Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Some of you may have found your way to my blog at a point in your life when you feel like an absolute failure. Believe me, I get that.  Sometimes a job loss, whether expected or unexpected, deserved or not, can leave you feeling completely devastated.  When the things you might have relied on for a sense of support, stability, or self-worth are gone, you might feel vulnerable, or you might simply feel like you don't have the mental or physical energy to go on. Maybe you wonder how you can possibly move forward in life and do anything meaningful given the enormity of your perceived failure.
First, let me remind you that we are fortunate to live in a time in history when things like social status, age, race, past success, and past failure do not need to define who we are or what we are.  This has, of course always been the case, but I think it's even more so now.
Two men I know come to mind as I reflect on this.  The first used to be successful by most definitions.  He was very comfortable financially, and had achieved considerable status.  After a career in the military, he went on to serve as a successful VP for several different prominent financial institutions. However, while outwardly successful, he wasn't as successful in his home life. (I'll leave it at that, because honestly I can't remember the details, and they don't matter.) Anyway, he made the decision to get off of the fast track and to start his own small business, so he could spend more time with his family.  The result - he's not rich any more.  Far from it.  He struggles when customers don't pay their bills on time. On the other hand, he's married to a wonderful woman whose eyes just light up when she speaks about him.
The other guy I met a number of years ago.  He's a tough old guy.  A grandfather who loves to brag about his kids and grandkids. He is also a business owner.  I believe he's a pipefitter, and I have no idea exactly what his business does.  What's amazing about him though is that in his younger days, he was Kentucky's self-proclaimed biggest thief.  He would steal anything.  And he wasn't scared of anyone.  On one of his stints in prison, he stole food from other inmates that they had gotten as care packages from home.
This guy had a hard life growing up.  He had an alcoholic father who would come home drunk and beat him.  On many nights, he would run outside and wait out in the rain or cold until his father had passed out.  He also got picked on by his brother's older friends - enough so that that it left deep scars.
Now both of these guys will talk about God being instrumental in turning their lives around. And I will gladly discuss that with anyone who'd like to.  However, it's not like God gave them an "easy button' so that they could coast through life. Every day they had to make decisions not to be defined by what they used to be or what they had done in the past.
And because I know these two personally, I know that it isn't like they don't face new challenges ... new obstacles.
This whole subject is one that frequently comes to mind when I deal with my own issues.  I don't want to be defined by my successes.  They are events that shape me.  They are not who I am.  I have been laid off twice.  Both were extremely stressful events, but ultimately worked out for the better.  A few years ago, I was working for another search firm.  When they economy tanked, it hit us hard.  Some of our clients went out of business.  Others were downsizing.  Still others just stopped hiring.  Needless to say it was hard.
I was fortunate to get a contract job as a corporate technical recruiter which initially looked as if it would last just two or three months, but lasted eight. Still, at the end of the contract, I had no options.
Starting my own search firm in the middle of one of the worst recessions in memory was very much a leap of faith.  It has been far from easy.
These days, companies are exceptionally deliberate about their hiring decisions.  Often to a fault.
When I was a corporate recruiter, I could walk down the hall, or at the very least pick up the phone and be pretty pointed with my managers about the need to act quickly and be decisive.  If they didn't though, and the best candidate took another job, I still got paid.  I might even take some satisfaction in saying, "See?  I told you..."
Now, I have to be a bit more cautious because obviously I have a financial stake in placing my candidates. If I push too hard, I just start sounding like the type of recruiter who will say or do anything to make a placement.  (Even if maybe the candidate isn't a good fit.) I don't want to be that kind of person. On the other hand, it can be devastating when I have someone who I *know* would really come in and make a difference, but the hiring manager is just too busy, or somehow doesn't see what seems obvious to me.
It was a big placement.  Big.
I share this not to point fingers at anyone.  I'm sharing it because I KNOW what it means to be emotionally devastated and feel like a failure.  I know that there might be times when you don't even want to get out of bed.
Don't give up though. Don't let this define you.  Whatever it is, whether it's your fault or not, whether you saw it coming or it caught you completely off guard I want you to know that things can be better if you don't give up.  Even crappy terrible unfair things can lay the groundwork for, or open doors to good things down the road.
As tempting as it may be just to throw in the towel, please don't give up.