How to Thrive After a Set-Back

by Diana La Femina, Head Editor, INALJ South Carolina

How to Thrive After a Set-Back

diana la feminaSometimes things happen in your professional life that you have no control over. The secret is to think of how you can turn these events into opportunities. (Easier said than done, I know.) In my usual way, I’ll explain with an example from my own life.

Early in April I was let go from my position due to restructuring within the organization and subsequent redundancy of my position. I was lucky because this didn’t come as a shock; I had about five weeks between when I realized the inevitable and when I was let go. That’s a lot of time for planning. I also lucked out because the organization I worked for has some amazing people who all looked out for me. (I realized then, as I do now, just how lucky I was.) Honestly, I can’t speak highly enough of the company I worked for or the people I worked with.

All of this enabled me to plan early and hit the ground running when I was eventually let go. You might need more time to adjust to circumstances than I needed to, or perhaps you’ve been under/ unemployed for a while now and just need to readjust your strategy. Regardless, it’s the strategy that I want to focus on now.

Being unemployed gave me one thing I hadn’t had while working: time. Time to job search, to network, and to better position myself for the job I wanted. I had been working in corporate investment banking, and while I was perfectly competent at my job and appreciate all the experience I gained, the position didn’t work to my strengths. In fact, working in corporate banking further solidified my desire to work in public service and libraries. Being unemployed gave me the time to work towards that goal.

Here are my tips for restructuring your job search strategy after a setback:

1. Be gentle with yourself

The first thing I did was allow myself time to rest. I had been working 10-hour days, minimum, for over a year. At the beginning of a transition it’s important to not expect yourself to hit the ground running, or to expect to know what you’ll need to do immediately. You need time to plan and mentally prepare yourself. If the transition came as a shock then it’s doubly important for you to be gentle with yourself. Give yourself time to adjust, and don’t beat yourself up.

2. Begin to plan

This is important. A plan, or strategy, will give you a framework for what you need to do. It will give you direction for the days you’re not sure what you should do, and it will help you be optimistic about the future. What type of jobs do you want? What are the general requirements for that position? How can you leverage your past experiences to help you? What experience or skills do you currently lack, and how can you gain them?

3. Get your resume in order

Once you have your game plan and know what jobs you’re aiming for you can get your resume in order. Really spend some time on this and explain how your experiences make you qualified. I won’t go into resume writing here (though feel free to contact me if you have a question), but there are already fantastic posts and resources out there.

4. Get reacquainted with the community

If you’re reading this, odds are your chosen job has something to do with librarianship. Your next step, then, is to get involved with the library community. Join ALA if you haven’t already, as well as any other relevant organizations (I’m also a member of METRO). Join groups on LinkedIn and Facebook. Read about current affairs in the library world, new advancements, recent issues or discussions. Most important, get involved! Join conversations, tweet or otherwise post interesting articles, compliment others on interesting and well-though-out replies to posts. Not only will this make you feel more connected to the community, it will help get your name out there.

5. Network, network, network

Nowadays, some obscene percentage of people will get positions through networking (I think it’s something like 85%-90%, but don’t quote me on that). It really is necessary, and it’s easier to do than you think. Engaging people on social media is networking, as is informational interviewing. The more people you engage with and know that you’re currently looking for an opportunity, the higher your likelihood of you finding opportunities.

6. Think outside the box when it comes to opportunities

Personally, I’m looking into volunteer opportunities. It’s a way for me to get experience and to network. I’m also in a position where I can take a part-time job. Two part-time jobs, where either one or both is helping you gain professional experience, can be just as helpful as a full-time position. It might be a bit harder to juggle, but it’s worth it if it leverages you for success in the near future.