Are you “Between Opportunities”? Make the most of it!

By Scott Westerman

The big, scary question that confronts anybody who’s lost a job is: What do I do now?

If you’ve been paying any attention to the economic news, you’ve probably already developed a Plan-B. How do I live more frugally? How big is my rainy day fund? What’s my back-up plan for revenue generation while I figure out what’s next? Smart people have already had that conversation with their financial advisers and have been working their professional networks, building the relationships they’ll need tomorrow – now.

But if it really happens, if you get the word that your services are no longer needed at your current place of employment, how do you make the most of that time when you are “between opportunities.”

Sharpen the Saw – That’s my favorite of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“. Use your hiatus as a chance to learn a new skill. Expand your knowledge of the issues and talents you’ll need when you get back on your career track. Go to Borders and load up on books. Buy the caffeinated beverage of your choice at the coffee bar, find a quiet corner and fill your brain. Take a class. Get that license or certification you’ve been thinking about. Write a book. Get fit.

Re-calibrate your Joy – This topic deserves it’s own blog post, but here’s the Reader’s Digest. Scott’s First Life Life law is this: Life is about seeking your joy and chasing it with reckless abandon. Push the fear into a box, go someplace where you can get inspired (the ocean, the mountains, the desert) take out a legal pad and start to dream. If you could take a success pill that would ensure that you’d be a smash in whatever you did, what would that job look like? Journal what a typical day would look like in that world. Where do you live, who do you work with, what additional education and experience have you had, where do you work out, what car are you driving, what do you eat? Paint as vivid a picture as you can. Then study which companies have the job you want, pick the one that best fits your values, research their competitors, think of ways you can help them add value in these challenging times, figure out what’s currently stopping you from getting that dream gig, prepare.. and go for it.

Give Yourself Away – Here’s another one of Scott’s Life Laws: Great servants are ultimately great leaders. If you’re re-inventing yourself, find a way to test drive your new skills and habits. If you’re a marketing major who has been stuck in a gig that’s outside of your area of education, find a hungry non-profit and go offer yourself as their marketing director – for free. Give them 60 intensive days of hard work. Help them clarify their mission and vision. Improve their marketing strategies and tactics. Reach out to people who can help them with the execution. In essence, you’re doing the job. You’ll be interacting in that world, building a network and a reputation. And if you have any success at all, it’s an instant resume item. Whatever your passion, there are ways that you can give it away and learn a ton in the process. By the way, you can do this even if you’ve taken another ’emergency’ job as a stop-gap.

Nurture your most important relationships – Catch up with a few of those important people that Kieth Ferrazzi talks about in “Never Eat Alone“. You’ve got the time. Figure out how you can help them take some additional steps toward their dreams. DO NOT write one of those “How are you? I’m out of work and need help” emails, especially if you’ve been lax in communicating in the past. One of the magical things about giving unselfishly is that it ultimately pays back exponentially.

Have faith – Just about every person that has ever left my team has ended up in a better situation. Just recently I heard from a young woman that “self selected” out of our organization. She told me that , “getting fired turned out to be a good thing. It forced me to do what I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.” Not everybody will feel this when they are in the uncomfortable moment. But if you look at the event as an opportunity to jump off of your career plateau, exiting your current job could be the best thing that ever happened to you.