Executive Careers Blog

Execs: Tis The Season To Take Control


If you are one of the thousands of managers who is out of work right now – or an executive worried about your career taking hits in this awful economy – the impending holidays may seem especially foreboding.

Obviously it’s a terrible time to be looking for a new job. Few companies can focus on hiring issues between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And for those execs who are actively employed, this is crunch time for numbers crunching and adds to an already anxious atmosphere.

For all of us in management - employed or not – the stress comes mostly from feeling out of control. Call it the executive’s paradox: we chose this career path (or it chose us) because we’re good at controlling things, but there is little we can control right now, especially those of us who are unemployed. In this blog, we give a lot of advice on job search and career management, much of it intended to make you, dear reader, feel more in control – though we offer no guarantees, especially in this climate.

But today I want to suggest something extracurricular that is guaranteed to make you feel more in control – and generally, better. This past Thursday, my family and I jumped in the car and drove from our suburban home to a Salvation Army facility in Harlem. We then joined other volunteers in the kitchen working to dish out hundreds of traditional Thanksgiving meals. I was assigned to the staging area behind the kitchen where I spent five hours lighting Sterno, shifting large trays of stuffing and turkey, and providing warm pans to the kitchen ovens so the food being served would be piping hot. It felt like 95 degrees and it was a helluva workout. It was low tech and very individualized, so I consistently met the challenge hour after hour – and sneaked into the gymnasium several times to see the visible result of my efforts in the smiling contentedness of those needy families who otherwise would have gone hungry. Needless to say, it was very rewarding, and like all manual tasks, provided immediate gratification – and a true sense of “control.”

With another round of holidays coming – and winter around the corner – there will be ample opportunities for you to volunteer.

Food drives, clothing drives, holiday meals for the needy, the homeless, and the homebound. With the Internet, it is easier than ever to identify these kinds of opportunities – down to the street corner.

Whether you are unemployed – which should leave you ample flexibility to respond – or gainfully working, the satisfaction and sense of control derived from doing volunteer work is hard to match. And the more defined the “task” the more defined the reward, so pay attention to the details and try to volunteer for specific labor.

I guarantee it will improve your holidays and set you up for a productive 2010.

More Executive Strategies on CNBC.com:Where To Find A Job NowExecutive Career Strategies

Erik Sorenson is CEO of Vault, the Web’s most comprehensive resource for career management and job search intelligence. Vault provides top talent with the insider information they need to make critical career decisions. An Emmy award-winning media industry veteran, Erik served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel through 2004. His experience spans radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Web.

Comments?  Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com