I lost my job. Yes, I can say that now, but what a shock to have had a very successful career path from attorney to business development executive finally culminating in a leadership role at a non-profit member based organization with high visibility and access to CEOs. Then one day it was gone, but I was no longer a 25 or even 35 year old able to bounce back and land multiple offers, the job search and work landscape had changed and somehow I was vaguely aware but unprepared. Yes, I was a true believer that if you work hard, produce, contribute and grow in each position, you will be rewarded. Oh it ain’t so.
I realized at 49 that I had to remake myself and open my eyes to the new world of possibilities and new game. I had to create my future and job opportunities. I had to create a place for my rich and varied skills that seemed at times like a patchwork quilt, beautiful pieces added over the years. I wondered could I apply these skills to becoming a real innovator and entrepreneur. I am a fox not a hedgehog and wondered where I might fit in, would I fit in. Self-employment did not attract or resonate for me, I wanted a team, a learning environment and a creative space to grow while making a social impact, leaving my small mark on the planet.
I lost my job, but not my mojo, although it did seem to disappear for a while. But instead of starting the traditional job search to find another stable position (as if there are any), I regrouped and took inventory. I reflected and took time to consider my options and also see that some doors were closed. As my mom used to say one door closes, a window opens up, you just have to look for it. So like the long line of strong Cape Verdean women in my family, I took up arms for battle to fight for the next opportunity. I decided not to re-write my CV and machine gun it out to every contact but to enroll in a healthcare innovation program and join a team of young millennials and work on developing an innovative solution for a local children’s hospital in Barcelona.
Am I scared about my future? Hell yeah. Do I have any regrets? Hell no! Do I believe that I will be a successful grownup in the startup world, maybe, but the journey has been the reward.
I lost my job. Say it out loud, embrace the fear to release it so you can open your eyes to new possibilities. Is the startup world the right place for everyone, no.
Can we grownups make a difference, contribute and add to the diversity of the startup world? Yes.
So take a few steps:
• Get a good career strategist/coach and do the work. Figure out what makes you tick. Invest in yourself, it will be the best money spent.
• Put a financial plan in place if you have not done so already. Read up on taking control of your finances , have the cushion in place to tide you over so you have space to explore. Remember Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. You need financial freedom to explore your dreams.
• Get out of your comfort zone, talk to people outside your close network to get real feedback. If you read one single book, then pick Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career by Herminia Ibarra. The book offers advice for us grownups who have invested in a career path and want to make a change.
Susan M. Feitoza, Barcelona