My “Involuntary Career Transition:” Part One

“Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.”
Johnny Carson (1925 – 2005)

Let’s play a little game, shall we?  Everyone stand up, but make sure you can still read this.  It’s okay…if you’re at work, have your co-workers play along too.  Now let’s read this list of words and phrases that all have one thing in common – being separated from your job – and take as seat once you’ve read the phrase that pertained to you.  It’s okay if you’re honest; I’m not going to take a poll.  Let’s start:

Axed — Given the boot – Canned – Discharged – Dropped — Given the bum’s rush — Pink slipped – Sacked — Handed walking papers — Laid off — Let go – Terminated – Fired – Furloughed – Riffed…

Still standing?  Excellent!  Either I didn’t list the phrase that described how you left your last job, or you’ve never been let go.  For those of you who took a seat during the game, was it as difficult for you to read this list (while thinking back to that time in your work history) as it was for me to type it?

For me the experience is still very fresh in my mind – I entered my “involuntary career transition” in March of this year.  And without going into too much detail, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to face in my life.  My first thoughts: “I’m 52 years old!  Who wants to hire a white-haired, worked in one industry (insurance) all his life, dinosaur like me?”  They assured it was not a performance issue, and that I’m first on the re-hire list when things turn around.

Adding insult to injury this news graced my ears on Monday when I was home sicker than a dog.  Because the announcements were going to go out via e-mail that day about the 40 of us being “let go,” it was imperative my manager tell me before I read it in my e-mail (nice touch!).   Because this occurred on Groundhog Day made me laugh a little.  I could only hope that I wouldn’t wake up the next day, or the day after that, and receive a call from my boss telling me all over again that I was being let go.

Nothing my former manager could say would lessen the shock, disbelief, hurt, anger, fear, uncertainty, or overall feeling that it must have been something I did, or didn’t do.  They say that losing a job is like losing love one, or beloved pet, and that we all go through the clearly documented Stages of Grief when it happens.  Because I’m not a psychologist and not wanting to short-change the reader who wants to know more about dealing with the emotional impacts of job loss, here’s a link to well-written story on ABCNews.COM: How To Cope When You’ve Been Laid Off.

How I Coped With My Involuntary Career Transition

The first call I made after receiving the news was to my much employed wife, who was appropriately sympathetic — I think because I was sick at the time.  I didn’t get a chance to make a second call.  Five minutes after the first one to my wife, she called back with a game plan.  I guess the grieving period was over!  By the time she got home that day, I had followed her instructions to the letter and updated my old resume (draft, of course, nothing’s final until my lovely bride has a chance to spew red ink all over the paper), read about how to apply for unemployment, and had the start of a list of potential employers.

By the end of Day Two I had profiles, uploaded resumes, and job search wizards on job aggregators Monster.com, Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, and NWJob.com. During this time I was also completing my assignments at my soon-to-be-former employer, and brain-dumping everything I knew on the guy who was staying and adding my job to his (Jeremy, I’m sorry…she made me do it!).  I spend Day Three reviewing results of my job search wizards and flagging positions I wanted to apply to – going to meetings at work, etc.  The rest of February was pretty much like this.  By the time March 1st rolled around, I had resumes out to 15 potential employers on 25 possible jobs – and not a single call-back.

Once I no longer went to a job, looking for new employment became my job.  My wife’s office building has a very nice public lobby, with an espresso shop and Chinese restaurant, and that became my office.  Each day I’d wake up, shower, shave, put on business attire and take my wife to work.  From the building lobby I’d search and apply for work, and be available for any meeting at a moment’s notice.  My new job was to get a new job!  I was applying to a minimum of three positions every day.  The phone didn’t ring still.

Needless today it was getting a little tense around our house.  After 6 weeks (my unemployment lasted 15 weeks) I went to see a counselor at the unemployment office.  She said that my experience was pretty typical, and to expect that I could be off work for a month for every $10,000 in salary I was looking to earn.  Thanks for bolstering my outlook!

Another five weeks go by.  Nothing promising has perked yet.  A career fair is coming up this week in Seattle and representatives from Boeing will be there that I can meet face-to-face and provide a resume.  All I need is a chance to go one-on-one with a recruiter – me selling me has never been a problem…

End of part 1

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