It’s never a good time to suddenly find yourself jobless. But it’s never a bad time to evaluate your skills, your goals, and where you’re headed.
We all want to be a valued member of a winning team on an inspiring missionGraham Weston
It’s easy to get complacent after a few years in a good job. You tell yourself, “I’m doing such important work! We’re making so much progress! I love my team!” You’re churning out pull requests, responding to emails and Slack messages, burning through your JIRA backlog.
Then, one day, it all stops.
Maybe you burn yourself out. Too many late nights trying to meet a deadline or putting out fires. Maybe you’re let go for not keeping your performance up. Shirking responsibilities, picking up easy tasks, avoiding anything “extra”. Or maybe your role, your team, or your company suddenly goes *poof*.
Don’t panic. You’ve prepared for this. (You have prepared for this, right?)
Now’s not the moment to think to yourself, “I wish I had spent more time learning. I wish I had expanded outside my role. I wish, I wish, I wish…” No, you must do the preparation before you have any idea that you’ll need it.
But I have too much to do! I work all day and don’t have time to do more!
As far as I’m aware, there is no law anywhere stipulating that bad news must wait until the moment you’re ready for it. No one can give you more hours in the day, but the internet is filled with free resources to learn from if you put in the time. You can even watch YouTube videos at 2x speed!
But I don’t know what I want to do next!
You will have much, much more focus when “next” is “now”. Unfortunately, you’ll have run out of time to prepare.
But I like what I do!
Great, so you’ll love getting even better at it!
If you’re cursing me and thinking about what a jerk I am, take heart – you probably have a job right now, and I don’t. Congratulations. I’m happy for you. I’m also warning you. This is an attempt at the blog post I wish I’d read a year ago. I’m not going to tell you it’ll all be okay (how should I know? I’ve been unemployed for the first time in my adult life for about 9 hours now). But you will survive.
One week ago, I mused to my boss that I thought our team was making great progress, and that we would be unaffected by changes going on around us. Today, I am unemployed. Perhaps you’re sure that you will escape such a fate, but I’ll warn you: I was pretty darn sure that I would too.
What have you always wanted to be when you grow up? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What have you thought about doing but never pursued? If there is something in the back of your mind, some feat you hope to accomplish or some job you’d like to try, get going!
If, instead, there is a gaping void, beware. You will have to fill it at some point, and that’s much easier to do when you have the luxury of a paycheck. Don’t tell yourself that long-term planning is for another day. Don’t assume that you’ll be in your current job for as long as you want it. Don’t get complacent. You don’t have to have all the answers right now, but you have to start to think seriously about what you want, now and in the future.
Journal on it. Listen to podcasts. Read. Go for long walks. Meditate. Go on a road trip. Get outside your current circumstances and try to listen for an inner voice guiding you in one direction or another. It might be faint at first, but if you start digging, you’ll find something worth nurturing. This I promise.
As I said above, the internet is full of resources for learning. There are YouTube and Khan Academy videos, Twitter communities, subreddits, news and resource aggregators like Hacker News, platforms like edX, Coursera, Udemy, MIT OpenCourseWare, and a million other such things out there. If you’re in a job where you’re not learning anything new, I’d suggest finding a new one. If that’s not an option, you’ll have to use your free time. Sorry.
Think about where you are in your career at this moment. Are you struggling up a mountain to somewhere greater, or are you rolling downhill? Even worse, you might be on what I refer to as “the moving sidewalk.” I don’t care what you choose – it’s your life. If you want to take it easy and play video games in your free time, have at it. If you want to work your tail off to get a string of promotions, good on you. But whatever you do, don’t let your days blur together into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. Make a conscious choice. Get off the moving sidewalk.
I’m not telling you to predict the future. God knows I can’t. But make choices. Don’t just let life happen to you. You will regret it, I promise.
I don’t know how to end this. It’s not exactly what I had in mind for the first post on this site. Today wasn’t supposed to happen. I guess that’s the takeaway: don’t end up here.
(If you’re worried about me, don’t be. I’m excited to find out what comes next. If you’d like to reach out to me, my DMs are open)