You know all those posts about how busy is bad? Well, what if you suddenly weren’t quite so busy? What would you do with the time you got back? Who would you become?
I had planned to write this in December after starting a new job in downtown Detroit, recapping the eight months I spent asking and answering those questions. Now I find myself back on the market after a quick two-month stint and am asking the same questions all over again.
That said, I’ve discovered a few tenets that seemed to really help. I’ve shared them below.
- Get lucky. This is the most important part. You don’t manage to keep your life intact without having landed the kinds of jobs that provide stock grants that you can cash in on your rainiest day. Plenty of people work really hard every day and have no rainy day fund. If you are lucky, make sure you acknowledge it and be grateful.
- You are not your job. This is one you see everywhere. It’s still crucial to remind yourself, especially if you’ve been in roles where you’re consumer-facing and or your identity can be easily attached to the brand itself. After eight years of brand digital and social media, it’s hard to separate yourself from it. It’s the kind of thing that is helpful to recognize may have had some negative repercussions when it comes to work-life balance. If you can work through this, you can make some important self-discoveries and path to roles that aren’t so taxing on your emotional well-being.
- Talk to everyone. This isn’t networking. This is actually connecting with people. There’s something Musa said about looking at your life and career as a blank piece of paper, but this is bigger than that, I think. Instead of approaching every conversation as a transaction, seek counsel. Connect. Reconnect. Find a mentor. You’ve been through a traumatic life event! It’s ok to open up and be vulnerable to find deeper truths about what you want to do with your one precious and wild life.
- Take your health back. Nothing above matters if you don’t use the time you’ve gotten back to work on everything from your diet to sleep. I chose to run an ultramarathon. I hope to run an even longer race this year. We undervalue the “life” portion of work-life balance or integration or whatever. That’s bad. Sure we have deadlines and important projects, but we’re not saving lives. Well, I’m not.
- Find new favorite things. When I wasn’t running, I was trying to feed my head with new ideas and culture. I went to the library often. I rearranged my social timelines. I watched a documentary series and became a fan of the Grateful Dead. The impossible suddenly seems possible! I did as much as I could to cut down on the screen time that had defined my working life. Making your hobby a job can have dangerous consequences.
- Figure out who you want to be next. This isn’t just a career thing. This is molting the layers of whatever encases who you are when you’re not whoever you were at work. For me, it meant pausing and really getting to know my four year old. The time we spent together changed our relationship entirely and was the paternity leave I never had. I became a better partner, too! Altering your priorities has all kinds of unforeseen knock-on effects. Embrace them.
- Articulate the vision you have for yourself. After a few months I was able to step back, genuinely reflect on my career, and put into words where I want to go. Caveat! Your next role might not be perfect, but it should be something you can see fitting into that vision. For me, moving into content was a step outside of digital and social. It’s important to think about yourself holistically, identify gaps in your experience and find places that might help you fill them.
That’s it! These are the rules I distilled from my experience last year. I plan to use them again now, just hopefully for not as long. If you’ve been affected by a job loss, don’t hesitate to reach out.