I have heard from so many of you who have gone through unexpected job transitions and can relate to the emotions and vulnerability. It is humbling and has opened my eyes to how valuable it can be for more of us to share our stories and connect with others who have gone through (or are still going through) similar situations.

Here are excerpts from some of the comments that were shared with me (names have been removed):

  • “I’m at a crossroads in my career and have been out of work [for several months]. I’m attempting to be more vulnerable on LinkedIn now that I don’t have a job but fear is high.”
  • “My reluctance to ask for help is holding me back mainly because of embarrassment.”
  • “I have tried to do my own thing over the last few years. The market scares me and truth be told is I don’t want to go back to working for someone else.”
  • “I had a similar experience almost a year ago, where my position in a healthcare system was eliminated and have been building up my own confidence and vision to be a free-range professional. I have had similar realizations about how I needed this change in my life.”
  • “Going through a similar situation now.”
  • “I wanted to take some time and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my career.”

Here’s the point I would make for anyone feeling that way: I didn’t get back on my feet by winning the Resume Lottery. It came by honing my personal brand and networking rather than browsing the job boards.

And I think there are lessons to learn, because it can be discouraging — downright deflating — to think that the only way to get back on your feet is to be lucky enough for the right opportunity to come to you. When, in reality, it’s possible to create the right opportunities on your own. And that makes you realize that you’re more in control than you might think. Because one thing you don’t control is the job search process.

Job Searching Sucks

I feel your pain. Everything about the modern job search process is painful. First, browsing the job boards. Refreshing the browser all day long and creating dozens of alerts with slightly different terms in hopes that the perfect opening will pop up across your screen and say, “This one! Right here! This is the perfect job for you and it’s all yours! 100% flex time, unlimited vacation, no deductible. Name your price!” Uggh.

Next, finding an opening that looks even halfway appealing, only to see that 495 people have already applied. Sand in the wound.

Then getting up the courage anyway and spending hours customizing your resume to highlight experience specific to that job, only to find that the website parses your resume incorrectly and you have to re-type everything from scratch.

Then you finally hit “Send” and instead of feeling accomplished, you realize your resume is going into a black hole and likely will never be seen by human eyes. (Apparently I’m not the only one who sees this as an issue. There’s a trending topic on LinkedIn right now about getting your resume past the robots. Yikes.)

Next you start calling in favors from colleagues who can hopefully put in a good word and if the stars align, score you an interview. If only.

Then the game of cat and mouse starts with the recruiter. Should you call them? How long should you wait before calling them again? You don’t want to pester them because that would be unprofessional, but you kinda need to know if you’re still in the running. And of course you’re unsure when it’s OK to ask about the salary range because it’s always listed as “depends on experience.” Lame.

That leads to the pinnacle of the job search experience — interviewing. No big deal, right? All you have to do is say all the right things, be polished, make eye contact, appear confident but not overconfident, do your homework but don’t be creepy, smile like you’re actually enjoying being grilled by everyone in the room, and pick up on nonverbal signals that seem to conflict with verbal things coming out of the interviewers’ mouths. Phew!

Yeah, not a fan of the process. So I stopped searching and decided to create my own job instead. Rather than reaching out and asking my network if they knew of any openings, I started asking if they had any projects I could tackle. And that’s when the momentum started to shift.

So while I caveat this by saying this might not be the best or most comfortable path for everyone, here are the counterintuitive ways I got back on my feet: by opening my mouth, my mind, and my eyes. 

1. Open your mouth — Start publishing content.

Tell your story. Start TODAY. You don’t have to give all the dirty details, but you have a unique perspective and there are others out there who want to hear it. You have expertise and big ideas. So put it out there. It does 3 things: first, it connects you with people in your network who are likeminded. Second, it helps you hone who you are and what your unique contribution is to the world. Third, it gives you the confidence boost that you’re going to need at some point. It’s never too late to start.

Remember when I briefly considered ending my podcast? I am now approaching 2 years and 100 episodes, and our audience has grown more than 1,000% since August.

Opening my mouth led to opening my mind. 

2. Open your mind — Consider new types of opportunities.

The professional world has changed. The Gig Economy, remote work, and social media allow for more opportunities than ever. You no longer have to limit your search to full-time openings in your area. (Especially since once you’ve gotten to a certain level of seniority, those openings tend not to be publicized anyway.) The interesting thing was how many people have told me that they have always wanted to try working for themselves but are too scared. Well there’s no better time to get over that fear than when your back’s against the wall.

Opening my mind led me to opening my eyes. 

3. Open your eyes — Know when to ask your network for help and when to give back.

Balance the times when you’re asking for favors with when you can freely give something in return. Be conscious of when you need to ask for help, because there will be plenty of times when you’ll need to ask for it. Keep showing the power of positivity. And don’t forget, it’s often your 2nd- and 3rd-level connections who provide the most help.

Opening my eyes led to the opportunities that were right for me. 

Just like I didn’t plan to write an article on this topic, but the overwhelming comments led me to realize it might help someone. Sometimes in life all we need is a stranger to smile at us to turn a bad day into a good one. Sometimes at work all we need is someone unexpected thanking us for doing a good job. If all I can do is show some empathy for you, maybe that will help. When an expected job change happens, we all need people in our lives to help us stay open to new possibilities and new paths. If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, I’ll be that person for you.

Underneath our professional profiles, we’re all still humans. I’m thankful for being reminded of that truth.

What do you think? What is keeping you from getting back on your feet, and how can I help? DM me and let me know.