After It Happens: Get (Re)Focused & Plot Your Next Career Moves
So far in my unemployment guide we've discussed how to survive the unexpected: keeping your head above water when you suddenly lose your job. This final post is all about thriving during the unexpected: making power moves, getting your career back on track and prioritizing yourself above all. This last part might be the hardest and longest process to getting back on your feet, but if you put focus and drive to new goals, things can work out in your favor. I know what that's like: in 2017 I put all my energy into career shifting after a lay off (you can read all about it here) and I had to learn a few big lessons along the way. Now I get to share those lessons, plus budget-friendly resources and self-care tips that helped me come out on top in hopes that you maximize your potential and kill it when you return to work.
Figuring Out Your Next Steps
Before you make any major moves, it's important to take some breathing room for yourself. Don't rush yourself in networking and job hunting because that can lead to quick decisions that may not yield the best results. You need to get space; time to step away and get perspective. I remember applying to any and every job several years ago because I was financially insecure. I wasted a lot of time interviewing at companies I didn't ultimately like or admire, applying for roles I didn't really think through and meeting with recruiters who couldn't figure out where to place me because I myself didn't take the time to build a roadmap for myself or think about my goals. I've since learned not to repeat that mistake. Instead now I take a moment to write out what I call my "Yes, No, Maybe So?" list:
Yes, No, Maybe So?
Yes includes all the things I love doing as part of my job. It could also include soft and hard skills I know I'm awesome at or want to improve upon. Some personal examples include: being client-facing, being a team leader, being in charge of documentation or process, being part of a product or business development team.
No includes all the things I hate doing as part of my job. It more accurately includes things I flat out never want to do again. Some personal examples include: being a one-person department, managing ad operations, copywriting/editing.
Maybe So? includes things I'll tolerate as part of my next job. I don't hate or love these things, but when push comes to shove, I'll do them. Some personal examples include: editing/QA-ing code, proposal building, managing budgets.
The purpose of this exercise is to assess what you want in your next role and develop your value proposition. It's a way to narrow down your focus on what types of roles would be a best-fit when you begin job searching. You can use any skills, terms, or tasks included in that "Yes, No, Maybe So?" list to filter out the noise in job descriptions and challenge yourself to think about subject matter expertise, talking points to craft a pitch, or companies that align with your goals and values. I took this exercise one step further last year by turning my "Yes, No, Maybe So?" list into a reverse job description for future employers. It was a better way to tell a story around what I wanted in a job, something that a resume or LinkedIn profile couldn't fully capture. By the way, that blog post landed me several project management training gigs and paid work.
Networking & Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Once you narrow down your interests and goals, it'll be easier to put yourself back out there, especially when you begin networking again. Speaking of networking, here's a few tips to making the most of potential new connections:
First, reach out to people you know and trust. Let them know your situation and open yourself up to support.
Next, organize and update your network across social media and professional networks. That also means asking for recommendations, endorsements or references on LinkedIn or references for your resume and interviews.
Invite people you may admire but don't know personally for an informational interview, coffee meeting, lunch or drink. Ask them about how they got to their current career stage or what you could work on to achieve your goals. Not sure what to say? Idealist and The Muse have email scripts to land you a meeting. You can also to subscribe to my friend Anne Libby's "How To Have A Job" newsletter for navigating the trickier side of professional relationships. These info interviews and exploratory meetings can lead to new mentors that shape your career path. I do this all the time (it helps to be an extrovert who's a people person) and I gain a ton of knowledge about the community I'm trying to join or new opportunities I never would have known about. You really never know who will end up being in your corner, being your cheerleader or giving you that leg up you need. By the way, if you invite someone out for a meal or a drink, do pay for them (if you can afford to) or at least fake fight over the check. It's a small gesture of gratitude.
Be persistent, rehearse your assertiveness and look to under-represented communities or overlooked communities to gain inspiration. I recently discovered the plethora of free and low-cost professional development events for adults offered by the Free Library of Philadelphia's "Workplace" program and to my surprise, I found networking events I wouldn't have heard of before. Events include resume reviews, self-branding tips and mock interview sessions.
Attend networking events and surround yourself with smart people who can propel you to the next level or help you achieve a professional goal. I turned to several new meetups in the last year like DPM Philly, Girl Develop It Philly (now closed), Philly Content Strategy, Ladies Get Paid and Nonprofit Nerds Philly Meetup to learn as much as possible from other career changers and other industries. One cool result: after a year of taking GDI Philly classes, I became a teaching assistant for the Intro to Digital Project Management courses with the same instructors who pushed me to pursue the field.
Practicing Self-Care and Mindfulness
When I got laid off suddenly in 2017, it was a sigh of relief, a wake-up call that I was overdue for a break. Admittedly, I had been checked out for a few months thanks to the devastating election results. The day after I got let go I made a promise to myself that I would prioritize a self-care routine above all. Yoga became instrumental in improving my mental and physical health. A year in, it's made a huge difference to my work/life balance, stress management and overall how I feel on a daily basis.
Sundays are my self-care days (aka #SelfCareSundays) and they usually look like this:
Yoga. You can find me either at the 10:30am Three Queens Yoga class or 12pm Philly Power Yoga class. Three Queens owner and teacher Mariel is quite literally my yoga queen. Her classes are always fun and challenging but approachable. She's got a very laid back vibe where Rihanna and Drake jams are often leading her playlist as she walks us through her Rajanaka Tantra philosophies or a new pose. Philly Power Yoga's Lindsey is always a calming presence in the studio, and her classes are never stale or repetitive. I love that she constantly mixes up asana flows and gives all her students the confidence to get through challenging poses. I've been booking yoga classes for over a year now with Classpass which has been super affordable and flexible. My $35 monthly membership allows me to visit multiple studios every month.
Post-yoga coffee. Regular spots include Saxby's, Elixr or La Colombe in Center City, or Hungry Pigeon in Queens Village. Latte, whole milk, iced if we're talking warm-weather months.
Long walk home. One of the many reasons I love living in Philadelphia is how walkable this city is. On a good weather day, I will often opt to walk home rather than hop on the subway. I take my time, stopping in at shops along the way, running errands or just enjoying the people watching (just kidding, it's really more dog watching) along the way.
Homemade brunch. I won't take the credit here, it's usually my amazing partner who is doing the cooking at home. He knows to have my regular ready when I arrive: a bacon, egg and cheese on a seeded Italian long roll. My weekend isn't complete without that meal.
Music, television, writing. I'm working on getting back into a writing routine on Sunday afternoons. I write my best with the music blasting or the TV on in the background. It gets me pumped and focused. Earlier this year I created an editorial calendar to keep this blog on a consistent publishing schedule and I love setting time aside on Sundays to stay on track. So, look for more content soon!
Like I've said multiple times throughout this series, getting back on your feet after losing a job is going to take time. In my experience (both personally and via peers who’ve experienced sudden job loss), it can take up to six months before getting a new job. That's a long time so don't waste it, make the most of it: Prioritize self-care, surround yourself with a positive support system and engage in activities that bring joy and value.
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