#1 Nothing happens overnight.
The night I publicly announced the news of my resignation a small part of me was expecting a Hollywood ending. Stomach-churning, I went to bed knowing there would be no sleep and foolishly fantasized about the emails that would be waiting for me the next morning:
Dear Pubali: See attached offer letter. We have wanted you for years.
Dear Pubali: See attached offer letter. Please come work for us!
Dear Pubali: See attached offer letter. We have been waiting for you.
Like a kid at Christmas, I rose early following a completely sleepless night to grab my phone and check notifications. Apart from several social media alerts with reactions to my announcement, there was nothing. The only emails I had in my inbox were spam.
#2 Achieving career goals and objectives requires a well-written strategic plan.
In the movies, things magically happen overnight. In the real world, people need a well-written plan. After acknowledging that I was not going to be the beneficiary of a Hollywood finish, I decided to attack this professional challenge the same way I attacked challenges for my clients or when I was running my own company. With a strategic plan, which always begins with a simple question:
What is the problem you are looking to solve?
The essence of strategic and critical thinking is to first understand and specifically name the problem. When people do not take time to do this, the outcome is disorganized chaos resulting in wasted time, wasted resources, hurt feelings and burned bridges. In my current state of elective unemployment, I cannot afford any of the above.
In my case, the problem is not finding a job but to find an opportunity that leverages and celebrates my knowledge, skills, and abilities within an organization whose values align well with my own. Do you see the difference? By being specific in naming the problem, the next steps are more clear and defined.
#3 Birds of a feather flock together. Find what you are looking for amongst your flock.
I have a strong attachment to my personal and professional values. I also have direct knowledge that successful relationships require close (not perfect) alignment in values. The risks presented by misaligned values are simply not worth it and the outcomes are rarely positive.
When conducting a search, people often start with ideal companies or job boards. Given my values-based decision making, my search has actually started with the like-minded people in my network.
I did not cull this list by how important they are, what their title is, or if they make a lot of money. I simply went to my phone contacts, old emails, LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Twitter to find the people who act and think respectfully, professionally, and share my values.
These are the people in my network who care about equality, ethics, compassion, and valuing their employees. These people are innovative, entrepreneurial, generous and kind. They have stellar reputations, have won awards, and are constantly learning. They are in graduate school, doing leadership programs, and they are philanthropic.
In my mind, I wanted to start with these remarkable people. Where did they work? Who do they think I should talk to? What are their thoughts? How soon can they meet with me?
#4 My hustle is fueled by the kindness of others.
I have been career searching for 21 days straight (not that I am counting). Monday through Friday I am logging an average of 10 to 12 hours per day of meetings, emails, email follow-ups, research, writing, document management, spreadsheet management, events, looking for freelance work and writing thank you notes. On the weekends I am logging about 4 to 6 hours per day of research, writing, planning, refreshing my strategic plan, and network building.
The generosity and kindness of my network and community are fueling my hustle. Since I made my announcements and more so after I began writing these essays, people from near and far have reached out to wish me good luck. Others have made time in their busy schedules to meet with me at their offices or local coffee shops and restaurants.
Some of these people I know well and see regularly, others I have only known through social media or in passing at events. Yet, they are all in my corner and supporting my journey. They are sharing my resume, making introductions, suggesting new network opportunities, and inviting me to events. They’re sharing my essays on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. They are buying me coffee and lunch. They are checking in and they are following up. They are inviting me to stay in touch and update them.
As a person for whom asking for help is hard, there are days where I leave a meeting so overwhelmed by the kindness extended to me that I cannot help but cry.
#5 The only known is the unknown.
About three days ago, I had a call with a recruiter representing a company at which I have a personal connection. There were three positions which I was interested in, my friend made an introduction, and three days later I had a call with their recruiter. The conversation that ensued was life-changing, but not in the way you would expect it. Here is what happened:
The call was only 20 minutes. The recruiter could care less and made no effort to hide it while I sang an opera for my supper. For the recruiter, the call was an obstacle between him and happy hour. For me, the call felt like a life and death situation.
After it ended I put my phone down, walked outside, looked up at the sky, and made peace with the fact that my worst-case scenarios may actually become my reality. Until that moment, I had foolishly thought I had the ability to control the outcome of this journey.
Here is the reality for anyone who takes a career leap of faith: we willingly bought a ticket for a bus ride without a known destination. On this bus, there are no next-stop announcements or posted route maps. We do not know how long this trip will go on for, who will board and disembark, or even who the driver is (although I have a vague idea).
On this bus, there are no emergency exits. On this ride, the only thing we can control is ourselves. Good thing I have Wi-Fi.
This is the third in an essay series chronicling my personal experiences with taking career leaps of faith without a safety net. Links to my first two pieces are below. I welcome your feedback and invite you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.