Advice & News

March 13, 2019

Moving On from a Job You Loved

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Finding a role and a professional culture that suits you is deeply rewarding. But how do you move on when that job suddenly goes away?

Whether it's a lay-off, a re-org, or new management, it can be profoundly unsettling when a shake-up unseats you from the role where you found a home. But keep in mind that securing fit and working in your optimal environment shapes you in a host of important ways. Those don't go away, and they stand to seed your reinvention.

If you've had a role in which you've thrived, you're better at what you do because of that experience. Though searching for a new fit may seem daunting because of what you lost, you are well-positioned to find fit again because of what you had. Your skills are refined and honed, plus you know what works for you.

Although you may be feeling a bit lost and professionally homeless, you're taking valuable resources into this hunt. Here's how to move on.

Mourn Your Loss
It's a painful loss when the environment in which you thrived is disrupted by change, dislodging your comfortable seat there. Before you can move on, allow yourself to mourn. Feelings of frustration, sadness, and loss are certainly understandable.

While the anxiety and necessity of finding your next role may propel you to try to quickly solve this, finding a new arrangement will take time and effort. Give yourself as much space as you can to heal so that you can be strong and focused for the search ahead.

It's understandable, also, to worry about your relevance in the job market, especially if you weren't planning to put yourself there and you're feeling forced into the decision. But keep in mind that your experience in your previous role likely gives you astute insights about what you want and need.

Andrea Gerson, senior career strategist and CEO of Resume Scripter, points out: "In an ideal world, every role that we have would give us an opportunity to stretch ourselves professionally, to strengthen abilities that we already have, and gain exposure to new areas that we seek to grow in. In reality, not all jobs offer this sort of culture, exposure, or support. If you've ever worked for an organization that invested in their employees' development, you know firsthand how valuable it is to get the opportunity to reflect on your own goals, talents, and abilities, and to get guidance from someone who sees your potential. Ultimately, if you've ever had this type of experience at a job, you will carry it with you throughout your career. Even if this deep level of supervision is not offered to you directly in a new role, it is something that you can request, advocate for, and seek out externally."

You come into your next role knowing what the ideal leadership, culture, and role look like for you. That clarity positions you to forge an impressive candidacy package and interview presence.

Outline What You've Learned
Debrief from your experience. Ask yourself: What made this job fitting? Was it the work itself? Was it the leadership or team? Was it the flexibility or structure of your arrangement there? Think through how you felt about yourself when you were engaged in the work. What did it maximize in you that you would like to bring to your next chapter?

Review the position description along with your performance appraisals. In what ways did you make this job your own and how did that impact your sense of fit in the role? Note your observations. When you're ready, you can use those as the basis for your next search.

Look at the goals that you and your manager outlined together. What do they tell you about how you grew there? How might they inform your future ambitions?

Gerson advises: "[G]et inspired. Create a wish list of organizations that you respect, programs that you would love to get involved with, and even training programs that spark you. Without thinking about practicality, allow yourself to fantasize a bit and envision a world beyond where you are. It's likely been a while since you let yourself explore options, so just have fun with this and allow yourself to experience curiosity and excitement without yet making a plan."

Outline What You Want
While you were happy in your position, you probably also had inklings of what you might do if things ever changed -- what internal and external moves you might like to make. Revisit those ambitions.

While fit is a professional ideal, it can also lead to complacency. Security is important, but it can also be tempting to get too comfortable and to stop taking the risks that fuel growth.

Gerson explains: "A great job should provide three things: the opportunity to use our innate strengths and to feel strengthened by this; the chance to work in an environment/culture that aligns with our values; the potential to learn and grow, to evolve, and be ready for new challenges."

A job that is a perfect fit for us today will, by nature, become less challenging and interesting over time. Each of us should have a picture in our minds of how we want our careers to evolve, and we must seek out challenging opportunities to do this if we want our careers to fulfill us in the long term."

While you may feel anxious and uncomfortable now, this is also an opportunity to pursue the next stage of your professional evolution.

Work Your Network
Your network is a key resource in securing your next fitting role. Reach out to those with whom you had happy collaborations. Ask for their advice, encouragement, endorsements. Refine and build your LinkedIn profile.

Learn about opportunities at institutions where you know staff. Arrange informational interviews. Lou Adler, author and CEO of Performance-based Hiring Learning Systems, points out that 85 percent of jobs get filled through networking.

If you've been happily ensconced in a position, then you've likely secured some good working relationships. Call on those as you reinvent yourself.

This is a difficult experience, but it also presents an important opportunity that you might not have invited unless your hand was forced. You can make this the first chapter of your reinvention story. Dig in; it may be a challenge, but it also stands to show you what you're made of.