I was laid off in November 2016 from a major corporation that I had been with for 16 years. My last official day as an employee was December 31, 2016. I experienced a range of emotions getting laid off. The first was relief. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had been dreaming, wishing, and praying for quite a while to get out. I was no longer happy in my role. I didn't see an opportunity to move up, to make a lateral move, heck to even take a step down and into another group. In short the company was a mess and my prayers had been answered. Even though I was faced with joining the ranks of the unemployed and I am still searching, applying, interviewing and waiting for my next role 5 months after the fact, I still count my blessings every day that I got out when I did.
During this process I've learned a lot of valuable information that I wanted to share. There have been many teachable moments that I've tried to boil down into 12 key takeaways:
- Your network will both surprise and disappoint you. I found that mine fell into four categories:
- Those who I thought would help and did
- Those who I thought would help and did not
- Those who I did not expect anything from yet turned out to be some of my biggest supporters and referrers
- The unicorns who put me in contact with their contacts without me even asking and many times without my knowledge that they were doing so
- You have to get creative with your job search. Scrolling thru job boards is like experiencing groundhog day. There is a lot of repetition on those boards. Open positions are not always posted in the obvious places like LinkedIn. You have to check individual company websites, social media sites, related trade associations and industry resources. Heck there are even legit positions and hidden gems on Craig's List (have patience). This type of search method is more time consuming but ultimately has yielded better results than just sticking to job boards.
- Be organized. Keep track of where you are applying, for which role, who you are meeting with and when, and follow-up in a timely matter. Be consistent.
- Your marketable skills and experience that look great on paper and helped you advance at your old company don't necessarily translate well on the open market. Those same credentials can read as too expensive, too senior, too junior, too specific, too general. . . basically if you were not being courted and recruited before you were downsized don't expect to suddenly have a line of suitors waiting now that you are suddenly available. (Or maybe you will. In which case good for you, I guess. Blah!)
- Respect the process. Conducting a job search while unemployed is not easy. Be strategic and thoughtful in your approach to finding your next position. Research the company AND the position as it fits within the target industry. Know your stuff and be consistent. Don't expect others to move with an urgency because you are out of a job. Sadly it does not work that way.
- Not everyone in your circle is rooting for you and not everyone wants to see you fail. Refer back to #1 on my list. "Friends" may not be as forthcoming and willing to share access to contacts or information about available opportunities. "Frenemies" may prove to be more valuable resources.
- Get an accountability partner. Not just a cheerleader but someone who will hold up that mirror and kick you in the butt when you get too lax.
- Take a break. It is easy to get stressed out, discouraged, and burnt out. When you do, take a day off to rest and recharge.
- Share your resources. Do unto others. . . we reap what we sow so pay it forward.
- When you finally find THE position prepare for possible heart break. I for one was not ready. I found the role that checked all my boxes AND I was excited about the company. After 6 weeks of courting it came down to me and one other person but alas I lost out. The logical side of me knows that you win some and you lose some but the human side of me was extremely hurt. Even though I received positive feedback and was told that ultimately I was a great fit, it came down to the other candidate having more knowledge of that industry and thus a slight edge. It was a bitter pill to swallow. I'm still vexed.
- Be your authentic self. Yes, you have to be professional but don't try to pretend you are someone that you are not or fake skills that you don't posses. That is just a recipe for disaster.
- And finally toughen up. It's not personal. . . it never is. It's just business.