Tips to turn job loss into your next opportunity

By: Kevin Byrnes

“The citizens of Wayne County thank you for your service,” read my exit letter from my job as Senior Communications Manager from the county. While I had known for days I was being laid off following a political change in the administration, the letter felt like a dagger. Goodbye. Good luck. Now what?

Fortunately, I knew what to do. Did I know what was next? No. But, I felt I knew what to do—an important part of my emotional shift to being in a job search. And, as a means to help fellow communicators among us who are searching, I’ll share a few tips that helped me along the road.

Your new title-job seeker and consultant

In my case, I got right back out there. No sleeping in. No one month off to recuperate. Like dating following a breakup, I started growing my network by engaging in regular networking. I joined three PR based groups to get known and make connections. First, I joined the Individual Communicators Network (ICN Detroit chapter). Second, I joined the revised Detroit Press Club and finally, I joined PRSA National and by doing so, our Detroit chapter.

I started meeting people in our field, with a wide range of experiences, skills and connections. By joining, I belonged to something bigger, an important element of being back out there.  In each instance, membership in the groups’ led to something—consulting work, a new connection or skill (and, blogging here!). And, I was able to enhance my resume by adding my professional associations to it.

While widening my professional network, I also engaged my own personal network. I told family, friends, colleagues old and new, church members, club members—that I was looking. And, as my consulting work grew, I shared with them what I was doing in that arena, passing out my consulting business card at every opportunity. I began to own my work as a consultant, another important emotional shift.  

The Gig Economy is Real

For me, the short-term work became as important as writing cover letters and filling out applications online. One quick tip when completing online job applications. When they ask you how much you expect in salary—type in zero. First, you can continue with the application and not be stymied because the alert says you can’t advance without a number. Second, strategically, don’t give them ammunition to eliminate you based on your salary request, you can always discuss in interviews to follow. (Unless, perhaps, you’re of the mindset of not wanting to ‘waste one another’s time’. In that case, give a range that’s acceptable for you.)

Back to my point at hand. The gig economy, as it is known as, is a strong trend in our economy. The name says it all—people moving from opportunity to opportunity, tied by a particular assignment or assignments, but nothing more. You do x we pay you y–that’s our relationship, for z amount of time.

In my case, once I started (my first assignment was a press release for a nonprofit I landed through a friend), I continued to get regular work—some of it in months’ long chunks and others in shorter spans. And, it seemed like when one assignment ended, another opened up.

Looking back, I added to my contacts and skills while benefitting from the exposure of a wide variety of assignments that included: social media editing, project management, news release and feature writing. Plus, I made money and could now add my consulting work to my pitch for a full-time position.

The Five P’s

While there’s much more I could go into, I’ll wrap up this post (it’s a blog after all) with what I dubbed the five P’s of my job search. They are, in no particular order:  patience, poise, persistence, planning and perseverance. I found all five P’s were part of my search. I imagine you’ll find that as well.

In some situations, I excelled in the five P’s, in other instances, not so. Nonetheless, be easy on yourself. Finding a job is an emotional and yes, physical grind—you’ll make mistakes as well as feel elated after a particularly successful moment, be it a strong interview, new connection or landing a consulting opportunity. And, over time, the anxiety over what’s next does dissipate.

You’ll be ok with taking a day away from your search and enjoy the openness of flexibility in your schedule. It doesn’t mean you are giving up. It means you are at peace with what’s next and when it’s meant to come—it will come.

I hope these few words of wisdom from my own experience will help you in some way in your own search. Our field is a way for many of us to exercise the artist within us, through writing, editing, implementing strategy, pitching and so on. We don’t necessarily deal in the concretes associated with making or selling widgets.

Yet, I do believe as practitioners of writing, placement, strategy and various forms of communications, what we do is valued in the workforce. So, hang in there. Your job is out there. The structure of the job may be different,  however, the job is out there. And, you will find it!

Kevin Byrnes is the new Communications Manager for the City of Birmingham (MI). He previously was a Communications Consultant at ByrnesPR & Media Services. He is a member of the Detroit PRSA chapter (national as well) and serves on the blog committee. He is also a member of the Individual Communicators Network (ICN Detroit Chapter) and Detroit Press Club.  

-Job Fair Pictures, Images and Stock Photo-I Stock-