Navigating Job Loss

Maybe you saw it coming, or perhaps it came as a complete surprise – either way, losing your job is tough. For many, it can be a pivotal moment in the trajectory of their life. Will you choose to change your career path or seek a similar role to the one you are leaving? How will you avoid compromising your career goals in the face of financial concerns and the inclination to get back to work quickly?

I have learned many lessons about career change in the 12 years I have worked in the career transition field, both as a coach and consultant. Most of the lessons have come from the very clients that I consult with. The one lesson that proves to be true in almost every case is that the task of figuring out ones next career move is like a twisty and often bumpy road, with many ups and downs, a few speed bumps and the occasional straightaway. It is helpful to think of navigating your career transition as a journey; the destination isn’t always clear at the onset but it is far less daunting when you consider it one step at a time. What is really surprising is that the fundamental components of “The Journey” are the same no matter where you are in your career. Whether you are a CEO, an Administrative Assistant, or a Lab Technician, it is the same basic journey for us all. In our practice, we break the journey down into four key phases.

Orientation - It’s important to understand that after job loss most people need time to deal with the news before moving forward. Yet taking a few weeks or months of downtime to deal with the personal impact of job loss may not be in the best interest of your finances. Getting back on the proverbial horse right away may not be what you want to do – but it may be what you have to do. Luckily, I find most individuals are surprised by their own resilience and ability to orient themselves to their situation quickly which positions them to embrace moving forward positively.

Assessment and Planning – The journey through career transition is shaped by what drives and motivates you – how “you are wired”. Honest assessment of your skills and competencies is also a key step to understanding where you want to be and what you need out of your next role. There are numerous assessment tools available to help individuals gain greater self-awareness of skills, strengths, style and provide cause for self reflection. With a stronger understanding of who you are and what you want, you will be better equipped to develop a plan for success.

Learning - The job search of 2014 is quite different than the job search of 2004. In today’s journey, understanding social networking, e-ready resumes, behavioral interviews, and personal branding is key to being effective, relevant, and competitive in a job search. What you thought you knew about conducting a job search may be outdated and counterproductive. We often find that newly unemployed individuals are reluctant to ask for help. In many cases, they are not convinced they need the support of a skill building workshop or one-on-one coaching until a few weeks or months into their job search. However, the right skills and education will make the difference between a short manageable journey towards your career goals and an extended trip on a winding road.

Implementation – When you understand where you want to go and have a plan, as well as the basic skills to get there, the hard work begins. I have found that the most challenging component for many of my clients is maintaining their stamina and staying the course until they reach their final destination. It can be tough to push through the unanswered emails and unreturned calls. The odds are you will likely hear “no” more than you’ll hear “yes”. The good news is you only need one yes; one organization to see how you could fit; one interview where you knock it out of the park; one executive to see how you would complement the team. Just one. Keeping with the plan even when it seems there is little movement is usually the right course of action. It takes time to fully implement a well thought out job search campaign. I can often accurately predict when a client will call me for the “I’m frustrated” meeting. And I understand. Most people are not accustomed to so many “no’s” or “not right now’s”. This holds true whether you are a CEO, an Administrative Assistant, or a Lab Technician. A supportive network of peers, mentors and professionals can be indispensable in overcoming these challenging times.

The fun really begins when the yes’s start rolling in. “Yes – we’d like to meet with you.” “Yes – we feel you have the right background for this role.” “Yes – we’d like to make you an offer.”  This is when navigating the steps of the journey and staying the course pay off. When the right opportunities surface as a result of doing the right thing, at the right place, and at the right time, it almost seems serendipitous – except it’s not. It is a result of well planned, well executed job search campaign that you stuck to and believed in. Like many things in life, navigating your next career move is a journey.