By nature, I am a glass half-full person. So even though there are many dark clouds hanging over this long and painful recession, I continue to look for the silver linings. And I believe this recession is going to force some people to finally find the work+life fit they really want.
The other day I had lunch with Bob, the brother of a friend, to help him think through a difficult work+life fit decision. A year ago, Bob negotiated that in January 2009 he would take a package and leave the job he’d held for 10 years with the same company. While he had been very successful, a change in leadership and the sense he needed a new challenge made the package seem like a perfect segue into the next phase of his life. Then the recession hit full-force, and now he is reconsidering.
He doesn’t want his current job anymore and his employer wants him to stay. They have offered him a few alternative jobs none of which are particularly appealing. But Bob has a 15 year old going to college soon, and a large portion of his college fund was lost in the market downturn. Bob is concerned that there won’t be any jobs out there, which is understandable given the unemployment figures.
He’s stuck in an all-or-nothing quandary—do I stay and have salary, or do I leave and face a financially scary unknown. This is where I come in. We talked, and ultimately Bob realized that maybe there was a middle way work+life fit. Here are some clues from our conversation that helped Bob begin to see the possibilities:
“They’ve offered me a lower level job I could do in my sleep. It would give me money, and a lot of flexibility to investigate other opportunities, but my ego would take a big hit.” Maybe Bob doesn’t have to quit. He could try take this lower level job, do what he needed to do, but use the autonomy and flexibility to beginning setting up his next career move.
But taking this lower level position will require him to redefine success. Chapter 9 in my book, “Work+Life,” is devoted to challenging the Success Roadblock by rethinking what success means to you. In Bob’s case, he may no longer have the same title or level of responsibility but he will be taking the steps needed to succeed in his next job while continuing to have an income. But he has to feel okay about that change. Redefining success can open up work+life fit opportunities that we may not have otherwise considered.
“I LOVE going in and setting up high functioning sales teams. And my specialty is the hardest, prospects and sales. Those are my favorite.” When Bob said this I stopped him, “Did you hear what you just said?” I could see he was confused. I continued, “When you say, ‘I love..’ that begins to tell you where you want to go next.” He thought for a moment, and agreed, “You know I would love to consult with companies looking to take their sales teams to the next level…” and with that we began to identify a number of potential avenues for him to investigate while he continued to work for his current employer in some capacity.
“You know if it wasn’t for this package and the fact that in this economy my compensation isn’t going to be terrific, I’d never consider leaving this job.” It is very hard to walk away from a “good” job with a good salary to pursue what you love without a compelling reason. This is especially true if you have a family to support. But Bob began to see that maybe this package was a blessing that would force him to finally go and do something new. When times are good, and bonuses are high, in some ways it’s harder to walk away from a senior-level position. But if Bob takes the lower level job, he’ll make money while putting the wheels in motion for his next opportunity.
Sometimes tough times can force us to make the work+life fit changes we’ve been too afraid to pursue. And, as Bob discovered, the choice is not all-or-nothing. Even in a recession, there are many potential work+life fit options. It’s a matter of seeing the possibilities, challenging your fears, redefining success, figuring out what you want and creatively making it happen. The good news is, everything I shared with Bob can be found in my book, “Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You.”
For another interesting perspective on using “/” careers to manage your work and life in the recession, check out an interview with and blog by Marci Alboher, author of One Person/Multiple Careers, on the “The Takeaway” radio show site. And follow Marci, the former New York Times Shifting Careers blogger, at heymarci.com.
Keep looking for the silver lining. I know I will, and I’ll share what I see. Have you seen any work+life fit bright spots in the recession?