticking to those resolutions an exciting journey rather than a dreadful chore. As Lao Tzu reminds us, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

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