Career Transition: Resilience for the Long Haul

Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
Anne has thirty years of experience offering practical skills and support to people experiencing transitions in their careers and personal lives. Openings are available for individual and group sessions.

Career Transition: Resilience for the Long Haul

“Whenever I have been unemployed before, I got a new job within a few months.  Now it has been fourteen months and I’ve had only one phone interview.”  “I know other people who have been getting hired. What’s wrong with me?”  These are statements I have heard from clients, friends and relatives.

In an August 10, 2010 piece in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Scariest Unemployment Statistic I’ve Seen Yet,” Derek Thompson writes, “The median duration of unemployment is ….more than twice as high today than any time in the last 50 years,” averaging over 25 weeks.  You can do an impeccable job and still be laid off.  You might search for work ‘by the book’ and still go a very long time between jobs.  Currently 10.6% of the workforce in Oregon is unemployed, one of the nation’s highest rates.  That’s not counting those who have quit looking, are working under the table, or are nervously employed.

Even so, if you have ever been hired, you can be again if you are willing to try some new strategies and make a conscious effort to keep your spirits up.  Be willing to go outside your comfort zone and not rely solely on applying for jobs advertised on line, which automatically puts you up against staggering odds.

It’s natural to go through a period of shock, denial, outrage, and depression when you become unemployed.  Rant, cry, pull the shades down and the covers over you head, or goof off, but only for a bit.  Writing about your experience is one of the suggestions made by the late Al Seibert, Ph.D., author ofThe Resiliency Advantage (  To avoid getting mired in the past, Seibert suggests asking, “Why is it good that this happened? What unexpected opportunity has losing my job opened up for me?”

Many job seekers, especially introverts, become isolated and avoid directly approaching employers, which might lead to information about the four out of five jobs which are unadvertised.  It’s very important not to go it alone, and to make the best of chance conversations.   The remainder of this post gives an example of how a client I’ll call Gina did things differently in her long job search which ultimately led to success.

After months of discouragement searching alone, Gina joined a job search support group. In the group, members wrote about and shared three job-related experiences that made them feel most proud.  Then they took turns helping each other identify specific skills, both personal and work-related, that contributed to results.  This exercise has several benefits.  Aside from raising confidence, it helps identify key competencies and action words that can be used in resumes and cover letters. More employers are relying on skill and competence based assessments to make hiring decisions.  Gina was now better prepared to demonstrate to a hiring manager what she could do to help fill a need or solve a problem?”

Gina took care of herself by working out.  Another woman in the gym locker room commented on the book Gina was reading about international aid, a job fantasy she would not have had a pursued prior to her lay-off. Surprising herself, Gina took advantage of that chance conversation to learn more about opportunities at Mercy Corps, where the woman volunteered. Gina applied as a volunteer in research and development.  She sharpened her skills in database software.  Gina had such a passion for the organization’s mission that she developed the confidence to write fundraising material and even make calls to corporate donors.  Her results caught the eye of the Director. Although there were no job openings at Mercy Corps at her level, she was offered the name of the Development Director at a different humanitarian nonprofit.

Gina role-played a call in order to get through the secretary to ask for an informational interview.  Although she was terrified, she was able to actually speak to the Development Director and she set up a meeting at his convenience. She debriefed the conversation with her group and got help preparing questions.  Skeptical of this process at first, Gina was now willing to take a risk and ask for what she wanted, which was insider information. She understood she had a right to ask for it directly, and the Director had a right to say, “I am too busy.”

Because the Director was so friendly and forthcoming in their meeting, Gina only had to ask a few questions to gain significant information, including that there was an upcoming opening for an assistant grant writer. To save staff time he was hoping to fill the position without advertising. Gina was less nervous going in to her subsequent job interview because she had felt a positive connection with the Development Director. And she had gained information about the nonprofit’s future goals. With a strong recommendation from Mercy Corps, plus her proven skills and matching experience, she is now happily employed.

In spite of her many earlier rejections and a feeling of failure and frustration, Gina was able to bounce back, reach out for help, and take some risks, which ultimately led to her success.

2 Comments on “Career Transition: Resilience for the Long Haul”

  1. Tim Says:

    Love the quote from Al Seibert — “Why is it good that this happened? What unexpected opportunity has losing my job opened up for me?”

    This reminds me of the “it’s all invented” concept from The Art of Possibility (and hundreds of other writers over the millenniums). Reality is constructed (by us); it’s not a monolithic, singular truth, at least not in any way any of us can truly grasp.

    The interpretation that losing a job creates unexpected opportunity serves us far better than alternate interpretations!



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