All The Feels
Whether due to an economic downturn, an acquisition, or company reorganization, I’ve found myself in an unexpected career transition six times over the past 20 years. Even having gone through several layoffs, it’s still an emotional experience each and every time. Here is the bad and the ugly of the feelings I’ve personally gone through.
The phone call from HR, the perp walk through the office to the dreaded conference room, the last minute ominous meeting invite, or the oddly timed tap on the shoulder all seem to come out of nowhere. There is something surreal about being pulled into a virtual or in-person room and having someone look you dead in the eye and tell you that you were going to go through a big life change starting, well, now.
Even if there were layoff rumors, or news about leadership changes, or low sales report for the quarter, it’s always a surprise on the date and time when layoffs go down. It’s the feeling of the ground being pulled out from under. It’s the gap between expecting a full day of meetings and finding yourself in you car mid-morning with a white box.
Even in cases where I was actively looking for a new role, there’s a certain amount of anger that goes along with a layoff. I was angry learning about the people who didn’t get laid off (like that guy whose messes I’ve been cleaning up for the last year) and comparing my perceived value to theirs. I’ve been angry at the timing (right after vacation, right before a holiday) and how that makes finding something new a longer process. I’ve been mad that yesterday’s mission critical work-all-night project has now become irrelevant. Mostly, I’ve been mad that someone else decided when I didn’t get to do that job anymore instead of me getting to choose when it was time for me to move on. Feeling that lack of control if often the hardest part.
Leaving a job abruptly leaves a big hole in your life starting with the 9+ hours per workday being replaced with dead air and uncertainty. People who earlier that day were coworkers, casual work friendships, or confidents now may be nothing at all now that you no longer share an employer. The consistency of a morning routine, daily commute, and regularly scheduled meetings are replaced with a period of uncertainty that may last a week or a year. Sometimes it’s easy to be hopeful about the future, and other times it’s hard not to be mired in sadness about all the things you can’t control.
There is plenty to be afraid of. The idea of not having a paycheck is horrifying. Not knowing how long your final payout or severance check has to last is unnerving. Now knowing how long unemployment will last and what job you’ll end up with—is, at times, unbearable. I fear being unemployed endlessly and not being able to support myself. I worry about panicking and taking the first job offered to me. I worry about holding out for something closer to the “perfect” job that may never come. I worry that I will never get a job as good as the one I had. On the worst days, when fear has given way to full-on catastrophizing, I worry that I will lose my house, my car, my professional reputation, and everyone I’ve ever loved.
The Good News
While all of these feelings are difficult and unpleasant, it’s important to acknowledge what is happening. It’s helpful to focus on the possibilities the future holds while also grieving the loss of your previous job. After addressing the sadness for the loss of the future you thought you would have, then you can decide what you want your next career step to look like and take steps to get to that even better future.
What Do You Think?
Have you been through a layoff? What feelings have you experienced? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Interviewing for a New Role
As a now 6-time layoff survivor, I have done many job searches, and had many interviews. Recently, I read an article about a job searcher who opted out of one hiring process. He did this after making it through three rounds of interviews, and having the organization ask about arranging the next six (yes, six) additional rounds of interviews. (I included an article with details in the "Learn More" section.)
I felt compelled to share my own story about one seemingly never-ending interview process. Like with many things in life, it took a bad experience to teach me how to make better decisions around participating in interview processes when job searching.
Job Interviewing Boundary Setting is Hard
Let me start by taking a moment to acknowledge that this is not always easy to do. When you’re hip deep in a job search, especially when you’re unemployed, it is hard to set boundaries. The longer the search goes on, the easier it is to tell yourself that you’ll summit Everest if a potential employer asks you to as part of possibly FINALLY getting a paying job. Here is your reminder that it’s important for you to realize that jumping through more and more hoops doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll end up with a job at the end of the process. Do your future job searching self a favor and think through what your boundaries are when it comes to participating in a given company's hiring process. We'll revisit this a little later.
The Perfect Job! (or was it...)
During this particular job search, I was laid off at the end of the summer. From previous job searches, I hoped to find a new position before Thanksgiving, because otherwise it might be until February or March before I secured a new role.
I was very excited when I ran across THE PERFECT JOB! It was an opening for a training director position within an easy commuting distance where I even knew someone who had connections within the organization.
Lessons Learned: Don’t fall in love with a job. Even if it seems like “the perfect job”, it is not yet “your job”. Apply, hope for the best, but keep on applying. Until you have an actual accepted job offer, it is not “your job.”
The Inside Scoop
I met with my professional connection, and they filled me in. I learned about the organization, their clientele, their mission, the key players in the hiring process, and useful background information. My connection even put in a good word with the organization (they had left on good terms.) I also learned that the company had a some turnover in this position, so they were trying to make sure they did their due diligence and hired the right person this time around.
Lesson Learned: Even when you’re excited because you found THE PERFECT JOB, gather information and listen to what people tell you. This company having gone through two people in the role in a relatively short period of time, and being concerned about making another hiring misstep is something I heard, and noted, but I didn't really listen to as much as I should have. In this case, the company was trying (maybe a little too) hard to hire the right person for the role. It could have also indicated that there was something about the company or the role that caused people not to stay. Again, my future self knows to synthesize information gathered more carefully--and not emphasizing only the good things.
The Phone Interviews
I applied, and my connection put in a good word for me. Very quickly, the company reached out to me for an initial phone screen. Then a phone interview. Then another phone interview. Then yet another phone interview. After four phone calls—each where the interviewer seemed excited about me as a candidate and talked about who else I needed to talk to—I started to wonder what the whole game plan for this whole process was (aside from their overwhelming goal not to make a hiring mistake).
Lessons Learned: In the initial phone screen or the first interview, be sure to ask what the hiring process is. Decide what your boundaries are, and if you’re willing to do all of the things they want you to do. Remember, you are interviewing them, too. Make no assumptions. Don't get so excited that they keep wanting to talk with you that you keep on going not knowing what the whole process will be (and if you're willing to continue on that path).
The Work Samples
In addition to talking to different interviewers on multiple occasions, the company wanted to see work samples. I emailed work samples and met with a subject matter expert who was well-versed in adult education and instructional design. They complimented me on the trainer guide, videos, and job aids I had created. They told me they were impressed with my work, and learned from what I told them. At this point, they told me the next step was for me to meet with the company founder.
Lessons Learned: Have a portfolio online that people can access, or let people know that you are happy to review work samples (and your process) with them in an in-person or Zoom meeting.
The Zoom Meetings
I was excited to be meeting the company founder, who was also a published author. In preparation, I bought and read their most recent book, researched their accomplishments, read their blog articles, and their body of work. During the interview, we had a great conversation, which included a lot of “when we work together” and “next steps” language.
This meeting was followed by multiple Zoom meetings with different stakeholders explaining the next steps in this process—which they called an “in-box experience.” During this phase, I would come into their office and work for a half day. I would have a chance to interact with multiple people with whom I would work, including consultants and a client. This would require me to sign a non-disclosure agreement, work on a project for an actual client, and present information to a client.
Lessons Learned: No matter how many interviews you have, or how much they seem to like you, remember you do not have the job until they have made you an offer and you have come to an agreement about your compensation. Remember that the goal of this process is that the employer decides if they want to work with you, and you decide if you want to work with them. Looking back, I'm frustrated with myself that I invested this much time without talking about salary expectations.
The In-Box Experience
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, at 8:00 am, I arrived for my in-box experience. I brought my computer and the work I had done so far. I was told that I needed to use their computer for my work that day. During the four hours that I was there pretending I worked for them, I had an in-person panel interview with people I had talked with via phone, interviewed via Zoom with a consultant, ran a project meeting, completed work on instructional materials for a client, and got feedback on my performance along the way. I had a final conversation with one of the decision makers before ending my day. I was told I'd hear back early the following week.
Lessons Learned: Determine ahead of time how much you are willing to do for a role, and when to call it. Remember, you're interviewing them, too.
Thanks, But No
In the middle of the following week, I got a call back. It was very brief. Thanks for my time, but they had decided not to proceed with me as a candidate. If I like, though, they would be willing to add me to their possible consultant database for future contract work.
Lesson Learned: Never again. In short, I spent about 45 hours total, including about 15 hours of unpaid work that I did for the company, to end up with no job offer. Time to transition those lessons learned into new personal guidelines.
Remember the boundary setting I mentioned before? Here's where we revisit it. After going through this process (and getting mad all over again writing this up), I am reminded of the outcome of those lessons learned for me.
What Do You Think?
What have you personally learned during the job interviewing process? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Network Building in the Beforetimes
Pre-pandemic, "networking" typically meant attending in-person events, shaking a few hands, and having a somewhat meaningful conversation with another human. While some of those in-person opportunities are intermittently available, large group events are more the exception than the norm. As with other lessons learned on adapting to remote work, the way we build our professional networks also has to adapt.
Enter the Webinar
Like many people, I have attended (and delivered) approximately a bijillion online meetings, trainings, and interactive instructor-led sessions over the last little bit. I've been approaching these sessions with a mind towards not just attending, but also making new connections. The process is different, but I realized that I've actually managed to connect with more people (and often form more meaningful connections), that I sometimes do working a room. As someone who runs introverted and communicates effectively in writing, this was an opportunity to turn webinars into a bonus network building exercise.
Finding Possible Connections
When attending a webinar where interaction was promoted, I made sure to participate. I also noted other attendees (sometimes taking screen shots of the participant pane) and what contributions each person made. After the session, I would use those details to follow up on those fledgling connections on LinkedIn.
Researching Potential Connections
After attending a webinar, here is my process for adding new LinkedIn connections:
Key Components of a Connection Request
Personalizing connection requests is a great way to start building a relationship with a new professional contact.
Connection Request Examples
Here are a few examples of messages that you can use to invite people to connect. You have 300 characters total to use for personalizing connection requests.
Hi, Jen. I see we both attended today’s White Box Club meeting. I’m also in transition and seeking a new role in learning and development. Let's connect!
I'm also always up for a 30-minute "virtual coffee" meeting to discuss how we can help one another as we job search.
Hi, Jack. Great to interact with you a bit at this morning's Excellence Share. I love sharing ideas with fellow L&D professionals. Let's connect!
Hi, Javier. Welcome to the PACT organization! I know I personally appreciate everything I learn from this awesome group of people. Since you mentioned that you are job searching, be sure to check out The White Box Club on Meetup to help you as you find your next role.
Keep in touch!
After The Initial Connection
How do you further nurture that relationship? Here are a few ideas.
What Do You Think?
What are your strategies for building your network online.
Brenda is a dynamic training & development leader & innovative learning experience designer.