How To "Go With Grace" During Life's Transitions
I know a business executive named Grace. She's seasoned. She's smart. She does yoga. She calls herself an 'intrapreneur'. She only knows how to be 'all in' and is always 110% committed to anything she takes on. And she's been given the chance to "pursue other opportunities" more than once.
As you may have guessed, Grace looks a lot like me and how to "Go With Grace" is based on my transition experiences over the course of my 30+ year professional career. I know first-hand that exiting a company will be the most terrifying and liberating experience you have (get) to face. But have hope ... because I guarantee that there is life after (insert company name here).
Whether it be by choice, by chance or by pink slip, departing a company that you've put your heart and soul into is never easy. It will take every ounce of emotional intelligence that you have. It will be the loneliest and loveliest of times. But you will survive and even thrive. I promise. I've been there.
Here are some things I learned along the way:
- What you DO is not who you ARE. Right after my transition out of Carlson, I was stymied when someone would ask, "What do you do, Kathy?". I'd stutter a bit and pause - because I was thinking, "Well, nothing! I don't DO anything anymore. I used to be a leader at Carlson and now I'm nothing!" Which of course was not true at all, because I had actively starting volunteering, networking and finally paying some attention to my family. But I had worked so hard during my 12 years at Carlson when very long days + a two-hour commute was my norm, that I had let my entire identity be associated with my job. The transition out forced me to re-evaluate who I AM as a person, not just what I DID for a living. Those are very different things, but for achievement-oriented professionals the line often gets blurred.
- Build your network before you need it. This advice was given to me early on in my career but being young I, of course, never heeded it (kind of like that advice to maximize contributions to that 401K plan). I now actively work to build and maintain connections in my professional network and with digital tools like LinkedIn it is quite easy (albeit time-consuming).
- Finding a job IS a job. I was very fortunate to land at Caribou Coffee within 4 months of leaving Carlson, but that is the exception not the rule (one expert told me that you can roughly count on one month of search time for every $10,000 of salary you require). Assume your search IS your job, which means 40+ hours a week with a structured 'work' day and a job search strategy. It will take a lot of time and energy, with more emotional ups and downs than you expect. And a job likely isn't going to come knocking on your door so YOU have to do the door-knocking - and lots of it.
- Take full advantage of experts and resources available to you. I am an alum and long-time fan of CPI - Career Partners International - who were instrumental in several of my job transitions. Ask for outplacement services as part of your exit package if you get one, as experts like CPI not only provide tools you'll need for a successful transition but also provide the support network that is critical. Take advantage of online resources like LinkedIn. Serve on a non-profit board of directors or committee. Do some volunteering to stay engaged, use your skills and make new connections.
- Take time for YOU. Whether your job transition lasts one month or one year, it is a great time to focus on 'you' and recharge your batteries. Find something you enjoy that also helps you manage the stress of job hunting. (My choice was yoga.) Revisit your hobbies. (My choice was golf.) Meet up with someone you haven't seen in a while. Just find something that makes you happy and fulfilled - be selfish - do something just for YOU.
Transitioning from a job can be a wonderful journey, and it can also be a very lonely one. But you can navigate this change with grace. Don't be afraid to reach out to your professional and personal network for help. You'll be amazed at the level of 'grace' you will find in others who genuinely want to help.