What happens when you wake up one day and realize your career is in shambles?

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008 - career change, career planning, Job Application

Todd asks: What happens when you wake up one day and realize your career is in shambles, your nearly 40 with a wife, kids, a mortgage and a boat load of credit card debt? Two years ago I moved to a new city to take a new job with a home builder. Three months later the industry collapsed and so did that job (just before the holidays). Next I took a job with a start-up company which lasted a year before serious cash flow problems resulted in another layoff. A few weeks later I accepted another position with a financial institution only to find out that my boss was a complete and total nightmare. She terrorized the department with her hostile and unprofessional behavior. I tried unsuccessfully to resolve the issue. First directly with her, then with our department head and then eventually HR. Our entire department was so focused on dealing with her hostility that we spent large chunks of time talking about it, coping with it and trying to find ways to support each other. It dominated our time, our thoughts and our performance. Eventually it started to affect me emotionally and physically. After only 4 months on the job I resigned my position. The next job I took was working for a company in California as a telecommuter. During the job interview the CTO and VP of Sales specifically told me the owner of the company was impossible to work and that they were looking for new jobs. I figured after my last boss there was no way I couldn’t handle this guy, besides I would be working from home most of the time and it was making substantially more than I had ever made. Three weeks later the CTO resigned and the VP of Sales was so consumed with his hate for the boss that he couldn’t think or talk of anything else. At the five week mark my boss told me he needed this position to be full-time at his location. When I refused to move, he fired me. Now it’s been just shy of two years, I’ve had four jobs, three in the last six months, and after a month of looking I’m taking a contract to hire position because it’s the best I can do with that many jobs on my resume.

In answer:
This is very common career path Todd – even in good economic times.

People make good choices, but things just don’t work out – often because a successful business also depends on a business plan being both realistic and executed: so what did the first two have to do with you? I am a bit surprised by the last job choice – they actually warn you how bad the boss is, and you still took the job: and yet I am not because people after two/three short term job moves that don’t work out do make rather short term “get a job” choices over better career management options.

So, here’s the good points – you are asking questions, and seem to be staying positive: you are hence very employable. The bad points are – even in a down turn, there are still opportunities. Its just that you have to fight your way through the crowd that is now around, and having made a few moves you’ll know how the market works so that gives you an advantage.

You need to sit down with a blank piece of paper, and ask yourself what you want to REALLY be doing in ten years time. Figure out how it rewards you emotionally, physically, and financially. Then, pick someone who’s doing that job, and find out how they got there – experience, qualifications, or most likely a mix of both and a few job advancements. Now, write yourself a new career plan based on what you want to do using how they did it as a reference- sure, a few things may have changed, but that can be built in. Then ask three great friends – including at least own woman – to review and critic your plan. Sure, at this point you could go an get a career coach, and the best place to start for one is with your old colleges or if you have military experience your Forces Liaison point – but friends can be as good before those steps.

Now you have a plan, which you can turn into a job search, and write the right resume for – you will need some help there, its a presentational issue you’ll have which is easy to overcome. The trick is employers like people who know what they want and what excites them – it doesn’t matter what the economy looks like, someone will always give a focused employee a job!

Good Luck – you are asking the right questions, stay positive, and if I can help further: please just ask!

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