Barking Up the Right Tree: If Your Career is Suddenly in Crisis, Which Way Can You Turn?

By Michael W. Jalbert, Featured Contributor

ARE YOU A C-SUITE executive?  General counsel?   Executive VP?   Senior VP?  Senior partner?  Executive director?  Back in the days of yore, a position at this stratosphere meant you could stay put with no worries about pink slips or a hair-raising  “We need to talk” from your CEO.  A job at this level meant you could rise further through the ranks, but rarely fall.

Things are different now, especially post-2008 market crash.  No matter how high you are on the food chain, our churning labor market can spell careecrossroads1r disruption even for you.  You could be terminated, laid off, re-organized, bought out, or redeployed on site with a new job description and oversight by a newcomer many years your junior.  Some of these scenarios are preferable to others.  But since you can’t always predict which one awaits you, you do yourself a favor by hatching your Plan B ahead of time.

Or do you?  Here’s what often happens instead.

Preparing for the Unknown:  Your Default Strategy

A financial advisor friend of mine tells me, “I’m hearing from David once a day now.  I think he has nobody else to call.  He used to run a big operation – lots of department heads.  Now he’s at home, the only thing he’s got to manage is his money, and I’m the only kind of expert he knows to call.  But what he really needs is a career pro.”

Does this sound familiar?  Here’s another common scenario.  Executive recruiters get their paycheck from employers, not from job seekers.  But what happens when you, the employer yourself – the COO or senior VP – get laid off?  First instinct may be to call your favorite recruiter because that’s who you know and trust.  But that recruiter can’t help you very much, so that’s not the call you want to make.  Who you really want to contact are your business colleagues networked in at companies you’d like to target in your job search.  Why?  Because they’re 1-2 degrees of separation from your target.  They’re much closer in than any recruiter can be.

It’s only natural for you to trust your financial advisors and your executive recruiters.  You’re in the habit of relying on them for guidance and solutions.  You know they’ll deliver.  But what they can’t do, and they should tell you this, is help you navigate a career jam.   They can listen, commiserate, and affirm your value as a person and professional.  But in this kind of storm, you need and deserve a better port of call.

If You’re Thrown Off Course, What Kind of Rescue Do You Need?

Losing your job is a shock to your psyche.  Other outcomes – being bought out or reorganized or redeployed within your same company – are less painful but can still throw you into emotional turmoil.  The solution may require more than a few panicked phone calls or supersized martinis with a trusted confidante.

What does this crisis require, and what do you need to face it head on, survive, and thrive?

In the best of worlds, you need a transformational career program to provide you a comprehensive personal guidance system.  What would that look like?  Here are some ideal features:[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#D8D8D8″ end_color=”#D8D8D8″ border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]

  • Rediscover yourself — Personal/professional assessment:  You have much to gain by reacquainting yourself with your winningest job skills, native talents, core convictions, leadership style, and ideal work environment.  Why?  Because if you need to wage a job search, the stars can better align if you understand where you belong.  This means signing up for a series of personal/professional assessments and getting them read by a capable career counselor, someone highly recommended who has your trust.
  • Undivided attention — One-on-one career coaching:   Rome rarely gets built in a day.  You might be able to redeploy yourself in 30 days, but if you have the luxury of taking time out to think this through calmly and carefully, you’re best served by your own personal advisor with whom you meet at least once a week and for at least a 3-6 months, more if that’s what you need.
  • Getting from here to there — Your personal roadmap:  Using the illuminating results of your assessment, your career coach should help you map out a gameplan for conducting your job search, repositioning yourself in your current company, or designing a financially viable, fulfilling life for yourself post-career.  If you think you need special advice on how to invest your money, you certainly deserve it on how to spend the next chapter of your life.
  • Swimming with other fish — The companionship of peers:  Do you dread personal networking?  Many of us do because we don’t like asking for help.  It feels demeaning and might make others think we’re in trouble.  Yet we all admit the best opportunities often come via personal connections.  To take the angst out of this genuinely beneficial process, you need to be in a community where communication with others is easy and frequent.  Look around you.  Where can you find a professional network that’s a good match for you?  Preferably, more than one.
  • We do not live by bread alone — A larger vision:  If your professional platform has been destabilized, you might draw great comfort by taking time out to pay attention to fellow human beings in need.  With your skill level, you could be of enormous help to low-income adults in their own job search, hammering nails to build new housing for homeless families, tutoring at-risk kids in reading, math, or science, training to be a disaster volunteer, or whatever humanitarian activity you find meaningful.  And no need to reinvent the wheel.  There should be reputable social service agencies or religious organizations near you who may welcome and train able volunteers.  You’ll meet new people with ease, have something worthwhile to share in conversations, and find yourself inspired and energized. [/message]

To Conclude:  Consider your favorite idols on the ball field, on a concert stage, at the movies.  Where would they ever be without intensive coaching by veteran experts?  And you?  If the day seems to draw near that you’ll need to get rehired, reinvent yourself in a new career, replace a grueling full-time job with viable part-time income alternatives, or find the breathing space to imagine what’s next after your traditional career, you have everything to gain by scouting out a reputable career pro – or team of pros – to put you first.

New Directions is an executive professional development consulting firm, with a focus is on helping successful, high impact professionals find further success in their careers and explore new opportunities. For those currently employed and facing critical career/life planning decisions, we move them from being at a crossroads to reengaging, redeploying, or transitioning to an opportunity better suited to wants, passions, and needs. Visit New Directions today and let us help you explore your “new direction.”

Michael Jalbert
Michael Jalbert
MICHAEL is Managing Director of New Directions, Inc, a nationally-recognized career consulting firm headquartered in Boston. He has extensive experience leading business service franchises at companies such as Cendant Corporation and ERA Europe, where he was vice chairman and partner. Currently, he is director of Chestnut Hill Partners LLC in New York City, a middle market investment boutique. He has also held executive posts at Pepsico, Frito-Lay, Chatham Village Foods, and AlliedSignal Automotive Aftermarket.

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