A few months ago, I was so excited. I had received an offer for my dream job,(see my LinkedIn profile for more details). I was to be the College and Career Navigator for our local community college. This had been a culmination of all that I had been working for, for the past few years. I wanted to work in higher education, and to help people navigate their way into college, and connect the dots between college and career. On top of that, this was the community college that my mother had graduated from. This was a place where I had spent many Saturday afternoons coloring while she was studying in the library. I had practically grown up at this college, and had seen her graduate when I was seven years old.
I believe strongly in the mission of community college, of putting students first and providing open access to education. Similarly, before that, working at the YWCA, the mission to empower women and end racism, was a big factor in my deciding to work there. I am one and the same with the work I do and the way that I live my life; they are not separate. I was a first generation student, attended a public college, and believe strongly in the gateway that college provides to education and employment.
In my professional career, I had never prepared and researched so thoroughly for a job. I had talked to people who worked in one of the locations I would be working in, to people who did the same job at other community colleges and had read extensively about the grant that my position was housed under.
From the start, I should have seen the writing on the wall. In my department, there was only one person out of about 12 who had tenure – meaning all the other employees were facing the end of their contracts, with little likelihood of their contracts would be renewed. In the break room and in other departments, I heard the same. I only spoke to one person who was happy, and that employee worked on the third floor with numbers and data all day.
My time at the college got off to a rough start, and did not improve. First, my supervisor’s assistant had an accident, and was out of work for about a week. After she returned, she accepted a position at another college. This resulted in my boss’s direct reports going from 5 to 14. Additionally, the college currently is in the middle of a major construction project, and due to poor air quality, my entire department was relocated. As there was not room for me, I was relocated and assigned to work for another department. My assignment – make calls, and lots of calls. My supervisor told me in check-in meetings and in staff meetings that enrollment is down and if enrollment does not improve, “real humans will lose their jobs.” I made calls, over 1500 calls, resulting in enrollment going from new student enrollment increasing by 24% and returning students increasing by 11% in a 4 week period. Little did I know that when she was talking about real human’s losing their jobs, she meant me. I really never got a chance to perform the duties of the “College and Career Navigator.”
Three months into my time with the college, I received a notice that my appointment with the college will end in a month, and thanking me for my time.
Now, after crying for about a day, watching my favorite movie after being laid off, and taking a vacation, I am back in action.
Here are 7 things you can do to recover from a layoff:
- Get out of bed and get dressed – Dress professionally during the day. I realized this was a problem for me, the other day. I was picking up my son the other day at the Boys and Girls Club, and one of his friends did not recognize me. I was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and in the past, I always came in a suit or a dress before. I realized that I need to dress each day like I am going to work. Even if you are at home, dressing professionally will make you feel more motivated.
- Get out of the house – Spending 12 hours a day on your computer is not going to result in your finding a job – over 75% of jobs are found through networking – get out and network, especially with people who have jobs. I just attended the Acton Networkers’ meeting last week and knew that before that day, I really was not following my own advice as a career advisor. I was spending too much time on my computer (and swimming in my pool – the one good thing about being laid off in the summer).
- Reach out to your network – Form a job search team. Let all of your closest friends know that you are in a job search and what you are looking for. Ask for their support and for their eyes. They may see or hear of a job that you did not discover. That is how I found my prior job at the YWCA.
- Join a job search buddy group – This will encourage you during your job search, and really help, by making you accountable not just to yourself, but to others in your job group. If you have ever joined Weight Watches, it works just about the same.
- Set up networking meetings – Informational interviews, networking meetings, no matter what you call them, set up meetings with people who have the power to hire you or who know people who have the power to hire you. Always end the meetings by asking who else you should talk to and how you may be able to help them.
- Do something for yourself – Not all your time needs to be taken up with your job search. Be sure to exercise, go to the movies, read a book. It is even okay to go away for a weekend. I know I did. Your job search will not be as effective if you do not take care of yourself, and besides, if you don’t, how will you answer the question “What do you do to relieve stress?” in the interview.
- Buy or borrow the book “What Color is Your Parachute” – In this book, Richard Boles, who has updated this book for over 40 years, give you one thing you cannot find by searching Indeed.com, or dozens of other websites. He gives you hope, courage and the realization that you can find a new job, an even better job.
I know one day, I will look back at this time, and be glad that my position at that community college ended. That the position was not a good fit, and that I will find a better position, where I can help more people connect the dots between college and career.
Update – 2-1-2-16:
By day, Rachelle, working mother of two, serves as an education advocate and career advisor for MassEdCO. By night, Rachelle provided career consulting and works to promote green energy. When Rachelle is not writing her blog, advising her students, or coaching her clients, she enjoys camping and going to the theater with her two children.