I’ve had a couple friends recently tell me their job situation had suddenly changed. They came to me quite concerned and unsure as to what their next steps should be. If you’ve had anything like this happen to you, I’m sure you know how shocking this can be. It can make life feel out of control.
Personally, I’ve been laid off twice in the last several years and it’s not very fun. Both times I had some idea it could be coming, one didn’t surprise me too much, but that still didn’t mean it was fun. I’ve also had my share of contract jobs. Some of those have ended sooner than expected. I got my first contract right out of school. That ended after just six weeks when the project I had been hired to support was canceled. So it makes sense that my friends reach out to me for suggestions, they know I have been through so many job changes.
One book that helped me though all of this was Jon Acuff’s “Do Over” and I suggested it to both of my friends as well. Jon talks about how so many of us would like a ‘Do Over’ when it comes to our careers. He goes over some of the many ways people get to the point of making a big change, and strategies to go about it that can be a bit safer than others.
One friend has essentially been told that their job description has changed and they were no longer qualified. He was being allowed a few months to obtain some training and prove his competence or he would either be demoted or expected to find employment elsewhere. After being a committed employee at this company for over 20 years this was a big blow. He is dealing with so many thoughts and emotions and doesn’t even know where to start.
My other friend has also been in her job for many years working with the same manager. Recently she got a new manager and while things are not terrible it’s very different. She has realized that either her expectations need to change or she needs to leave because she has not been happy at work lately. She is not too far from retirement age and has never considered doing anything else or even changing locations. So even the idea of brainstorming other options just seemed impossible.
One of the biggest things I try to share with people is something that has helped me quite a bit over the years through various life changes. What helps? It’s your mindset. Now it can take a while to change this, especially if the change you are going through came as a big shock. An initial response could be anger or unbelief, then depression or hopelessness. None of those feelings are wrong or unusual. The issue comes when someone stays stuck in one of those feelings and is unable to move forward.
The first step to moving forward is to realize and actually believe that you do have options. Now, you may not actually like any of the options you can think of, but once you really feel the truth that options are available it will help you move on. Do some wild brainstorming, what options are available? Lower your bills by living in a van under a bridge? Move in with your parents or other friends? Find a job using your skills in an entirely different industry? Go back to school? Move to another state or country.
Now, choose a couple of those options (that you might actually consider) and research them as if you were really going to do it. Look at schools and training programs, calculate the costs and length of different places. Look for jobs and housing in a few different locations, maybe somewhere you’ve always wanted to live, or somewhere with a lower cost of living. Write down steps you would need to take if you were to move in with someone else or to rent out a room.
Once you have a good feel for what it might take to make some big changes, go back and look at your current situation. Is staying in your current job or with the company still an option? (If you were not fired or laid off.) What would it take to stay? Learning new things? Working under a manager you don’t respect? Getting to keep working with friends? Feeling unappreciated or underpaid? Staying with the ‘known’ as opposed to the ‘unknown’.
You have options
Here is where hopefully the realization really happens for you: There really are options. And now that you have looked at some of them more in depth you can be in a better place to actually evaluate them. At this point I am not the one to tell you what to do, you have to decide how much risk you are comfortable with, and what you value. Would you trade one set of problems for a set of totally different potential issues? Or should you go back and research a few more options in greater detail? For some extra help check out this book, it’s been around a while but they keep updating it: “What color is my parachute?” I recommended this one to both of my friends recently also.
The point of this exercise is to realize that you aren’t stuck. Even if you do not like the options you come up with, there are actual choices you could make. Maybe that leads you back to see that your current situation isn’t as bad as you thought, things could actually be a lot worse. Or you start by making some smaller changes to try something out, like taking an online class to see how you do in an area you’ve always wanted to learn.
Most of us experience job changes, sometimes unexpected. And as with other major life changes, we can feel angry, depressed, stuck, or any number of other emotions. It’s ok and normal to feel that way, but staying frozen in those feelings can leave us feeling stuck and that’s not usually a good thing. Check out your options and see what’s out there.