In 2007. a senior executive was transitioning out of her corporate career after 20+ years of service at Fortune 10 company. She had been part of several of cross-functional teams, developed expertise in multiple business units, and she was one of the best connected people who I know. Finding a job should have been a piece of cake with someone with her connections, experience and skills. In fact, she did have a number of interviews lined up for the week after leaving her former employer. But a month after leaving her corporate role, with no job secured and only disappointing interview experiences to show for her efforts, she realized she needed to take some time to process her significant career change.
When we are let go from our jobs, take an early retirement, or decide we want to try something new, it is important to build time into our career search timeline for processing. The senior executive I mentioned above had 20+ years of long hours, travel, stress, high stakes work that stopped in one day. Going from ninety miles per hour to zero has an effect on anyone. We all need time to come to grips with the new reality of a being in a career search.
FIRST: ACCEPT WHAT HAPPENED
Were you caught in a downsizing? Fired? Nudged into an early retirement? Passed over for a promotion? Walked away of your own accord? Decided you had enough of the grind? Whatever the reason is that prompted you to enter into a career search, you need to come to grips with what happened. This is NOT EASY to do as there are often raw emotions involved. In hindsight:
- Were there warning signs about your career/job that you did not see or ignored? With time, we often can remember moments that were signs about impending change.
- What role did you play in the events leading up to this situation? Were you a spectator to the events who had no input? A steel rod that refused to bend to change? Or maybe you made an ultimatum that ultimately made them let you go? Combination or other role? You were part of this event and thus you had some role.
- Is there anything you could have done differently that would have altered the situation resulting in a better solution? While we don’t want to focus on the “What-If?”, it is important to ask this to ensure not to repeat any mistakes in the future.
- How are you going to react? Do you still have to go into the office? What will you tell others? How will you present your situation when asked? Take the high road when talking with anyone outside your most trusted circle of confidants.
- Is this situation all bad? This question may take some time to answer honestly.
Ninety-nine percent of the time the first question is answered with a “Yes” and the last question with a “No”. This may not be the case the first day after being let go, but after some time and evaluation we all come around to these two answers.
The key to accepting what happened is to take some time for yourself. The senior executive who left Corporate America on a Friday and began interviewing the next week admits now that she was not ready to interview. She could not articulate why she was making the change and where she saw herself in the future. And this is someone who voluntarily left her situation. For someone who was shown the door by an employer, it will take even more time to come to grips with the new reality. Go easy on yourself, you will need some time to work through feelings, issues, and future direction.
After you can honestly answer the above questions – without getting upset or throwing darts at a picture of your old boss – begin to chart a path moving forward. Tomorrow, how to view your new situation as a positive catalyst.