Over the past several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to connect with some former colleagues who were recently let go from their employer, along with a couple of friends who are anticipating leaving their employer in the near future.
The top-of-mind question for all of them was, “What should I do first?” Of course, they’re all experienced adults who can figure things out, but their question was a poignant and familiar one for me, as I had to address that question 4.5 years ago when leaving my employer of almost 16 years.
Where to Start
While everyone’s situation is unique, I realized as I was talking things through with my friends and colleagues that there were several common themes in each conversation. Here is a short summary for others who may find themselves in or approaching that same event or season in life.
- Ground your faith – Few things shook my faith the way changes in my employment did. Not that I came close to losing my faith, but instead wondering “why” and what direction to head next were some sobering crucible times. Staying in Scripture, prayer, and community are great avenues to staying grounded.
- Be clear – Whether your job has been eliminated, you’ve resigned, you’ve been terminated, or you’re diligently planning to retire, the phrase “the devil is in the details” will ring true. All the more reason to be clear with exactly what has happened, what is available to you, and the timing of details coming down the line. For example, knowing exactly what your severance is and how filing for unemployment may or may not affect said severance.
- Emotional awareness – If you’re like most people, regardless of whether you were surprised or planned the change in employment, change can be an emotional roller coaster. Awareness of this possibility and the reality that few of us possess the ability to completely control our emotions is a great starting point.
- Know the numbers – Knowing what income streams and savings are available to cover your recurring living expenses is critical to lowering anxiety while determining how much time you can afford to take in a job transition. For more on this, please see our blog, ‘Target and Timing: Ready…Set…Wait?’.
- Take your time – Depending on what the numbers look like in #4, using some time to reflect and think about what the possibilities are for you is vitally important. Give yourself the gift of time to step back, be circumspect, and deliberate in deciding what you might do next. This is an underutilized area, and it is understandable why. Being “unplugged” in your career after actively working for years isn’t the most comfortable position to be in, but if you use your time wisely, you’ll never regret accepting that gift!
- Practice your lines – The inevitable question you’ll receive from almost everyone you speak with about job transition is something along the lines of, “So, what happened? What prompted your departure from XYZ?” Practicing your response out loud will pay off. Having many lines running around in your head is quite different than being clear and concise with a calm response.
- Resumes – Your resume is a critical component of your job search, yet it’s #7 for a reason – – look at the previous six items again. If you’ve gone through those steps, your resume preparation will flow much better than if you leap into it with step #2. Also, I’d encourage you to fashion a resume that truly reflects who you are and what you do best rather than simply trying to match it up to a job posting. You can learn about unique distinctions in our blog, ‘Is Your Resume Distinctive?’.
- Ignite your network – Statistics regularly show us that most jobs come from connecting with someone who knows someone. There’s a reason the adage of “It all comes down to who you know” is a truism. Most people jump into filling out job applications before tapping into their network, and it shows up in the length of time it takes for them to land a job.
- Begin the exploration – Truly working and expanding your network allows you to execute a life-changing job transition. Meeting with people you haven’t met before and effectively/efficiently asking for their help is a terrific way to maximize the priorities you’ve invested in thus far. Please check out the book, “The 20 Minute Networking Meeting” by Marcia Ballinger and Nathan Perez for what I consider to be the “gospel” of networking. (Linked here)
Begin and End With God
Matthew 6:33 clearly tells us what our overall priority should be: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Begin with God and end with God. Scripture doesn’t give us specifics on how to use our time other than to continually reinforce the fact that we are, indeed, spiritual beings who need redemption and then guidance from our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Let’s keep first things first during our seasons of change, and ask our Creator to help us discern the rest. Blessings!
Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.