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"When Life Gives You Lemons…"




Life Lessons Series: Six of One Dozen of the Other- "When Life Gives You Lemons..."



Introduction

My husband has a buddy who had been married to his high school sweetheart. Shortly after they were married, she left him for someone else. I cannot begin to fathom how very painful it was to live through that for him. That was close to 40 years ago. He is still mad, hurt and in neutral. He has never forgiven her, moved on and found someone else worthy of his love. Every time I see him I am sad. I believe we all have defining events that shape our lives. We cannot control them and often really nothing we did caused them to happen to us. It is how you respond that defines your character and your life.


Let me get straight to the point or what I like to think of as “landing the plane” …life is a crazy game and one that is not fair. It is easy to sit around and blame others for your own misfortune. It is much harder to take control and shape your own destiny. The choice is yours to lead or to follow. I am a firm believer that it is much better to lead. While the journey in life is often difficult when faced with challenges, the beauty is in getting to the other side under your own direction. Seeing the light. Getting to the good stuff you made happen. Live the proverbial phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Encourage your own optimism and have a positive can-do attitude when you find yourself in difficult times.


(For anyone curious about this picture these are lemons from a tree I planted when we moved in, just outside my kitchen window. The first year I planted the tree, they were Meyer Lemons that had great flavor. Thereafter they changed…I think they cross pollinated with a lime tree I had close by. I now think of them as my special “mystery citrus” tree. I continue to try and find just the right recipe for them. I would welcome any “mystery citrus” recipes- preferably in a cocktail!)


The Lay Off

I work in the financial services sector. Like most of my peers I have been laid off. There are no two ways about it, being laid off is not fun. It is an event you do not control; it was not your choice and most of the time it comes as a surprise. It is hard not to feel like a failure when it happens. Nonetheless I am of the firm opinion that the stigma of being laid off has changed in recent years.


In the past, being laid off was synonymous to being fired. I don’t think this is the case anymore. I have had to lay off some extremely talented people in my career. Changes in high level objectives, Companies being bought and sold, changes in federal and state government laws/practices, and a worldwide pandemic can have far reaching impacts in businesses both small and large. No longer is being laid off the easy solution to an underperforming employee. In today’s Corporate America, employee layoffs of highly talented employees are the reality for survival of the fittest Companies.


Certainly, there needs to be time to catch your breath when an unexpected event happens like a layoff. I like this think of this as sitting in my own sh**t. There is absolutely no value in spending much time in this phase. Instead move into the next phase of empowerment to look at new and exciting opportunities that are all around. No matter how hard it might be, you absolutely do not want to sit and wallow in self-pity. This makes getting to the good stuff that will happen take much longer and harder to achieve.


Finally, I have always advocated that if an employee hates going to work every day, they should lay themselves off- i.e., resign. This is the person who is depressed all day Sunday because they have to be at work on Monday. Being that toxic employee is exhausting to the person and everyone around them both at work and at home. There are always other choices to make and paths to take. In my experiences, every Company has its faults. That is part of Corporate America. I try to encourage employees that start every conversation with a complaint, negative thought and bad attitude about the Company to think about this. If they truly are that miserable, I want to help them create an exit plan where they are happier and the Company is happier. It is a statement of fact that no employee is irreplaceable.


New Opportunities…

Think about changing jobs as a great opportunity to meet new people, learn new things and better yourself. Look at it as a chance for a new beginning. You get to create a first impression and achieve new successes. You will have new colleagues and make new friends. Your Resume will be better for it.


Take the time to think about what you really want to do. For most people, changing jobs is hard. It is much easier to stay with the same Company and endure the known with the Companies’ warts and underbelly. Finding a new opportunity will take dedicated work- be sure to embrace it. Know that it is a full-time job to find a new job. Don’t run from a job, instead run to a new job. Know the difference.


There are some truly great books out there that can help along the journey. The one I have used most over the years is “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard Bolles. There is a reason this book has been in print for over 50 years with more than 10 million copies sold. It contains timeless advice for finding meaningful work and career success. It is absolutely worth the time to read or re-read it when faced with a lay off or when contemplating a resignation. It helps to start the journey of self-reflection and further your own empowerment.


Leave Your Ego at the Door

Always keep your LinkedIn account and your Resume updated. When you are starting a new job search, have a trusted family member, friend or business colleague review both. Be sure you find someone that will offer candid feedback, has experience reviewing Resumes and knowledge of your industry. Friends and contacts in Human Resources or Executive Recruiters can be especially helpful. Each and every time I have started my job searches, I am forced to step out of my comfort zone to ask for help. I hate it, while understanding it is a necessary evil at the same time. I am humbled to find people in my circle that “pay it forward” stepping up to help me. I work to employ this same pay it forward, selfless attitude when asked for help by friends and colleagues when they are searching.


It can be good for your ego to have the “looks great” feedback. This will not help you get to a level of excellence and ensure your skills are being truly showcased to future employers. I always think of this as leaving my ego at the door to ensure I get the most out of the feedback. Know that you don’t have to make all the changes that may be suggested to your LinkedIn account and your Resume. Absolutely you need to listen to the reviewer and ask questions for understanding.


Be sure to read your Resume out loud to yourself; often you will find better ways to word sentences. You might also consider spending time looking at LinkedIn for colleagues in your network, or those you respect to see how they have worded their experience. Never should you plagiarize! Still shamelessly comparing can help you to know more about your industry peers. This enables you to know how your competition are communicating their skills and experience. It allows you to be sure you are placing your best foot forward in your job search.


At the end of the day, your Resume and LinkedIn account are the first impression you will leave with future employers. You want to be absolutely certain yours is the very best it can be!


What Am I Worth?

Determining your financial worth in the marketplace is never easy. It is not usually a conversation people are comfortable with around the water cooler. Most employers discourage compensation discussions to the best of their ability from a legal and or policy perspective. There are websites like Glassdoor.com and Salary.com that provide competitive compensation information. These sites may or may not be accurate. Often times disgruntled employees use these sites to post negative information about their former employer. In the process they greatly over exaggerate the actual compensation they were receiving. It is not bad to know what is posted to these sites, just be careful not to use them to set your expectations for your compensation.


It seems to be more the exception than the rule for Companies to post salary ranges for open positions. Some will do this and it is advisable to be familiar with what compensation information is publicly available. Be sure you consider variations to the posted compensation based on things like the cost of living in various geographic regions, experience levels and remote work.


Use of Recruiting Search firms can be of extreme benefit as well. Also, once again friends and contacts in Human Resources. These individuals can be especially helpful to find the best range for your position and industry. Discussions about open positions, your experience and position salary ranges can help to frame reasonable expectations for compensation.


A caution that in times of low unemployment rates, salaries tend to be higher which is great for job seekers. Be aware though that employers historically will adjust when the employment market conditions change. This is part of survival of the fittest in Corporate America where payroll for the vast majority of Companies is the highest expense on their P&L statement. Here they may look at employee compensation rates and start with the highly compensated first. Good employees will have a strategy for this. They know what they are worth and proactively reach out to their managers. There is nothing more impressive than an employee being willing to make adjustments downward in the face of changing conditions.


A final caution is that using your last job to set your future expectations for a job title and compensation may not be reasonable. In many Companies, raises and promotions are given annually. Often for tenured staff, this may place them over the range for their skill set. This must be kept in mind that once laid off your old job title and compensation package no longer exists. You cannot compare all new opportunities and set salary expectations on something that no longer exists. A brutal example of life not being fair. One that needs to be remembered nonetheless to help you best move forward and get to that better place.


Summary

When change happens, make a conscious effort to seize it as an opportunity for new beginnings. Look at the positive aspects and don’t just embrace but celebrate them. Know that being laid off is no longer an albatross around your neck. It is part of being employed in Corporate America is this millennium. Should you find yourself dreading each workday, proactively make a change. If or when this happens, make that lemonade! Life is too short to stay in a destructive phase. Work to create the best new first impression you will leave and celebrate in it. Do your homework to find the right tools and strategies to help you earn your next job. Make your own luck with your hard work in finding the right opportunity for you. Look forward to the beauty on the other side and achieving the good stuff. Always remember to pay it forward with others.


I recently came across the below list (abbreviated) from an article on the website A Conscious Re-Think entitled “30 Ways To Get Your Life Together Once And For All” . I found this list included many of the lessons from my life- several of which I wish I had learned at a much younger age!

  1. Talk but stop complaining.

  2. Live your life proactively, not reactively.

  3. Get organized.

  4. Set short, mid and long-term goals.

  5. Cut toxic people out of your life.

  6. Do more things that are in tune with your passions.

  7. Work to examine, better understand and accept who you are.

  8. Stop chasing external happiness and validation. Practice gratitude.

  9. Take action. Do things.

  10. Develop an effective routine.

  11. Push yourself.

  12. Aim for progress, not perfection.

  13. Celebrate your wins.

  14. Ask for help.

  15. Quit taking things so personally.

  16. Turn your back on drama.

  17. Discover what motivates you.

  18. Live one dat at a time.

  19. Remain calm during setbacks.

  20. Let go of the things you can’t control.



What is Your Life Lesson….

  1. Are your Resume and LinkedIn account up to date?

  2. Do you know someone who wastes all day Sunday dreading Monday? Is that someone you?

  3. When life gives you lemons do you make a conscious effort to find a recipe for the very best lemonade?


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