As former Lehman Brothers colleagues, we understand how debilitating being laid-off can feel. We worked in Lehman Brothers' Real Estate Group for over a decade and if it weren't for the financial crisis, we may have worked there for another decade. Lehman Brothers gave us the constant thrill of working on high-profile deals, the security of a good salary, and the prestige of being associated with a blue chip name, and with top caliber colleagues and clients. What it didn't give us was the time to consider what we really are about.
In this light, being laid-off from Lehman Brothers was a gift. It forced us to think hard about what would truly make us happy professionally. That introspection led us to start our own web-based company, Shustir.com, that would redirect our talents and resources into something meaningful -- giving back to the community we understood most. Shustir.com is an interactive marketplace that features the small businesses and entrepreneurs who characterize our local neighborhoods and communities, giving them power to more effectively market themselves on the web, at no cost. In these economic times, when every dollar spent is a thought twice, Shustir is also a place where consumers get to know the small business owners close to home and beyond, and spend their dollars where they count.
Needless to say, we are very proud of Shustir.com, but our purpose here is to share some of the invaluable lessons we learned along the way to professional reinvention.
Our advice stems from taking the time to do the personal work necessary to take a long, hard look in the mirror, and truthfully determine what will be most rewarding for you professionally, now and longer term. Let's begin...
1) Stay Positive, Don't Rush
No matter how cliché this seems, keep a positive mindset. Know that your employment status has little to do with performance and more with economic circumstances beyond your control. With that comes a likelihood that there may not be much happening at work (as you traditionally knew it) these days to fully utilize your skills, much less challenge you. Therefore, jumping right back into the workforce -- that is, looking for a job that resembles your prior one -- may not be the best solution. If you were declared redundant at your former company, you are likely to be declared so again at a competing company, assuming the job opportunity even exists.
2) Take That Vacation
Depending on your financial circumstances, this may be either the first or last thing you are considering. Regardless, take it. Be it a week, a few months or even a year, give yourself the gift of time to do the things that you've been meaning to do. Travel to another country or explore your neighborhood, visit distant family, spend time with your kids, exercise, or dabble in your dormant talents. You may be surprised how in these moments of ease and peace, you really start discovering what you're about -- the foundation to determining what type of job or occupation will make you happiest. It can mark breaking from "a job that found you" to authoring your own next chapter.
3) Reinvent Yourself
Take the liberty to reinvent yourself. It's not jargon. It's critical, because the very ways we work are quickly changing. Larger forces like technology, the environment, our economic systems are changing the game. You need to adapt to find your productive place in the new world order, and that may mean some radical rethinking.
If the "old jobs" just aren't out there any longer, what to do? Create your own. Consider starting your own business that builds on your talents, skill sets and interests. Entrepreneurship has never been simpler, fueled by enabling and accessible technology accessible to most of us. Even if you don't wind up hanging out a shingle, the exercise of creating a business plan will give you crystal clarity into what job or profession best suits you next.
4) Always be Lunching
Whether starting your own business or looking for a new job, connect like crazy with people you know. Most people would call this networking, but we opt to call it lunching. Getting together over a meal or drinks is more effective networking, combining the personal with the professional in ways that invite real opening-up on both sides. Make lunch your new job. Over a nice meal, you'll find project leads, expand contacts, discover niche markets that you might cater to, and test your business ideas. You'll build vital relationships, and discover you're not alone. Don't ever underestimate the power of human connection, especially now. Some of our best work developing Shustir.com happened during lunches with the right people.
5) Engage the Experts
Executive search firms and headhunters generally had a poor reputation (mostly unearned) - until recently. People are discovering how these resources can not only power a job search, but also serve as an ad-hoc career coach, or even life coach. Some of the better ones provide counsel on how to best position yourself, recommend alternative paths to consider, and give you a realistic sense of compensation in today's market. Choose your resource wisely, and before meeting with them, do your own homework, clearly identifying, at least in general terms, what your next career must provide to enrich you personally and financially, both near and long term.
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