We’re sharing the stories of the challenges faced by many job seekers in recent years. In 2008, we faced the worst economic and employment crisis in decades. From that point on, we began supporting people through small group efforts – those that needed the acknowledgement and assurance that they weren’t alone in their job loss experiences. In this environment, a supportive network – it didn’t matter why people lost their jobs. What mattered was empowering each person to be a better job seeker and how to prepare one’s own self-marketing plan for continuing in their careers or transitioning to another. These featured individuals were willing to share their stories – many with strong credentials and solid experiences. But often age or salary expectations because of tenure was a detriment, and too often, those two obstacles go hand-in-hand.
CAREERS INTERUPPTED #Mary Fran
Mary Fran’s Resume gets attention. Her credentials and her experience are hard to match, as is her ability to continue learning with drive and enthusiasm. A woman devoted to family and church feels that she is under/unemployed for far too long and finds herself networking with the powers-that-be, leading her to her next job.
Back in her day Mary Fran planned on majoring in math with the intention of being a high school teacher. In college, she felt a double major will be her best route: education and a teachable subject. While she was drawn to the sciences and work in labs, she wasn’t so keen on typing papers.
Mary minored in Economics as well and was taught accounting. She’d ask herself what her future would look like if she got bored with computers (as she was getting very comfortable there); what if she pursued a job decoding for the FBI or CIA, or worked as an actuary. This is a woman with confidence, with skills and drive and a willingness to learn from the best and eventually would become one of the best and brightest in her own network.
The grass does not grow under Mary’s feet. Her first job was as a liaison to an I.T. department – which introduced her to an actuarial software vendor. She eventually became the assistant to the Vice President of marketing support. In all of her career, she never had to go out and look for a job. She found them all on her own, or they found her – through internal networking, to her solid reputation and her forever growing credentials. As technology in those years was an opportunity she recognized and pursued early on, and rightfully so.
The crisis with Enron that led to the Sarbanes Oxley act came on the scene and now required publicly traded organizations to follow strict reporting requirements. Mary was thinking that she would eventually retire from a company she had been with since 1998. But it was now 2005 and her employer lost most of its major clients – and Mary Fran lost her job.
She recalls the scenario: “We were called into a conference room (I was a Business Analyst at the time) along with my co-workers. It was June but as of July 1st we would be without our jobs. A severance package was offered to us and we were permitted to utilize the company resources for support in getting another job, which included flexibility to go on interviews.” Mary was in her later 50’s at this point in her career. However, she was the first to volunteer for the cutbacks as she had such compassion for others and wanted them to maintain working as long as possible. This generosity was not a surprise.
While Mary was not quite in a panic, she was angry as she did not see the writing on the wall. She realized it was a business decision and even when it was explained to them in that conference room.
The organized and meticulous record keeper that Mary Fran is – she reacted immediately and while still employed: “First things first” she would tell herself. She referred to her checkbook and determined what expenses she could eliminate right away. She had subscriptions to the Lyric Opera, many magazines and catalogues and her car was almost paid for. So, she created a spreadsheet.
Mary was out of work for a year was quite concerned about age discrimination while on her quest for a new job. Still, through her sister – she had an opportunity to become educated in business continuity and disaster recovery. From Orland Park, Illinois – to Glenview – she commuted daily. Due to her experience, Mary Fran exceeded those already on board although she was not a credentialed actuarial.
Two years into this, the economy took a downturn. Now in her early 60’s – did not find any BA quality or Actuarial projects. Phone interviewing for the most part – there were no offers being made. She made a spreadsheet to track where and who she was applying to – to be sure she didn’t contact the same employer twice.
After a couple of weeks of stewing over her situation, Mary remembered that her parish was offering confessions all day – for Lent. She needed to go. She was angry and had to express it. Mary Fran vented to her pastor about her frustration for nearly an hour, about how she was being passed up for positions that she was sure would benefit from her knowledge, skills and experience. The priest patiently listened.
Two weeks later as Mary Fran was walking into church – the pastor asked if she had a resume. Unknown to her, the parish had recently purchased a custom system. The vendor provided limited support but no one in the parish office understood how and why it worked.
Mary Fran was hired, figured out the system, and retired from her parish office job a few years later.
Networking works – even if the strangest of scenarios.
CAREERS INTERUPPTED #Stephen
Stephen is actively working and gainfully employed. Yet, his career path has been derailed more than once. He has enjoyed working for privately held and family-owned companies, large and small, though they all come with some caveats. He has impressive credentials that include a BS, Accounting and an MBA, Finance & Business. He knew what he wanted to do in his career and set out to do that type of work. He was typically hired for his expertise in his field.
Stephen reached out to me and thought sharing some of his experience might offer support or understanding to others who have faced similar situations. As many of us have experienced in our careers, the writing is often on the wall. The ability to recognize and prepare for whatever that message may be, does not come naturally to everyone. Some people refer that as radar.
“You are more valuable where you are now” was heard as ‘I have nowhere to go.’ When Stephen’s accounting role was going to be flatlined, he was fortunate to be recruited by a former colleague yet into another type of role. This work was not in his wheelhouse but in my opinion – he was brought on board due to his being a trusted professional, who could adapt and bring other skills to the table.
Personally, I believe that all our experiences and our training is relevant at some level in whatever our job is. Yet, some people are content in their jobs as they are; others want to work in a role in the profession they studied so hard for.
Some of the signs were easier to recognize in the next company – when a similar situation presented again. Stephen’s radar was on and he could see and/or feel what others might not have. Everyone’s radar gets tuned as time goes on, and as work life progresses or digresses. Going forward in any career change that he plans for himself – is to keep in mind the following:
- Companies that have been in business, family owned, for decades – yet have no succession plan.
- Look at the structure of a company and make note of the ‘age’ of the president.
- Smaller companies that may not have identified future goals and just maintain.
- Be aware if a company is being prepared for sale.