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August 3, 2016
Keeping Your Career Path Clear
At times, being laid off from a job can be devastating. At others times, it can be the best thing that can happen to a person. For me, it took a couple of layoffs for reality to set in…forcing me to take my career into my own hands.

The background.
From being (metaphorically) born with pen and paper in hand to maintaining perfect scores on school writing assignments to writing for the school newspaper in college, I was destined to be a professional writer. So I eventually landed a job at a major newspaper in the…customer service department.

Customer service department?

Yes…customer service.

How did I end up there? Well, I had a plan. Which I implemented.

After about a year and a half of being confined to a desk addressing numerous customer complaints,* day after day, month after month, I transferred to the news department. (*No new or fresh complaints mind you, but the same old “newspaper not being delivered to my porch, so I want to cancel” kind of complaints.)

After being offered my “dream job” as an editorial coordinator, I was finally in a happy place — horrible working hours, but I truly enjoyed my job.

After about two years of working what most would consider unusual hours, I landed a job as an editor in the graphic design department of a very corporate office — great job, good benefits, “normal” working hours, and so-called security…

Until the department shut down six months later.

Simmer in self-pity?
Being laid off — despite receiving a decent severance package and having a decent resume to go with it — sometimes forces you to either take a do-or-die approach or to simmer in a pool of self-pity and desperation.

So…I wallowed in a wave of wondering what my future looked like. I needed job security, but I realized that it was my own responsibility.

I had a chance right then and there to take the knowledge and experience I had gained and work it to my advantage. Others from my department that were part of the layoff already knew the power of freelancing.

At that time, though, I only knew the power of a paycheck every two weeks — the so-called security.

10 more years.
It took more than 10 years and a couple of later layoffs for me to really get it.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with maintaining one full-time job with great benefits and a standard corporate structure. For many people, this type of scenario works for as long as they need it to.

For others, the dream is sometimes interrupted, and a back-up plan becomes necessary.

Best career advice.
The best career advice I ever received and will carry forward was just that — to always have a back-up plan. This will keep you from chasing opportunities where you only work for the money so that you can stay on your desired and destined career path.

In other words, don’t let your career chart your course. You do the choosing for your career path, and keep it clear so that you can see your success years ahead.

Three quick tips.
To develop a back-up plan that will enable your success in your field of choice:
  1. Determine what your ideal career looks like. Can you envision yourself doing this day after day, year after year? Do you have the education and valid opportunities to gain experience in this field to ensure your success?  
  2. Stay abreast of industry topics and trends. Thanks to the Internet, there is no shortage of information for any industry that you could possibly be linked to. Make this part of your ongoing educational process. The more versatile your knowledge and skill set, the more valuable you will be to an employer or to a potential client.
  3. Seek out freelance opportunities that you can commit to after your regular work day. This will not only help you develop a solid professional profile, but it will enable you to make valuable connections with industry experts. Also, it will help you develop new skills that you might not otherwise be able to practice.
Remain clutter-free.

The idea is to make the most of your situation. Whether you want to work a side gig or work full time for yourself — both are good places to be — be sure that your career path is clutter-free.

Position yourself for success no matter what career stage or category you’re in.

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Lisa Michelle is a Chicago area freelance writer who covers a variety of topics. One her of main areas of expertise includes career development, and she is passionate about encouraging others to channel their energy toward the pursuit of their dream job.

When she’s not writing, Lisa enjoys traveling, almost every genre of music, beach volleyball, racquetball, and softball. 
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