A Different Kind of Career Ladder

Career ladderFebruary 11, 2015 was a pivotal day for me. It’s the day I learned I was being laid off after 34 years of service at a major financial institution. During those years I knew many people impacted by downsizing and reorganizations and was always grateful not to be one of them. But the truth is, if you are a member of corporate America, at some point your number comes up, and when it does, you become another statistic.

Leaving the bank that day was very hard. Somehow, even though I knew it wasn’t true, I felt like I was being punished for something I’d done or hadn’t done. And I felt embarrassed, hurt and useless rolled into one.

I remember the day my mother passed away. As I was driving from the hospital to our church to discuss arrangements I was hit by the fact that although it felt like my world was crumbling, life was going on all around me with people carrying out their daily routines like nothing had happened. Something monumental had happened to me and my family yet in the scheme of things, our event was a blip on the radar of life.

It felt like that once again. I woke up the next morning with no place to go, yet there were so many people hurrying on their way to work or school and I felt left behind. I’d already made plans for a plumber to make some repairs and he showed up as if nothing had changed, but how would he know otherwise. It’s not as if I had a huge letter on my forehead. While he was here the doorbell rang and I opened my front door to find three boxes of belongings from my work space. He heard the commotion as I tried to get each of the large boxes into the house and asked if I needed help just as I dragged the last box in. I explained what the boxes were and realized I’d said the words “laid off” out loud and I was still standing and the earth was still revolving. It was not a big deal and he did not act like it was either. But I was grateful when he told me he made some of the small repairs at no charge and I know that was his way of sympathizing with me.

Eventually I could say the words without flinching and came to realize that I had lots of company. Everyone had a story or two or three about being laid off and I would survive. And I have to admit, there was also an excitement to it as I realized I had the freedom to try something entirely new. Everything became a possibility.

So I went through the drill – creating several versions of my resume, updating my LinkedIn profile and scheduling networking meetings and phone calls. I contacted multiple contract labor firms, combed job posting websites all while helping friends with projects, developing and executing, with my next door neighbor, a communication plan for our Homeowner Association Board and volunteer work.

I was one of those people who thought they’d never retire because I would never be able to stay busy enough. Well, I soon found out I was plenty busy and loving every minute of it because I was in charge, I determined how I would spend the day and with whom I would spend it. That was a freedom I’d never known and it made me rethink the work I was seeking.

So where did this wind up? Well, today I begin orientation at a massage studio where I will be working the front desk and I am excited. I know some of my friends are probably questioning my thought process and that is their prerogative, but I am happy with my decision to take a different approach to my career ladder after all these years. The people who work at the studio genuinely want to help people. Interestingly enough, almost all of them had different careers before they became massage therapists. The clients want to be here and look forward to this time to relax and they leave happy. So I look forward to working at a place that relives stress rather than creates it.