As you may or may not have gathered, I’m an NFL football fan and I enjoy making analogies to my favourite sport whenever possible. There I was on January 12th, 2017… after nearly five years of fulltime employment, sacked from my blindside and out of the game. Flushed into the offseason and a rebuilding process. Of course, that wasn’t clear right away.
It’s been just under a year since things took a turn for the better: social media have been reminding me of anniversaries of the milestones on my flight. So, in the next few installments of this series, I want to share some of the insights I was having as I adjusted to unemployment.
Unrestricted Free Agency
I’d been thrust into my offseason flatfooted. Instead of having my head on a swivel, my self-promotional faculties were dull. I’d casually sent out my CV to dream jobs now and again, but I didn’t expect I’d need to find a new job. I began making regular visits to job listing sites. I knew of what I was capable—so much more than my previous job’s description would indicate—but it was hard not to think that all of those resumés were just being sent into the void.
Was it that my highest completed level of education is a diploma in acting? Were they put off by my progressive tweets? Was it just a lack of imagination on their part? And whenever I did hear back from a recruiter or a prospective employer, the first question picked at the scab of my recent termination. Logical, sure, but no less painful. Within a few weeks I was aware that I didn’t “miss” that job and its negative aspects, but being asked about it reminded me I was in free fall.
All I could think about was my unemployment. Every waking hour. Little about my free time was free. And when I sought out distraction in social activities, there would be well-meaning suggestions for or questions about my job hunt that would tumble me right back down that Sisyphean hill. I was hardly in a mood to take on those rainy day projects. All I wanted was to be dry again.
Caught Out of Position
Another frustrating condition in my “freedom” was my overactive imagination. As someone conditioned by privilege, hunting for a job includes the thought: “For my next job, I can do anything.” Now-ex-coworkers had lots of big ideas at which I, as an incurable optimist, was happy to grasp. I aspired to ascend the ladder from a shattered rung. But, with impostor syndrome ever snapping at my heels, that was not a confidence built to last. Particularly because it hadn’t been a muscle I’d been using in my day-to-day comfort.
Fortunately, those ex-coworkers were also telling me about life at my former office after my departure. There was some solace in learning that I was just the first domino, knocked down as part of the carelessly conceived progress in a new direction. I’d carried on through changes, but I was easily persuaded to be glad I’d been dismissed before other developments. I was no longer taking it personally, but it provided extra motivation to excel. To prove they’d thrown out the egg before it had hatched. Of course, it was dawning on me that they couldn’t tell the difference between a stone and an egg.
I had stuck around at that job hoping for new opportunities within the organization. For all the talk of on-the-job professional development, though, no one had encouraged or provided a foundation for my evolution. Part of it was the constant drastic change that never would’ve allowed for gradual progress. My new environment, however, was forcing me to adapt and to think about growth. I started online courses that would massage my skills into a broader set.
The time had come to, once again, ponder what I was going to be when I grew up. To extrapolate what stepping stones I’d need to get to my destination. What did I want to do? The big dream that started to coalesce was “something that would combine more than a decade of creative theatrical responsibilities with my technical aptitudes and my recently discovered corporate marketing acumen.” Sure. No big deal, right? Some more meticulously tailored cover letters. Some more carefully selected job postings for which I would submit my resumé.
I was putting in the work to get work. My job was finding a job. A player looking for a team where, when the offseason came to an end, I could make a contribution, a difference, right away.
It wasn’t all not fun and games, though… more on that next time.