Finding Job Search Equilibrium

“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.

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