Suffering the loss of a job you love and have worked hard at for many years can be significant blow to your sense of self. Our tendency to define ourselves based on our occupation certainly makes sense – we can’t truly separate our personal and professional personas – but dammit, we have a lot invested in our professional identity.
In my conversations with professionals in transition over the years, there are several themes in the stories people have told me.
- Previous Success: Given the vast experience I have gained, the success I have achieved, and the progressive advancement I have earned, I won’t have any problem getting a new job.
- Too Busy: I’ve been so busy and heads down with my job for so many years that I have no idea what is happening in the broader market.
- No Local Network: I’ve been traveling for work for a decade and have a great international and national network, but I’m alone in my own backyard.
- Overwhelm: I haven’t applied for a job in 15 years, my resume is so outdated, and don’t even know where to start with my job search. By the way, what’s an ATS?
- Rejuvenation Followed by Frustration: I took some time off, redid my resume, and have been applying for a few months with no results.
The reality is that your prior success and singular focus on your previous job does not guarantee that you will be successful with your job search today. You are certainly set up for success once you land your next job, but these two vastly different professional efforts rarely leverage the same skill-set.
This can give you a serious head trip and make you doubt yourself. You may find yourself asking:
- Why doesn’t anyone appreciate the value I delivered in my previous role and just hire me based on my resume?
- How can I not secure a new job after so many years of success?
- Why didn’t I focus on building my professional network when I was still employed?
- What is wrong with me?
You are not alone. You are not failing. You were doing the right thing for your job and family. You didn’t think you would be laid off…and for no fault of your own.
You simply need a new set of skills to solve your current problem of unemployment. This is a relatively easy problem to solve but will require focused effort from you and perhaps some help from a professional.
While you can’t go back and fix what is in the past, you can absolutely take steps to design an efficient job search that will get you results. But where should you start?
- If you haven’t already, get in touch with your professional self. Reflect on what you’ve done and what you want to do moving forward. Develop a mental model of who you will be in your next role, how you will be successful, and the value you will add.
- Create your marketing materials – resume, LinkedIn, cover letter template, executive 1-pager. Align them with your future professional self and targeted industry/role/function. If this seems daunting, invest in yourself and seek out a resume writer or career coach to help you.
- Research your industry, the companies you could be interested in, and the people that work in those companies. Read websites, social media, and get firsthand accounts from people inside your target companies.
- Network with your existing professional connections and create new strategic connections inside your target companies. LinkedIn is a powerful tool to help you find the right people to connect with. Join one or more groups designed to support professionals in job transition. There are many available and most have gone virtual – you don’t even have to leave your home!
- Build a plan, schedule your time, and track your effort and results. Track every conversation, application, and interview to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
- Get access to jobs through all 3 doors available to you – the front door (online applications), the side door (recruiters), and the back door (your network).
Stop beating yourself up and give yourself a break, but don’t let yourself off the hook. You have work to do – your job search is your full-time job right now. Get comfortable with being in marketing and sales mode for a while. You have unique value to offer companies. All you have to do is get organized and work your plan every day to increase your visibility, communicate your value, and engage authentically with the people and companies you want to work with.