From time to time, I check in with members of our Red Cape Revolution community who I know have had interesting, insightful experiences to share about they’ve found clarity, built confidence, and took control in the new world of work.
My friend M offered to share her story. (I’ve decided to keep her name quiet here, since she was so generous in sharing her personal pain along with the successes. I admire that!)
M did the work to get career clear. (Which, coincidentally, is the name of the free online training we have for you throughout the month of January 2015. If you haven’t yet signed up to get it, click here and get in on the fun.)
My Journey to Get Career Clear
Every year, on New Year’s Eve, we enter a new year with hopes and dreams of what the upcoming 365 days might bring us. This year, I was able to translate those dreams into action and make some real changes that swept both my personal and professional life, but not without a few kicks in the teeth first.
What I learned was simply the confirmation of everything I’d read about career transition—including what I’ve read at RedCapeRevolution.com— but it was a great reminder that the basics really can work.
For background, let’s rewind to this time last year. In my eighth year in a job that had long since ceased to be rewarding, I was in the final stages of seeing the proverbial writing on the wall. Secretive meetings, job interviewees coming in to see my boss with no open positions (that I was aware of), subtle hints to try and train someone else on my duties, and retroactive performance feedback that seemed designed to put me in the crosshairs (“back in May, you should have…”).
It all prompted me to start thinking about my future (or not) with the company.
Meanwhile, I was finishing up the company-funded MBA I’d waited so long to pursue, which I’d begun during the economic downturn to keep things interesting when I was ready for more, but the job market wasn’t cooperating.
Over the first weekend of the new year, I received an invitation to an all-staff department meeting – followed by an invite for the time immediately before with just me and my boss. My radar told me this was not good news, having been through four different reorganizations in my eight years with the company.
Sure enough, I learned there would soon be a new org chart in the company – and I would not be on it.
Fortunately, I was ready – having sensed this move was coming, I had already cleaned out a lot of my personal belongings, gotten any personal files off my computer, and steeled my nerves for what might be ahead.
So now what?
Well, first I went on vacation – as luck would have it, I was booked on a non-cancellable cruise to the Caribbean with friends – a girls’ trip designed for total relaxation. That seemed like a very good place to start – so I’ll begin this recap there, too.
Here’s a little of what I did, and thought, along the way – your mileage may vary, of course.
Not everyone will have the opportunity to do this on a Caribbean beach with a fruity cocktail in hand (though I highly recommend it), but especially if you’ve been laid off, give yourself time to heal. Take some time to take a deep breath and think a little about what you want – and don’t want – next.
2. Don’t panic.
Two months in to my layoff, my husband was also let go from his job. That should have been terrifying, but it wasn’t. (Note: things to not say to spouses who are both out of work: ‘Are you panicked? I would be panicked?! Ohmygodwhatareyougoingtodo?’)
With horrible commutes and unfulfilling, high stress jobs, neither one of us was happy, so we were honestly a little relieved. We had also made a concerted effort to sock away the recommended three months’ salary in the bank, and we had some money coming in for a while, so we knew we would be fine, at least in the short term. But not on our current lifestyle. Which brings me to…
Having been through layoffs for both of us before (though never together), we had a list of household financial cuts we could make, in phases. Phase I included things that hardly hurt at all – no more date nights, meals out, clothes shopping – we got creative and had date nights and dinners in. We took movies out of the library and cooked our favorite dishes.
Phase II was a little more painful – cutting back cable TV, phone services, cleaning service, etc. But we knew they were coming, and we were ready. We also took time to re-evaluate our 401(k) plans and our son’s college account and move things around to shake them up a little. We looked at our taxes with the accountant. We got ourselves ready (hopefully) for whatever might be coming.
4. Use every resource available to you in your job search.
I was lucky enough to receive outplacement services – with an office, helpful seminars, and a career counselor – as well as a group of supportive people in the same situation – to ease my transition.
There are services and networking events available through state unemployment offices, local libraries, professional organizations. Use whatever you’ve got – what do you have to lose?
I learned to use the same picture across all social media– Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. – so that wherever you are, make sure people will recognize you. Tweak your resume and share it with everyone you know.
6. Make lists.
List everyone you can. Network, network, network. Have lunch, dinner, coffee. Make phone calls.
There were days where I didn’t even want to get out of bed, but I did. I got up, got dressed, and even on the worst of those days, did at least one thing to further my search, even if it was a passive job ad response (for whatever they’re worth). I spoke to dozens of people during the seven months I was out.
List the places you might want to work – no matter how off the wall (I am working at one of them now). My new job came from a combination of a networking meeting with a former co-worker (who I knew, but not well) and a job posting I saw in a local newspaper. Don’t rule out any resource.
7. Learn something and/or help someone.
While I was out of work, I took a community school class in Photoshop, a continuing ed class in Social Media Marketing (during which I did a volunteer project with two local arts organizations that I added to my resume), and a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through my alma mater on Content Strategy. All of these spoke to areas where I felt like I needed more help, skills or experience, and helped encourage me to get up and get out. I also volunteered at my son’s school and did fundraising for the local YMCA.
Job searching is not something you can do all day, every day. Take advantage of your situation. Clean out a closet. Go to the beach. Go to a movie during the day (date nights shifted to school hours while I was out). Work on your yard. Work on your golf game.
Whatever it is, give yourself permission to be you sometimes too. The whole job search game can be soul-sucking, so it’s important to refresh yourself.
9. If you want to make a change, sometimes you have to sidestep (or even step back) to get there.
My new job pays less than my old job. It also has one-tenth the commute time. And it’s hopefully propelling my career in a whole new direction.
So here it is, another whole new year come and gone. I still have hopes and dreams (and fears) for the new year. But this time, I have a brand-new job and a new outlook. My husband is still searching, but he’s on a new path as well.
And unlike this time last year, I’m optimistic that things really are going to be okay.