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.
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?
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.