A Clean Slate is a Beautiful Thing

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I typically don’t write about my professional life, but today is different.  After 23 years as an IT professional for a Circuit City Stores, my position was eliminated.  For the first time in 23 years, I am going to be actively seeking employment.  With today’s revelation, came a dark rainbow of negative emotions: frustration, anger, uncertainty, fear, sadness.   Over the course of the day, I reflected on those feelings, the pros and cons of my former job and the implications of the event.

Where I’ve Been

If you have explored my blog, you may know that my “day job” has been management of IT development.  Not very sexy stuff and frankly, not a very creative outlet for the stuff I am passionate about.  Nevertheless, after 23 years, you can get really comfortable with a 3 mile commute, a good salary, and lots of longtime friends, so I have never seriously looked elsewhere. 

About 2 years ago, I was asked to join an internal innovation team.  This cross-functional team, made up of all sorts of people with other day jobs, was given time and resources to design and test as many new ideas as they could come up with.   Recognized as someone who was never content with the status quo and who frequently pointed out opportunities to improve the customer experience, I was later invited to join a special team who worked with company execs and Gary Hamel’s consulting firm, Strategos, to develop an new strategic framework for the company. 

What I Learned

It was the most invigorating 10 months of my career.  I learned how to synthesize consumer insights, emerging trends, orthodoxies and competencies into a differentiating strategic architecture.  I researched and developed 7 year forecasts for consumer technology, social trends, retail store design, and the American retail workforce..  The team delivered several solid proposals, all of which had differentiating customer experience models, and eventually selected one to move forward with.

It was during these last few years of Innovation and Strategy work that I really discovered my passion and point of view around delivering great customer experiences.  It’s also when I became acutely aware of the shift of power from supplier to customer, and the need for companies to start using social media tools and other emerging channels like virtual worlds to engage their customers and employees in conversations.   These are the things I had become passionate about.  IT Management was my job and one was getting in the way of the other. 

 Who I’ve Met Along the Way

The same social media tools that can enable this amazing conversation with customers and employees has also allowed me to make connections and share insights with like-minded people all over the world.  A few months back, David Armano wrote a “emotion” piece entitled “Shared Experiences”.  In it, he asked if the digital relationships that we are forming through social media can ever be as close those we create through actual interaction.  I think they can.  I watch the banter between digital friends on Twitter.  I learn what people like, what they eat, what makes them laugh, their musical tastes, their kids names; and I share the same about myself.   Those of us who have adopted these vehicles of personal publication tend to share our thoughts much more freely than those who haven’t.

When I Twittered about getting laid off this morning, I was both surprised and delighted by the replies and offers to help from my digital friends.  You know who you are and I really appreciate you reaching out.  Though most of us have never met, I really do consider you my friends.

Clean Slate

Now before this post careens completely out of control (is it too late?), I think I need to get to the point.  I was dealing with all sorts of negative feelings this morning, but why?  Was it because I wasn’t going to be managing financial applications development projects any more?  Or perhaps I was going to miss that next meeting where we go over, in excruciating detail, why one team needs to adjust a testing schedule? 

No. 

These are the uninspiring elements of my former day job that were a necessity because I had not taken the time to look for other opportunities where I could do work that I really cared about.  Now I’m sitting here with a clean slate and it’s a beautiful thing.  I have been given the opportunity to find something new to do; something that I want to do.  The negative feelings from this morning are being offset with optimism, excitement, hope, happiness.

Having to find a new job is a challenge.  Contemplating a career change after so long is daunting, especially when you don’t really have a resume that reflects what you want to do.  My newfound positivity might erode in the coming weeks if the opportunities don’t pan out.  But for now I feel really good.  I love new challenges, I know what I am passionate about, and I know that I have a network of new, like-minded friends, who’s opinions I respect, ready and willing to help.

16 comments so far

  1. Drew McLellan on

    Doug,

    As I have said to you already — getting laid off sucks. In a big way. Every emotion you are feeling is right on the money. Let them rip for a few days and give yourself until Monday to just be ticked off.

    Then, career 2.0 begins!

    I will tell you this. From my personal experience — every time I had a set back, like being laid off in my career, 6 months later I looked back and said, “thank God it happened.”

    Not 6 days…but 6 months. ;-\

    I believe, based on what I know about you — you are due for a remarkable change. A change that will let you do what you love most of the day, not a small portion of the day.

    And you know what — you do have a resume that documents what you want to do. This blog. Create a little e-book of your posts. Do something creative and different. Don’t send a plain old cover letter and resume. The employer of your dreams is looking for something more…and so are you.

    I can’t wait to hear about your new job. I know it’s going to be remarkable!

    Drew

  2. Greg Verdino on

    Sorry to hear about the lay-off Doug – 23 years is a long relationship with a company. But it sounds like you’ve got good perspective and will make the most of your clean slate. I’ve been laid off twice in my career and not only did each turn out to be a blessing in disguise (both caused me to think hard about what I really wanted to be doing and forced me into action) but I figure that without those temporary setbacks I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. G

  3. Ultravox Freeman on

    Doug,
    I heard yesterday about you being laid off. It was a very said piece of news. I have valued working with you these last few months and wish to keep in touch. Please keep me in the loop and let me know how I can help you.
    UV

  4. Matt Haverkamp on

    Sorry to hear the news Doug. Best of luck with Career 2.0 and your clean slate. Excited to hear what your next steps are.

  5. Loulou Delphis on

    Doug

    First, I echo all of the above. Without the opportunity to refect and chart a new course I would not be where I am today, and happy to be doing what I am doing!.

    Second, as your digital network of friends we are here to help, encourage and listen

    At least, it is a way to test whether “digital relationships that we are forming through social media can ever be as close as those we create through actual interaction”.

    LD

  6. David Armano on

    Doug,

    What an amazing story. I was shocked to hear how long you had been with Circut City. I think it’s perfectly normal to have negative feelings at first—but as you point out, this could be a very good thing in the end.

    You are currently heavy into the “improvise” part of life. It’s both scary but can also be rewarding. Nothing is guaranteed. But as you say, at least you’ve made some friends along the way.

    Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

  7. Paul S. on

    Hang in there, the emotions are likely to be turbulent for awhile. Having worked with you on some of the innovation stuff and seeing your creativity and passion, I am sure you will look back and see that this was a positive turning point in your life and career.

    Go with the passion and the rest will follow.

    Wishing you the best!

    PS

  8. Bill Rattner on

    Having worked in advertising and consulting most of my career, layoffs have become a regular feature of chutes-and-ladders corporate life. (Anyone remember the game Chutes & Ladders? Who knew it would have a professional application?)

    Any artist will tell you that a blank canvas is at once terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

    First, the terrifying:
    I have some observations that others have noted already but perhaps they bear repeating. Guys especially go through some odd things after a layoff, especially if they have a family. It’s the “provider” in us, I suppose. The thing to beware of are the lies that appear in your head fully formed. They sound like this:

    “I will never work again.”

    “That was the best job and I will never find another one as good as that one.”

    “I am not qualified to do the job I would love to do.”

    Remember that they are lies, I don’t know where they come from but I assure you they are, indeed, lies.

    Now the exhilarating:
    I have had the good fortune of working with you over the last few months and I have seen you come alive, championing a project that you were PASSIONATE about. Do you have any idea how refreshing and energizing it is to work with someone who is on smart, insightful, and on fire for the work they are doing? That enthusiasm is contagious and highly valued!

    Imagine how many possibilities are open to someone who is as smart, insightful, inquisitive, and passionate as you are.

    Like Drew says, Career 2.0 launches today after 23 years in beta. ; )

  9. Doug Meacham on

    Friends (both real and virtual),
    I am really humbled by your words of encouragement and advice. There are some great starters in here and will be contacting you to discuss ideas. I’ve only been hanging out on your blogs or working directly with you you since last fall, but am continually impressed by the passion you have for your work, your willingness to share your insights and the openness of your communities.

    Doug

  10. Becky Carroll on

    Doug,

    This type of crossroads is both scary and challenging. It can also be liberating and fun! It all depends on the direction you choose: panic or peace.

    Each day we can choose how we see the world, who we trust, and how we will react to it. Many of us go into panic mode without even thinking.

    It is so much healthier to choose peace. Choosing peace in a given situation allows us to give others grace as well as to protect ourselves. It is also a positive outlook!

    Hang in there, Doug. You will come out of this on the other side and be better for it. I promise. 🙂

  11. KB on

    Doug –
    Was quite sorry to hear about things. Been there. Know that you will be far, far better off in a few months. Take some time and enjoy life…trust me, life isn’t in these cubes.

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