I talked to a job search/career help group last week…some unemployed, underemployed, and others looking. And the founder said that in 350 presentations that’s he’s heard, no one ever said what I did.

That is “Some of you may never get another “real job” again and it may be time to realize that–and look for something else.”

I shared 10 points about how to survive a job search in one piece. I went through the experience from hell in my career and I want to help others avoid the same fate (if you want to read about how you can protect yourself in bad situations, the link to my book, The Arsonist in the Office, is below).

The last one was the doozy–and I felt like I needed to say it.

Why? Because it’s a fact. And if I’m truly looking out for the interests of people, that means telling them the truth.

Some of us start down a certain road in life and we assume we can travel on it forever.  We get the degree, do all the right things, but then something happens.

We start to earn great salaries, but get pinched by companies that someday want to cut costs. We find out that management doesn’t value “experience” like they should and we’re taken out at the knees by subtle or blatant age discrimination.

But we also might have gotten complacent or decided we didn’t want to learn the latest technologies in our companies…and in the process, shot ourselves in the foot.

Or, in my experience, I spoke up against bad behavior and inexcusable lapses of judgement inside my organization–and received the ultimate prize package of termination, threats, and a story of why I left my last employer as something that would make even the most gutsy hiring manager dive for cover out of fear that even 1% of it wasn’t accurate.

That career path I loved, thrived in, had a passion for that woke me up in the morning, had ended.

But I wasn’t willing to admit it.

Surely, one more interview would do the trick, I’d tell myself. One more wave or two or making it to the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th round of job candidates. It was only a numbers game and I just needed another chance, I thought.

But what I really needed to was do what smart businesses do every day: evaluate risk and lower it. I could go down the old road, but risk never getting to where I needed to be: productive, secure, and happy. For me, I needed to create a new road.

New roads are created constantly in transportation. They’re usually built when one of a couple things happen: 1) when another road has become obsolete, even dangerous and needs overhaul, or 2) when a path needs to built that takes large groups of people back and forth to emerging and prosperous areas.

When my road closed, I had to build another one. It meant several things:

  1. Evaluating what my strengths were
  2. Identifying my key assets in the marketplace
  3. Working my key weaknesses
  4. Thinking through what I wanted to do
  5. Utilizing and expanding my networking
  6. Having a healthy sense of productive desperation (I’ll define that below)
  7. Embracing that I have a new path and only I can make it work

Will everyone face this problem of a career path ending? No.

But is it possible if you’re not the person in charge of all aspects of your job? Simply ask your friends who have been in this exact situation–you’ll hear words like this:

  • “I wasn’t prepared”
  • “I didn’t think it could happen to me”

Yet all of them deep down knew it could. And went through undue stress and uncertainty because of it.

What can you do to keep this from happening to you–or be prepared for it when your career looks like it’s come to a halt?

  • Always be learning. Stay current and you’ll be an asset in any organization, not just the one you’re currently in.
  • Build your brand today. If you’re not developing a network far beyond the 4 walls of your company, you’re missing out on getting to know people who will be able to help you long after your current job ends.
  • Know that long-term job uncertainty has its effects. On finances, sure. But on health (mental and physical) and relationships. Sad to say, but the longer things play out, the worse they can get.
  • Detach your self-worth from your career status. Unemployment can kill your psyche if your whole identity is built upon who you work for. Building your own worth and having purpose is a different story entirely.
  • Daydream with purpose. Have you thought through what you’d do if your career road ended today? It will start out as a scary process and end in one that gives you confidence.
  • If you’re in the middle of a job hunt and the $$$ and time are running out, know that resolving to do something new isn’t defeat. It may be the best thing you’ve ever done.
  • Embrace that “healthy desperation” I referenced above. Healthy desperation is that feeling that you’re now in charge of your destiny–maybe for the first time. That you–and sometimes maybe only you can drive your success. It’s frightening, exhilarating, jarring, and incredibly satisfying.

My message may scare you. You may not be ready to start anew–and that’s perfectly fine. And your work may put you back on the path you want to be on–it happens every hour of every day that someone finds a new job that puts them back in the old game.

But if you’ve hit a dead end, embrace it and be able to identify it through your own lens. You may have no choice but to. So, starting today, make your plan, do your work and start to plan for a new road. You may never need to travel on it–or you might. It may be the best and most fulfilling journey you’ve ever made.

Pete Havel is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of the best-selling “The Arsonist in the Office”–named a #1 Hot New Release on Amazon. His company, Fireproofed Leadership, helps organizations fix and enhance their workplace cultures and he personally coaches individuals through strategic career and workplace decisions. For more information on Pete and his services, click here.  To purchase The Arsonist in the Office, click here. 






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