Let’s say you lost your job, you’re looking in earnest for a new career opportunity, and your name is Ethan.
As Ethan, you’re 59 years old and you can’t really retire comfortably. You think you need to work at least until 65.
As Ethan, you feel you’ve done what you could to create momentum after your career setback, the layoff, but you are not seeing results and are, essentially, at a standstill. The layoff, by the way, you think of like your insurance policy; you might even call it a “no-fault” situation. But, when you look a little deeper, you just might have had something to do with it. Here are some of the factors you’re starting to think about:
• Your souring relationships with management, and in particular, that new younger manager. (People matter.)
• Your refusal to take a new job that required more travel 18 months ago. (Ambition matters.)
• Your reputation for excellence at your job but not with other colleagues. (Relationships matter.)
• Your damaging self-talk habits don’t help. For example, you may say: “I am just more of an introvert, and I can’t get across my value” or some other negative statement about yourself. Unless that statement follows a thought of improvement it will infect you at this critical time. (What you say matters.)
Ethan represents a composite of what I have seen time and time again over many years. Career recovery successes occur at all ages.
Like Ethan, the defeated person who loses their job may know they need help, that they bear some responsibility for their job loss, but it’s hard to admit. Even if you haven’t lost your job, you may know you are on rocky career ground. Asking for help in gaining new employment is one thing. Trying to change habits is even harder, but it’s essential. There is a critical moment for Ethan and all of us during this time; loss, change and setback often set us up for a unique opportunity to advance.
What will Ethan do? Like anyone in this situation, he has two basic choices that will determine the trajectory of the rest of his career: Do you essentially give up and try to tread water, or do you try to make some changes, then give up? Or, do you use this job loss to improve your brand, your attitude, your spirit and your career path?
This is a pivotal life and career moment. Improved training, resumes, interview preparation, research and network building helps, but it’s amplified by a positive attitude. It’s so gratifying to see so many people we equip turn their setbacks into comebacks. Getting the exterior elements together matters, but unless there is a recognition and a commitment to changing thoughts, self-talk and bad relationship habits, it can derail, delay or hurt a career turnaround.
Here’s how you can overcome bounce back during career change when you are in a position like Ethan’s:
1. People matter. So make them matter. A job loss represents a time to change this habit. Volunteer, take a contract job or a new assignment, and immediately make a commitment to excellence — but also commit to mentoring, helping, encouraging and assisting others. It will change you more than them.
2. Ambition lost? Now change this mindset. Be willing to travel, offer to take on a little bit more than expected, stay late and jump on an extra project. You may be surprised it won’t “wear you out” but will invigorate your career and open up new opportunities.
3. Relationships matter. Go build them. You’re likely to work with a number of people close to you who are younger. What can you do to create relationship power, to mentor, to encourage and to share ideas? Find out where they need your help and if that relationship will help them progress at the company. Do your job, but let on you are interested in helping others do theirs excellently.
4. What do you say? Stop self-defeating self-talk. Others can hear what you say to yourself. Ask most leaders about this. As a leader and communicator, haven’t you been able to identify toxic people and conversations? If you have, and if you still say things to yourself like this, you will need to change those quietly spoken words/thoughts:
“This place needs to change…”
“Every time I bring up a good idea it gets knocked down…”
“I just don’t fit into this little group…”
“I don’t need to hang out with people I work with or get to know them personally…”
Negativity creates a cloud around you. When you are Ethan’s age, others expect you to be less energetic, more negative and less helpful. Defeat those negative attitudes with positivity, energy and encouraging words to others and yourself. Taking ownership of a setback in all its forms and coming out like a winner, with winning thoughts and new habits, will renew your career at any age.