Dealing with Unemployment and Finding a Career Path

reflecting on unemployment and being laid off workOn a Monday in mid-December, I received the unexpected news of company-wide layoffs as the business was restructuring. The company was relatively new in a competitive marketplace. Our rate of adoption was slow, but I’ve come to expect that when the world of agriculture meets technology. Investors wanted more and they wanted it yesterday.

When old habits meet a new way of doing business, most farmers and ranchers do not want to be the first to try the new product. And we must respect that caution. After all, when most of your income relies heavily upon one transaction each year, there is reason to make sure you’re making the best decision.

While it is easy to be depressed and upset over the news, delivered days before the Christmas holiday, I knew that wasn’t the road I needed to take. If we never take risks in our career, we’re likely never to make a significant impact.

Aside from learning the next step doesn’t appear overnight, what have I discovered about my next move after becoming unemployed?

Take some time to absorb the change.

Let’s be honest, I did take a few days to absorb the news over a beer. If anyone says being laid off work or facing unemployment is easy, they’re lying.

I also took the opportunity to use travel miles and experience a few things on my bucket list. A week was spent with friends in Wisconsin over good cheese and beer.

I drove the Pacific Coast from Canada to Mexico, experienced a few sunsets on the beaches, ran a few miles and camped in Redwoods National Park. Then, I traveled home to see family for a few days.

Establish your goals and priorities.

I’ve also made it a point to get to work, refocusing my attention and making sure the next path in my career is the right choice, something that will stick and allow me to make contributions in a business I love. I have read a ton of books over the past two months.

Think about what you want the next step in your career to look like. What are your goals? What work environment helps you thrive? Write these things down.

Start the job hunt.

You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t get started.

First thing to do after identifying your goals and priorities? Refresh that resume. I have been lucky enough for job leads to find me and haven’t actively gone through a full application process since 2010. Resumes have changed since that time. I had to do some homework and refresh that resume and cover letter.

I have also made sure to put my networking skills to good use. Make phone calls, reach out to contacts. The largest Convention & Trade Show for my industry took place in early February. I made it a point to attend the trade show and make connections, follow-up with old acquaintances and shake several new hands. But things aren’t finished when the booths tear down. The work continues with follow-up emails and phone calls as soon as you get home.

And believe me, it is easy to become frustrated when people are slow in responding to emails and phone calls. I’m learning this is a drawn-out process.

Reflect upon your strengths.

I’ve relied on a few close friends to talk me through this. It often takes an outside perspective to see what our strengths and goals will be. Writing and rewriting pages of notes during my getaway travel has been an important part of this process.

I’ve taken the DiSC assessment several times and each round of results provides a slightly different profile. I attribute this to identifying strengths and weaknesses, then utilizing those as insight to continually improve.

These are a few of the characteristics that come around time and again or have struck me as important when making career decisions as I plow ahead.

I am a decisive doer.

I am a strong agent of change. The more difficult the challenge, the more motivated I become. I demand high levels of results, in both myself and others, but I am practical about getting results without fluff.

One area to improve? When stressed, I can become somewhat of a selective listener.

I am introspective. People wear me out.

I am quiet around new people or in new environments and tend to observe before sharing thoughts and opinions with people I do not know well. I am suspicious of fast and loud-talking people and need to warm up to them before trusting them.

One area to improve? I could bring greater value to the team by weighing in with ideas and opinions more frequently.

I appreciate stability and control.

I place high importance on the follow-through, accuracy and detail. I am a critical thinker and welcome the challenge to solve problems. I tend to resist confrontation and am typically cool, calm and collected. I am patient and a good team player.

One area to improve? My desire for detail and perfection at times can hamper productivity.

What’s the next step in my career?

I will not pretend to have all the answers. Nor do I know where my path will lead, but I’m slowly learning this takes patience to land on your feet.

In the meantime, I should focus on finding some short-term freelance work and make it my job to find a job. So, if you’re looking for some immediate help, hit me up and let’s talk.

I greatly appreciate every person who has offered supportive words and thoughts as I face these challenges. Wish me luck and introduce me to someone you think I should know that may be looking for an awesome person to join their team.

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4 Comments

  1. I wish I would have known this a month ago, Illinois pork producers were looking for a Director of Communications and the job application posting closed two weeks ago. I know it’s not a room in it, but it is livestock!

  2. Good luck! I hope you find a good fit soon. I remember what it was like to be unemployed and I panicked. Your tips are exactly what people need to think about and do.

  3. Best of Luck! Having been through this a few times, it is all about personal connections these days, so keep those conversations going. It might take a while (4years in my case) to work through in-between jobs before you find the perfect match, but you will get there.

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