Garden leaves, non-compete, lay-offs. If you have been working in good old corporates, you know that at some point, many would go through one or more of the above during any given career.
Garden leaves are fun times. You might find yourself bored with so much time on your hands, but you are guaranteed a job at the end.
On the other hand, finding yourself laid-off can be a soul-crushing experience, especially during difficult markets.
While your main focus will likely be the job search, consider these other strategies to keep yourself motivated and to create new opportunities for growth.
Adapting to a new routine
Many people feel frantic during those first few weeks.
Their bodies have not adjusted to the new routine, they are still checking emails and messages.
Their brains are also trying to make sense of the situation and go into solution-finding mode.
The reality is that it takes time for the system to absorb the shock of losing a job.
A good way to deal?
First, give yourself the time to get through the reality of the layoff.
The second step is to keep a form of a structure while you are starting your job search: you might not need to wake up at 5 am anymore, but keep on going to the gym, exercising and the likes. Give yourself a start time of your day for your professional activities.
The more regular your schedule, the easier the transition into the new situation.
Use this time to revive your personal and professional network. Meeting for lunch is a great way to catch up and sound the employment market.
LinkedIn is your ally when it comes to searching for people in your area of expertise, for headhunters and other employment specialists. Follow and comment on their posts. Keep track of what’s happening in the market (without pressurizing yourself).
And of course, ideally, if you can, take some time off from your immediate environment or book yourself a day for an activity you like, giving yourself some reprieve after the huge shakedown that you have experienced.
The next step is to stay focused on your goals.
Identify your winning team
First things first, your support system; I spoke previously about the need to surround yourself with a real genuine and authentic support system, especially when things have not been optimal for you – people who can help you as a much needed sounding board and those who call you out when you go into defeat and procrastination.
Your job is to keep as much as possible a positive mindset. Stay realistic in your goals, but don’t consider rejection as the end of the road for you.
Be on the lookout for signs of ‘not helping’.
Job seeking circles can be a good way to share strategies that worked or didn’t, to know you are not alone in your journey and to not feel isolated. But if you find yourself depressed and completely defeated after each time, it’s time to reconsider if the benefits are outweighing the negative.
The same goes for the helpful friend who wants to support you by sending you irrelevant job offers. If they make you feel inadequate, ignore them, and tell your friend again what you are looking for.
This time in between is when you need everything and everyone on your side, including yourself.
Meaning? Concentrate on your own physical and mental health; Now is the time to make an inventory of where you are at this moment in your career path.
Be on top of your life and career balance sheets
Let’s start with the obvious. Make a thorough inventory of all the practical and administrative tasks that need to be taken care of, asap. Once this is under control and monitored, time to take a clear look at where you are, on a personal and professional level.
And tools abound.
You can choose to make a personal ‘business’ plan for your goals, or do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats); all work, as long as you are keeping in mind the end game here: know thyself, understand your assets, and improve what needs.
I suggest you do two ‘business’ plans, one for your personal life in general, and another one for your career goals; when it comes to your career goals, be as granular as you can in your analysis; consider the particularities of the sector you are focusing on, do a SWOT on it. Same for the position you are applying for.
Do this exercise over several days, enroll the help of a friend or a coach if you can.
As a suggestion, here are some points that you may want to focus on when considering general life themes; and of course, add and amend as you see useful for you and for what you are trying to achieve.
Where is your health at? What needs change? – exercising more regularly, staying current on your medical check-ups, changing your eating habits…
Where are you in your personal relationships, who is supporting you and who is consuming your energy?
Do the same analysis with your finances, your home, your hobbies. Where are you in a good place? What needs to go? What is missing?
Now do the same exercise with your career goals and your job search, with the aim of finding what keeps you engaged, motivated and in action.
Stay in the game
Looking for a job is a full-time job, with an extra positive: you have control over how you want to spend your time.
How to keep it on your side? By engaging in activities that build new blocks for your resume (and for your self-confidence!).
I will start with the most beneficial: continuous education. In today’s world of everything online and connected, you can find a plethora of educational material, for a relatively low price.
Take a look at the job offers that you are targeting, look for the listed requirements.
Now look for offers for the more senior positions and for the more junior positions in the same field. Which of these requirements do you satisfy? Which do you need to get up to speed on?
See which courses or books you can take, that can give you more confidence during interviews.
Similarly, brainstorm wider: what other knowledge could be a plus in your profession?
How can you widen your scope?
Ask someone in your network who holds a similar ‘outside your current box’ position, what they would be looking for, in terms of knowledge.
It might not be in your current focus, but this extra certificate might help you feel more confident and more current; and bonus, would show recruiters a potential they didn’t see or didn’t know they wanted when they wrote the job offer.
Brushing up or learning a new language can also keep you challenged, interested and might also be useful at some point, who knows!
Focus on a growth mindset and on staying current. Some skills will always be required; technology (at least basic knowledge), leadership, innovation and one of the most important ones: communication.
Consider mentoring and volunteering
In the same vein of keeping current and staying connected to the outside world, I give you volunteering. Mentoring, contributing, educating – many reasons why volunteering can be beneficial to everyone.
Not-for-profit organizations can use your wealth of knowledge and experience.
Volunteering can be an opportunity to be involved in other areas that you are either interested or would need more experience in.
Let’s suppose you want to transition to a position with more financial analysis. You have little to no working experience in a similar position, but you have the relevant education.
Alongside from offering your own services to your favorite charity, at some point, you can also ask them if they would let you chat with or even shadow the current CFO for example. That could be of a real value add for your resume.
And a win/win for everyone.
Transition times, in between jobs, the perspective of gap time in your resume… can be overwhelming, sometimes depressing.
Don’t let the situation defeat you.
Rather, see it as a time to enrich your professional toolbox and deepen your personal relationships; and put in place a plan of action to make every day count as a new opportunity for growth, on a professional and on a personal level.