It has been six months since I have been laid off. This is not particularly an anniversary I’m celebrating, per se. It is, however, the reality of my professional journey at this time, so it seems an appropriate time to reflect. After 6 months of job transitioning, here’s what I’ve learned.
Lesson #1: Always Be On.
You often hear “looking for a job is a full-time job.” Well, not exactly.
Looking for a job is like having two full-time jobs.
There are no “office hours.” Job hunting feels a like 24 hours/7 days a week type of gig.
Your ears always have to be open to possibilities. Notifications of job postings need to be responded to quickly before they are removed or flooded with applicants. People you meet and even friends of friends may be the one connection that leads to your next opportunity.
You’re always “on,” and that can be exhausting.
I’ve never concentrated on a project more. My mind is laser-focused. Other parts of my life have been pushed to the side so that my attention can be fully devoted to finding my next professional home.
This world moves fast. With eyes and ears open, you have to be ready for opportunities at any turn.
Lesson #2: Turn It Off.
What they don’t mention about the full-time job of finding a job is that it is full of rejection in some form or another day in and day out. Application submissions never acknowledged. Rejection emails arriving regularly. Phone calls and emails not returned.
All the work you do on online submissions, cover letters, and resumes goes unrecognized or deemed “not a good match.” Like running on a treadmill, it’s so much work but you seem to be going nowhere.
It can feel defeating.
That’s why during this season (I call it a season because like winter, spring, summer and fall, it will end), mental health is extremely important. As tempting as it may be to consume yourself with the search until your next opportunity is found, work/life balance is key.
You won’t be ready with your sharp mind, full energy, and utmost confidence unless you stop to replenish yourself. The best ways to refill your tank will be specific to you, but common ways include:
- Socializing with friends and family
- Practicing yoga
- Enjoying a hobby (golfing, gardening, crocheting, painting, singing, dancing)
Schedule time in your day and set reminders on your phone to take breaks. Protect yourself from burnout. Just like any piece of technology, you’ll operate better after a reboot.
Most of all, reward yourself for the work you are doing. Even if you aren’t seeing the fruits of your labor yet, you deserve to congratulate yourself. You’re making progress and every day getting closer to job fit for you.
Lesson #3: People Surprise Me.
Some surprises are exciting and encouraging; others aren’t quite as fun. After my layoff, people have provided me both kinds.
A Chief Human Resource Officer stood me up for a scheduled phone interview, not once but twice, with no explanation, follow up, or apology. A talent acquisition professional called me and asked me questions for a completely different role than the one for which I applied. Recruiters have “ghosted” me.
Similarly, colleagues who I considered friends have disappeared, almost as if unemployment is contagious upon contact. I understand though. During a pandemic, we are all trying to take care of ourselves as best we can. While helping others can relieve us of our own stress, it takes energy that not everyone can afford at this time.
Others have provided more pleasant surprises. Friends from high school who I haven’t spoken with for years have offered their support and connections. Some have proactively facilitated online introductions. Another friend who went through an extended time of employment transition called to share his story and a reminder that this isn’t what will break you.
Even strangers have been willing to share their knowledge. In a time during which networking must be redefined, I started something new. Recognizing that LinkedIn is full of accomplished and respected professionals in Corporate Communications, I started messaging them simply asking for a brief 15- minute call to discuss their professional journey.
The first week, I sent out 5 emails. Three agreed to a call!
Instead of 15 minutes, I received two 30-minute calls, and the other lasted an hour. From these interactions, I made major revisions to my resume, I joined numerous LinkedIn professional groups, and I connected with like-minded professionals. Now, as I’ve continued to contact more Corporate Communications professionals on LinkedIn, I’m afraid my response rate hasn’t been quite as successful as that first week. I still keep reaching out to them.
That first week demonstrated there are professionals you may not know in your career field who are willing to provide you their insight. All you have to do is ask.
Lesson #4: I Haven’t Changed.
I don’t have the same job title I did 6 months ago.
Even though your job title no longer exists, you are still you.
Yes, there have been quite a bit of other changes in these six months. The entire world still seems to encounter a new change every day. Like a roller coaster, this year consistently proves to be full of twists and turns.
At the end of the day, your identity is the same.
That’s been a difficult lesson for me to learn. In terms of my professional life, a year ago, I would have described these current circumstances as a “worst case scenario.” As a person who tends to place too much of my worth and identity in what I did for a living, this is a challenging hurdle to overcome.
However, during these past few months, without meaning to, I’ve proven to myself that my traits that have made me successful in my career thus far are still intact.
- Productive – check
- Determined – check
- Loyal – check
- Creative – check
- Resourceful – check
- Empathetic – check
In the same way an earthquake shakes the ground and sometimes reveals things hidden underneath, this “lifequake” has uncovered other characteristics that have grown stronger like patience, courage, and discipline.
The loss of your job is not the loss of who you are as a person. You still own all the good things you had before and now are developing even more.
Lesson #5: I’m in Complete Control.
A position will not open at the company of my dreams just because you want it to. You’re not able to twitch your nose or fold your arms and blink (or whatever it is witches and genies are doing these days) to lead decision makers to hire you. The pandemic, the resulting economy, and the availability of jobs in a crowded market is not in your control.
That’s not to say that nothing is in your control. Even as the world seems to be throwing us curveballs on a regular basis, you can still feel grounded by reminding yourself what you are able to proactively choose in your life. This includes things like your job search schedule and efforts, eating and sleeping habits, and exercise routine.
Another item in your complete control during this time is your own professional development. In the past, I’ve been guilty of placing this duty in “higher ups,” expecting and hoping they would take initiative to offer internal and external opportunities for my own career advancement.
That job is and has always been mine. Now I know it.
As you wait for that next interesting job post, perhaps you find “extra time” on your hands. It’s a wonderful chance to sign up for an online course. If your funds allow, see what courses are offered by local colleges. To save money, look into free online course options offered by LinkedIn Learning, Class Central, and Courera.
During this time when you are your own boss, be sure you’re investing in yourself the best ways you can.
Lesson #6: Keep Going
I had hoped I would not need to write a piece on being unemployed for six months. Most definitely, I hope not to even need to consider writing one at a year mark. As I move forward into more unknown, I am confident I’m just one more day closer to finding an exciting opportunity. If you’re on the hunt, so are you.
The lesson is to keep trying. Continue to hope. Keep trusting your talents and strengths. As the song says, “don’t stop believing.” The way to get to where you want to be is to keep going.
In the meantime, let’s stay focused on learning and conditioning ourselves so that we give our new best in this new normal.