We’ve all been there before in our professional lives – starting over, often when we least expect it. Whether your position ends of your own accord or not, leaving a position and starting fresh can be a tumultuous ride of emotions and stress. Over the decade and a half of my career, I have started over several times, becoming well-tuned to the art of job searching, networking, interviewing and generally landing on my feet. While most of my changes and physical moves have been in order to allow my spouse the opportunity to accept an elevated position in his chosen career, I have also been subject to downsizing, thus spinning my world on its axis. So whether you decide to make a change, or your organization makes that decision for you, there are things you need to keep in mind. I’d like to share a few of the most important lessons I have learned over the years, whether through self-discovery, or from my peers and friends who I turned to in my time of need.
There’s not a person on the world who will fight for you as hard as you do. You must become the driver in your journey. There is a time for shock, anger, fear, bitterness – but soon after departing an organization, you must put those feeling aside (divert/distract/bury as needed) and as my mother said to me growing up “it’s time to put on your big girl panties”. When you are job hunting, the most fruitful attributes you can demonstrate are being proactive, flexible, and fiercely driven. You have to own the reality of your situation and become resolute in the face of negativity. I know, easier said than done, but only you can create the change you want. And that takes hard work and focus.
Whether you are 25 and new to the industry, or you have been around for 25 years, you should always be actively building your network. In an industry that is growing, changing and evolving as much as Donor Relations, you should never become complacent in making connections, brainstorming/sharing ideas with peers, being active in your professional organizations, and generally building relationships. Because you will need them one day. And they may need you. The first people I called after I had been downsized where the people in my village – those who were my friends, who were well-connected, and could help me get back up on my feet and support me along the way. You need to think of your network as your safety net – the stronger the net, the more successful you will be. LinkedIn, professional organizations, listservs, monthly coffees- they aren’t busy work, they are career builders. In all of my moves, it wasn’t the head hunter who found me the job, it was someone in my village when I asked for help.
Scrambling to update your resume, assemble a portfolio, and build a professional presence will inevitably add stress, anxiety and heighten the chance of mistakes in the critical days/weeks following an organizational departure. Once you start reaching out to your network and making inquiries, you need to be prepared to instantly provide your perfected resume and a glowing set of samples if needed. Don’t wait. Build those things as you go. I know we already feel desperate for more hours in the day, and it’s hard to stop and complete activities for “what if” situations, but carving out a couple hours every 6 months while you have a clear mind will help you be prepared for the unexpected at all times. Have a peer review your resume, add key project samples to your (preferably virtual) portfolio, contribute to an article, write a professional blog, serve on a professional committee, keep your LinkedIn profile current and active…they will save you precious time in your job search process as well as increase your own self-confidence during a taxing time in your life.
Get out and work it from every angle you can. Use your aforementioned network, contact a head hunter, attend professional networking events, take classes to fill your experience gaps, and most importantly, push yourself to the point of discomfort. Just because you are looking for a new position and the need to have a job for financial reasons can start to drive decision making, this is not a time to fall back on what you know in your comfort zone. It’s a time for growth, reevaluation of priorities, flexibility, and strategy. Stay focused on your end goal, execute your strategy, and work it until there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is always light, some tunnels may just be longer, windier, or scarier than we anticipate.
Stay tuned next week for Part Two of this blog topic – 30/60/90 Does & Don’ts.
Thank you to Sarah Sims, DRG Group member and Executive Director of Donor Relations at the University of Florida for this amazing blog.
What are your thoughts??