“Getting laid off was one of the best things that ever happened to me.” A VP once said this to me as she handed me a pink slip.
Yeah, right. I’ve been laid off three times. No matter how prepared you are, it’s a lousy feeling.
Let’s face it, it’s hard to look for a job. All those judgments. All that disappointment. All the waiting. The strange thing is that – like so many things – I got better at being unemployed by changing both my attitude and my tactics.
Rounds 1 & 2: “This sucks.”
The first time, I got caught up mentally in the betrayal game. After nine years, I was being kicked to the curb. How could they?
My emotions ruled, and I “devised” a non-plan for my search; I would apply for anything that crossed my path that looked promising. The problem came about three months later, when I still wasn’t getting any real offers. People were impressed with my resume, they loved my interview, but… and my ego suffered.
I started to panic, and I took the first serious offer I got. Big mistake. It was a bad fit and, after an unhappy period, I left to take a 3-month contract job, which I was able to parlay into a regular position that I loved.
Basically, I got lucky.
The second time around, I was offered a position with another subsidiary of the same company. It was a safety net job that kept the bills paid while I finished night school. Although it was the same parent company, it took me a long time to settle into the subculture and technical aspects of the specific job. Only then could I start actually enjoying what I was doing and begin growing.
Round 3: “I want to build something better.”
The third time around, I resolved not to make the same mistakes. I spent time thinking about the things I liked and didn’t like about my previous jobs and bosses. Then I targeted a few likely career paths to research. Looking at it as an opportunity for a “career do-over” made it a lot more interesting for me.
I was curious. I talked to everyone about what they did. I did a ton of informational interviewing. I joined industry associations and got involved in committee work that I cared about. I paid the bills by doing some consulting, which also allowed me to “try on” different companies and roles.
I went down a lot of dead end roads. But every time I crossed a career possibility off the list, I sighed – relieved I hadn’t taken that path.
So, what was different the third time around? I developed a level of excitement – yes, excitement – about the job search process and developed a plan. And I got more offers, even in a poor job market.
It was 50% attitude and 50% tactical. And both improved with practice.