By Welter Benicio
After almost 30 years my professional career is paused. Having so much time available, no stress due to the haste of month and quarter ends, no powerpoints to prepare, no staff, business or project review meetings to attend, no complaints by customers, among other things, feels quite strange.
Amid the low occupancy, the loss of income with bills to pay, the annoying repetition of how it happened and the fear that the pause be too long, one is tempted to become too negative and paralyzed.
Cliché or not, the reality is that this situation has a positive side as it can be a time for reflection and adjustment, for reestablishing lost personal connections, for resuming unfinished projects, and maybe, for a radical change in both professional and personal lives (the distinction between the lives here is merely didactic – there’s only one in my view) and however painful the experience, one must endure it until things get back to “normality”.
Many consider that possessing the financial means to meet the commitments during the period suffices, and for some it does. Being able to finance the sequence of cash-outs with no cash-ins is of course a big advantage now and in the next job interview, and reducing the expenses, which requires an effort by the whole family, is essential. However, there are other important measures that increase your chances to find occupancy again and, therefore, can minimize the period lived off the reserves.
Do voluntary work – You always wanted to do more, but did not have the time or energy (or both) for that. It is your opportunity. Use your skills, experience and creativity to help less favored people or to contribute to your community. By doing that you will feel useful, energized and will most likely experience an environment completely different from what you are used to. There, no matter how important you were in your previous jobs, you are at the same level of others and you will be paid with smiles and encouraging words. I am sure it will shuffle the cards in your rational mind, will force you to develop different skills and will add to your résumé.
Read good books – Some job functions pay the bills but are alienating. No worries: you now have time to read interesting books again without falling asleep in the 1 page. Alternate between relaxing soft reading and more dense themes. Take advantage of the insights allowed by a good reading. They can broaden your understanding of the situation and of yourself, a pre-requisite for a good job interview.
Study more – Have you ever wanted to know the cosmos better or wanted to cook like a chef? Or ever felt that finance and accounting were black boxes? Well, you now have time to satisfy your curiosity and untie some knots by joining courses or studying by yourself subjects that are related or not to your profession. It is unnecessary to say that training increases your competitiveness in the market and is, for the courses not related to work, an opportunity of networking.
Resume unfinished or initiate new projects – Resuming studies or doing voluntary works qualify here. However, there’s time to do more. The priority in mind is to become employed again, but you should not become active without revisiting the unfinished business plan that would make of you the owner of a successful business, for example. Keep in mind that corporates value entrepreneurship, but you rarely have an opportunity to be an entrepreneur in a large corporate. This can be your chance to become your own boss or to train your management skills.
Reestablish old personal connections or create new ones – You went through your contacts and found that most are colleagues from your last job. Welcome to the club! You spent so many years there and completely forgot to nurture your network. Well, you should start that now as the more visible you become, the higher the chances to be remembered. And there are tools like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) that can help you. But you were also too busy and lost contact with old friends and relatives? Time to fix that too!
Loose weight and become fit – There’s no room for excuses now. You have time to run, to bike, play tennis, etc. And more: you have better conditions to follow your diet in the current situation. I am sure you will cause a much better impression if you look fit and energized in your next interview.
Reflect about what happened and (re)discover your strengths – Don’t martyrize yourself. I don’t think things can GET WRONG. They always GET RIGHT! I mean: they follow their natural course, but the outcome can be pleasant or not to us. So, it is time to learn and I like the approach proposed by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton in their book “Now, Discover your Strengths”: don’t focus on weaknesses, manage your strengths instead. The purpose here is to have a clear understanding of one’s strengths and sell them properly.
Wake up early – Impossible to do all above if you wake up late. Maybe by engaging in the recommendations you’ll find yourself in a very busy agenda, something you are used to. Besides, a productive day will make you feel at the end that time has not been wasted.