Career Lessons Learned from Two Layoffs

WorkCoachCafeIf you read my first WorkCoachCafe post, you know I’ve been laid off twice in my career.  And, strange as it may sound, those layoffs really ended up helping my career, even though they threw me into a panic both times. No paycheck?!? YIKES!

Five very important things that those two layoffs taught me:

1. A “career” is NOT a destination.  A career is a process or a journey that we take.

A job loss is just a change in employer. It may end up being a change in career direction. But, it’s not the end of your career.

We don’t necessarily know where our career is going to take us, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have goals or do planning. And we need to be ready to accept challenges and opportunities when they present themselves.

2. Sometimes it takes a kick in the pants (or a job loss) to get us moving on — to a better future.

I know this was true for me, and many people have shared that they feel the same way.

If that job loss had not happened, they would still be in the same rut, dealing with the same issues, not really enjoying their work.

But, the job loss happened. So, they had to face reality and move on. And it was an absolute gift to them.

I know that a job loss definitely doesn’t feel like a gift when it happens. However, years or months later, you can see the benefit clearly. If I hadn’t been laid off twice, my career trajectory would have been very different. I would never have ended up where I am today, loving what I do.

3. If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t making progress either.

People who are risk-averse, afraid to make a mistake, live very limited lives, and they never know how much they could have achieved.  It’s a good idea not to make the same mistake twice, but mistakes are a great way to learn!

My favorite saying from a fortune cookie is:

Start to look for your faults if you never make mistakes.

So true! Too often, we don’t try something new because we’re afraid of making mistakes. This isn’t an invitation to be crazy, but it is an invitation to take “calculated” risks.

What’s a calculated risk? This is my approach: I’ve tried to teach myself to ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen” if I’m wavering about taking some step. Most of the time, the worst thing isn’t really that awful, particularly in comparison with the “upside” related to successfully taking the action.

4. If you don’t have a goal in mind, you probably won’t get there.

The journey that is a career can go off in the wrong direction. Too often, we stay in jobs we don’t really like, working for people we may not respect, because we don’t really know what we want.

“A job is just a job” is the relatively comforting thought. As long as that paycheck keeps appearing, we just plod along in that same old pattern. Going nowhere.

But, figuring out what you want to do next is WORK! An investment of time and attention is required. Self-analysis — what you do well and enjoy doing — is necessary. Yikes!

Yes, deciding that your goal is to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a New York Times best-selling author may not be achievable, given the competition. However, heading in that direction (if that’s what you really want) will be very educational and may show you a better option, something very enjoyable  that isn’t on your radar screen right now.

5. Learning is not an option.  When you stop learning, you become irrelevant.

That has always been true, but I think it is more true now than in the past with the velocity of cultural and technological change increasing exponentially in the last few years.

Regardless of your age, 25 or 55, staying up-to-date is not optional. If you aren’t visibly up-to-date, you are an “old timer” regardless of your age, and you will be marginalized in most fields.

Look Forward

Job loss can be a tragedy, but, more often, it’s the start of a new phase in your career. Often a job loss is a gift — the start of something new and better for you.

More about Career Change

Involuntary Career Change Can Be GREAT!

Starting Career Change

5 Important Things to Know About Career Change

Career Changers

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About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPostAOL Jobs, and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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