In one fell swoop, my dream career was shattered. After working for many years to create the career I always wanted, and just as I was beginning to see success, everything fell apart. Left alone, with no way to feed my kids, I started looking for a job. After a few weeks, I took a job I knew I was capable of just to get my kids and me through “until things got back to normal.” Thirteen years later, I’m the Executive Director at that company.
I drove my dad’s hunting truck back and forth to work because with the loss of my world as I knew it also came the loss of our family car. Driving a temporary vehicle to a temporary (I thought) job, I just hoped to get stable enough to pay my bills and then I’d figure out what to do next. Days passed, I started to get the hang of my new career, got myself a car, and then I noticed something: I was really happy going to this particular job! Fast forward a couple years and I was absolutely confident that my new career was the career I was meant to have all along. Here’s what I learned as I went from spiraling to successful:
I’ll start with the best all time piece of advice I received: “You have options.”
As I panicked with the loss of pretty much everything I knew, I made a quick assumption that I’d have to return home to my parents and my hometown. I reached out to a former boss and friend and asked if he had any openings. His answer changed my life. He said “You know we would love to have you come work for us. But don’t make this move because you think you have to; you do have options.” I let my situation define me for a bit there and forgot that I had skills and abilities. Because of the magnitude of my loss, I felt worthless. I needed someone to remind me that I did indeed have worth and that I was hire-able to more than just people who I knew cared for me and would probably hire me out of pity. Those words gave me the courage to stick it out and keep looking for a job in the city where I wanted to live.
I also had to be willing to try something new.
The job I took was something I had never done before. Other jobs I’d had took similar skills but the industry was totally new to me. This certainly wasn’t a job I had gone to school for or ever imagined myself doing. Once I got acclimated and started to have some success, I could look back and see how it seemed all my life experiences had prepared me for this career, but that was not apparent during the search and at the very beginning. Entertaining something that was outside my line of vision for my career led to the best career move I ever made.
Lastly, I benefited from a change in customer.
In my current career, I use all the same skills that I did in my former career, only this time it’s to a much more receptive and appreciative customer. Frankly, I would never have approached my current customer base had I not been forced out of the career I was working so hard to create. Yet, the skills I have are perfectly suited for and very effective with those I help every day. Boxing ourselves in can end up boxing potential employers and customers out. Redirecting the skills I already had into a different line of work turned out to be a better use of my skills after all.
When our worlds get upended by the loss of a career, everything gets thrown out of place. However, some things get thrown right into the place they fit best. If you’re facing a forced change in career, remember you have options, you can adapt, and your skills can be used in unexpected places. You may one day look back and count this change as one of your best moves.