It definitely wasn't something I wanted to hear less than a year into a new job. I promised myself that I was going to stay positive and really evaluate where I should go from there. I had no reason to panic, right?
I lied (just a little) to myself. I am a very positive person, but I am also impatient and with each passing day, sometimes, briefly, I let a tiny bit of panic into my mind that maybe I won't find another job. Of course, I will find a job. The job market in Houston is good and I’ve had several interviews already. At the same time, I am still evaluating my career goals. What I call “evaluating” is what my family might call “obsessing.” I sometimes can’t help but want things to move a lot faster than they are moving.
The road to career awareness
The truth of my obsessive nature became painfully true on a recent road trip with my family. It took a billboard, literally, to remind me that slowing down my search might be a good thing. I really love taking long drives. It’s those rare quiet moments in the car with nothing but the road in front of me when I can really think about the things that matter the most to me.
As my family quieted down in the darkness of the late night highway, I was contemplating all the different options I have for my next career move. An unforeseen layoff? Now what? Should I try a new industry? Should I seek out what I had been doing or do something new? How picky can I be? How long will my finances hold out until I start feeling desperate?
The image of a billboard I had just passed popped into my head. “Don't drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.” I kept saying those words over and over in my head and I was once again letting my mind wander off in a million different directions. “Don't drive fast. Don't drive fast. Don't drive faster than your guardian angel. Don't drive fast. I'm not driving too fast. I'm on cruise control. My whole life is on cruise control right now. Why can't I make things happen faster? Ugh, construction zone detour. I need to go even slower. I don’t want a ticket. I just want to go faster. This is my life right now.”
Lessons learned on the road
The family continued to sleep and for some reason those words had me thinking of another time when my career didn't go quite as planned. My oldest daughter, now an adult, was entering the 8th grade and I debated the pros and cons of leaving my beloved newspaper job where I had worked for nearly a decade. I loved being a journalist but the practical side of me won the debate. As a single mom, I knew I needed a higher paying job with stability because I would soon be paying for college. It never occurred to me how hard the transition would be or how lost I would feel without my title and byline. That feeling deepened when I left a city where I thought everyone knew my name. Houston was a much bigger city where nobody knew me.
At that point, I felt like a nobody without an important job title.
"Don't drive faster than your guardian angel can fly." I know that billboard wasn’t about me, but it was. I once realized too much of my identity had become wrapped up in my title, but it can happen again and again. I was on a fast track, but I didn't account for any detours or the times you are forced to slow down. That sign helped remind me of things I have learned from previous career detours. It’s time for me to slow down and keep the things that are important to me in perspective during my career detour. Do you have other career detour tips to share with me? Here are some of mine.
- Forget your last job title – A title can hold you back and limit your options. Instead, focus on your skills, strengths, interests and level of expertise. Search for jobs using those as keywords instead of a job titles.
- Money doesn’t mean success – Be realistic about what you should be getting paid. Success isn’t always wrapped up in a higher paycheck than your last job and you may have priced yourself out of a wonderful opportunity. There should be a bigger picture whether it is about opportunity or achieving your career goals.
- Networking is for everyone – I am not a networker, but I have learned you can and should build your network slowly over time. Don’t wait until you need them to connect with people. Reach out to people who have common interests and who could possibly be mentors. This has proven extremely important for me and has resulted in most of the great job interviews I have had so far.
- Be you – This was the single hardest thing for me when I was younger. Don’t let self-worth become falsely tied up in your job. It makes it so much more devastating if that job doesn’t work out. This was one thing I did remember the day I was laid off and it made such a big difference. I was even somewhat excited about new opportunities as I boxed up my office. No tears.
- Slow down (pace!) – This is my newest lesson learned. What am I missing when I am so focused on finding a job and not the new opportunities that being at home offers? I am not just a career woman. I am a mom, a wife, a mentor and I once liked to write. I now have a fun list. Some of the things on my list includes taking my kids to the beach, playing putt-putt, picnics at the park, morning bike rides and, of course, road trips.
What are you doing to keep from driving faster than your guardian angel?