My three year anniversary after being laid off from a long-term job is this month.
It’s hard to believe that so much time has gone by. I held five positions in the field of health promotion, addiction and mental health for 25 years. I had the last job for 19 of those 25 years. This last job also marked the beginning of my family life; I became engaged the same week I started this position way back in 1994; I also had three children and took three maternity leaves while working at this research hospital.
As a publishing developer, I really enjoyed this job for most of the time that I had it. But, as time went on, I realized that I had not been content for about five years. I had even started thinking about what else I could do and started talking to people about how I might leverage my education and experience. I checked out going back to school to pursue teaching or perhaps a PhD.
I had determined a few things during this soul searching period:
I missed helping people directly.
I still loved psychology, which is what I had pursued academically.
I was attracted to being a guidance counselor, life coach, entrepreneur of some sort, the real estate market, animal welfare, conservation and solar energy.
I craved flexibility.
I felt stuck and didn’t know what to do or how to figure it all out.
Meanwhile, I had a good job, excellent benefits, five weeks vacation an office with a door and worked for a cause-oriented organization. I had relative autonomy day-to-day and a moderate amount of flexibility. I worked at a well-respected hospital. But…my job description had changed drastically and quite honestly, I was bored.
So, time ticked on.
In May three years ago, I got that fateful knock on my office door. That was basically it. I got a laid off.
A few things struck me:
- Being laid off still felt harsh, even though I was pretty darn sure it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
- Being laid off in the same room in which I was hired 19 years earlier felt pretty weird…kind of like coming full circle.
- Being laid off two months before I turned 50 felt like a sign.
OK, I know you may not believe in signs, but it really did feel like the universe had just unfolded as it should.
The day of my lay off, I drove home in a bit of a giddy fog.
My head was spinning. It was hard not to take what had just occurred personally. But…I really did have a vague sense that something fantastic just happened.
And fantastic it was indeed.
I proceeded to “find myself.” I took some concrete steps to figure out what I wanted to do (which I’ve written about in previous blog posts) and yada yada yada, I started a brand new career chapter as a Certified Life Coach and have never looked back. So happy!
Now that a few years have gone by, I have perspective about three important lessons.
1. It’s critical to figure out the most important things you want out of your career.
WHY do you want to do what you do? Your “why” is personal – there’s no right or wrong answer, but you have to figure it out. For me, I want to help people directly (which was not my role at my last job); I want a flexible work environment. I now work from home and I am so happy being able to “be there” for my family more than I could have ever imagined. As a Master Certified Life Coach now, I’m thrilled with the skills I have to help people so quickly.
2. Change is good.
There were many solid reasons I chose to stay in my job as long as I did. But now that I have hindsight, I realize that fear of the unknown was one of them. I was quite surprised when I realized this. I was afraid of the “new job” not being as good as my old job; I was afraid of rejection; I was afraid that staying in this job as long as I did would have been a detriment in my job search. When I was forced to move on, I moved on with gusto. I’ve tried many new things. I’ve met tons of new people. I’ve challenged myself in ways that make me proud. I see how amazing change can be in your life.
3. The only thing that holds you back in life is your thinking.
Our lives are full of circumstances. These are black and white. Facts. The thing that creates “problems” for us is the way we think about our circumstances. These thoughts create feelings. Feelings produce action. Action creates results. Results prove your thoughts. Every time.
So when I think about my old job as a circumstance, it’s clear what was going on with me. My thought about being at my job for such a long time was: being at my job for 19 years has made me stale and less desirable in the current job market. This thought made me feel less competent and fearful of change and rejection.
When I felt fear at work, I froze and didn’t make a huge effort to try anything new. The results I created? I stayed at my job and didn’t grow. Do you see how that proved my thought that I was stale and had less to offer?
This is exactly the kind of thing my clients talk about.
My clients are starting to feel like they may have regrets about what they didn’t do in their lives. Now that they’re older, they know something has to change but aren’t sure where to start. I teach them how to get clear about what they want, start taking action and create a life they can get excited about.
I wish I had found someone to help me when I felt so stuck and confused. I would love to have those five years back. It would have been awesome to have wasted less time.
This is the perfect time to check out my free download, NINE SECRETS to GET UNSTUCK in YOUR 50s. It’s the perfect thing to help you take a close look at your thinking and what you REALLY want to do to move forward, especially after a lay off. Life is short!