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Wendy N. Powell Headshot

The Career Hangover: What Do You Do?

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You find yourself at the end of a chapter in life -- you chose a career and all of a sudden there is no longer room for you in the company. My friend, you are not alone. It feels remarkably like a hangover, hurting and hoping that it will end soon. No longer part of the company "family," you are one of the newly "orphaned" children and you wondering where to go and what to do.

Shake yourself off and get rid of the hopelessness. You can mourn for a few days, but get to work on your new goals as soon as you can. Most people sit in front of their computers for countless hours or even months, searching for the same jobs that multitudes of people are applying for. You must concentrate not only on job opportunities, but take more active steps in improving the applicant -- you.

You have the unique opportunity to reinvent yourself. Critically review your strengths, make a decision about your personal brand, and follow through. Identify what sets you apart and make it your best asset. Conduct a SWOT analysis to help market yourself. To refresh your memory, SWOT stands for your personal strengths and weaknesses, and the outside opportunities and threats.

• Make a critical list of your strengths. Think it through; go back to it on occasion to revise. What activities do you enjoy? What do you do well? What makes you most effective? Brainstorm ways to turn these strengths into possibilities for your personal and professional growth.

• It is equally important to assess your weaknesses. Be realistic about what careers may not be for you, and honest about what skills you do not have.

• Finding and weighing the opportunities can be the most difficult. The current job market may have limited career choices, but you need to brainstorm potential creative opportunities from the pool of your chosen strengths. Of course, keep apprised of the industries that are hiring in your area, but also be aware of the possibility of relocating. If you want to start your own business, invest with your eyes open wide.

• Threats to your success are unfortunately abundant and occasionally out of your control. Don't get in your own way, think positively, and push through the obstacles and threats that may appear.

It is likely that you will have more time on your hands, so spend it wisely by re-acquainting yourself with your chosen field of work. Many industries are changing with technology and media, so stay aware of what's new in your world, and be able to hold informed conversations with prospective employers or lenders so you can prove that you would add to the bottom line. If possible, get fresh work experience by volunteering your time or applying for temporary work. You don't know what opportunities will surface.

You also need to get out of the house. The natural tendency is to avoid people who ask about your job search. These may be the very individuals to lead you to your new job. I know one unemployed person who refused to be around friends and family for fear of hearing the dreaded question, "New job yet?" After getting out and about, he realized that his new career opportunity was there for the taking from a former colleague. He was hired into his new career after networking. Years later, he returned the favor for the very person who helped him.

There are countless stories of reinvention where people have picked themselves up by the proverbial bootstraps and soared in their careers with fresh choices. These people are critically thinking risk-takers, and they are just what we need to make our economy soar. Among them, the computer technician who invested his severance pay in workout centers, the human resource director who realized her strength in teaching and writing, the financial manager who became a cupcake mogul, and the retiree who created the best recipe for pâté and is marketing it.

There is life outside of the comfort zone. You actually might like it there.