I could have high-fived everyone in sight as I walked away from a career that lasted 16 years in a stable, global financial institution. After being promoted five times, to five different areas in the company, my senior management position was abolished as my key responsibilities were centralized to the company’s global head office. Getting the separation package affirmed my own conviction in the previous two years it was time to forge a new career path.
The nearly twelve months it took me to accept a job offer for permanent, full-time work, proved to be an enriching journey, filled with new experiences. Most importantly, the experiences changed some of my commonly-held beliefs that have been ingrained in the minds of many mid-career and senior executives.
- Pay attention. Be prepared to change direction.
When you’ve done all you can do and what is right, and stuff happens, it’s usually a good sign! You’re being led in a better (read: different) direction, and it’s all good.
During my job search, I did all the right things. I built a data base of all my skills and experiences, from which I customized my CV for specific job opportunities. I optimized my social media presence by expanding my LinkedIn connections, networking on-line and off-line, writing blogs, tweeting. I actively engaged in volunteer work, explored opportunities in my home town and out of town, etc, etc, etc…. but after seven months, the doors closed on several very good leads, in each case for reasons beyond my control. The appointment of a new vice-president who needed to rethink the structure of the department, unforeseen budget cuts, corporate policies that gave preference to the internal candidate – these were some of the show stoppers.
When I realized that I had exhausted opportunities in the companies I targeted, I made the decision to change my direction and explore new possibilities. Free-lance consulting and a change of industry were two, new options I decided to explore. When I began to invest most of my efforts in these options, I was amazed at how quickly consulting opportunities began to materialize and as did invitations to job interviews in companies I had not previously considered.
- “Titles are inevitable, and they’re even respected, but they’re merely a credential”
In the words of Mike Lipkin, “Hierarchy is so boomer. The new reality is about heterarchy – where leaders and followers are interchangeable depending on circumstances.”
Job seekers who like myself have climbed the corporate ladder over many years in one company, tend to be overly concerned with titles, organizational structures and status. While I agree that we should look for challenging work that fits our experience and expertise, the truth is, the corporate ladder is an obsolete metaphor. In most progressive organizations, dotted lines and flat organizational structures give way to the optimal use of talent in collaborative team environments. This is where there are many open doors providing new and enriching opportunities for people wanting to do meaningful work.
- Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated.
Like most job seekers, I faced a several disappointing rejections. What I have come to realize, is that when faced with unemployment over an extended period of time, there was the temptation to talk myself into situations that were not the right fit, even though I had the qualifications and experience for the job. I had to remind myself a few times, that in order to flourish, I need to be in an environment conducive to my personal growth and enrichment. Finding the right fit required the clear definition and uncompromising commitment to my values and life objectives.
- Networking is not just for job-seekers.
The best career outlook in any organization can be randomly and suddenly taken away through restructurings, mergers, acquisitions and divestures that are regular features of the corporate landscape. No one in the workforce can take job security for granted.
My biggest take-away from my job search is that it’s up to each person to continuously develop skills in marketing themselves and building networks – gainfully employed or not. The world of work has changed and will continue to change. Self-motivation and the ability to recognize opportunity in changing circumstances are essential. Building a strong network of professional, community and social contacts is the key to getting a job, managing your career and making a career transition when the job is no longer there.
See the big picture. Focus on what’s important. www.camilleisaacsmorell.com