Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things I Did Right - Being Out of Work

Friday I'm starting my new job with Adapt Courseware. This is little startup company, and their (our) product is e-learning for the academic space. I'm excited about being a part of this company, and looking forward to both being able to make a contribution and learn about things I'm really passionate about. It will be exciting to build the process and the team, and hopefully make a positive impact.

So how did this middle-aged lady get a her dream job with only three months, without trying? One thing I learned recently is that people tend to interpret positive random acts as things they some how controlled. I guess if the length of time people are out of work is normally distributed, then someone has to be in the short time part of the curve, right? And that turned out to be me. But assuming that's not the entire story, here are some of the things I would suggest if you find yourself suddenly out of work.

1.  Keep your resume up to date.This tip really has two parts. Keep the document called your resume up to date. I suggest checking it quarterly to see if you can make any refinements or add additional information. But beyond that, critically review your resume to make sure your skills are current. What should you be learning to move to the next level, or even to stay on your current level? Find job postings for a position you would like to have, and then compare your resume to it. Do you have the right stuff to get that job? If you do, is it clearly evident in your resume? If you don't have it, what concrete steps can you take today to get there?

2. Stay in touch with your references. I strongly recommend that you choose references that you admire. And have more than three, as well. Choose people who worked with you, for you, and those who managed you. Try to have lunch of coffee at once or twice a year. If that doesn't work for you, at least drop them an email, updating them on your career. When you need their support, they will have a slightly better idea of what you have been up to, and some positive feelings for you. This will help. And if you do loose your job, reach out immediately and let them know.

3. Stay out of debt. I suppose this is a "duh" suggestion - so obvious that it is not worth mentioning. But knowing I could live on my unemployment + a small amount of savings really reduced my stress. I did wish I had bought a less expensive car. That car payment seemed just fine when I had my job, but got lookin' really big a few months into unemployment. I tried to talk the dealership into buying it back, but they weren't interested. I didn't have very much cash on hand, so I do plan to build up those cash reserves this time. Critically look at how you spend your money and try to get your debt under control, starting today. This probably means saying, "no" to yourself, something I'm not good at either. But it will help you sleep better at night knowing, come-what-may, you will be able to scrape by.

4. Cultivate a balanced life. Being able to go forward with the graduate program I had just entered as an employee of RIT was a HUGE blessing. It gave purpose and structure to my days, and also gave me something to say when I was introduced to people. "I've just started a graduate program at RIT" sounded a lot better to me than "I'm out of work." Think about what you would say, and cultivate those interests. Would you write a book, become a free-lancer, take up volunteer work, if you had the time to do it? Start now. I also found my meditation practice really supported me through this potentially stressful time. I strongly recommend people include some kind of spiritual practice in their lives. Not religious? Mindfulness meditation can still be a support. Also, do something physically active every day. But the key to these is start now, while you are still working. Establish those practices that will be beneficial if you are out of work before you are out of work.

I had lots of support -- my dear partner was my rock, my daughter kept me looking to the future, and my friends both personal and professional offered me all sorts of practical help. To all of them, I say a very heartfelt "Thank you!" Now on to the next chapter of my life!


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