For individuals with careers spanning over eight years in a single company, the sudden transition to unemployment can be a daunting experience. Whether the departure is a result of organizational changes or a personal decision, the journey to a new employer often entails a rollercoaster of emotions and challenges.
Here's a comprehensive guide on what to do when it feels like your career has flatlined and how to stay positive and revive it!
1. Acknowledge and Address Your Emotions
The initial stages of unemployment often bring forth a myriad of emotions, including anger, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and a lack of confidence. It's crucial to recognize and address these feelings to pave the way for a more focused and intentional job search.
It is also essential to understand that this can often be a long process with many starts and restarts. Think of this as your new full-time job, where becoming a hireable candidate requires discipline and intentionality.
2. Utilize Employer Resources
Take advantage of any resources your former employer offers, such as outplacement services, benefits, and mental health support. These services are designed to benefit you, and understanding what's available can be instrumental in your career transition.
3. Craft an Effective Resume
While resume writing services exist, it's advisable to research, write a first draft yourself, and then seek advice from your peer group instead. Leverage your community - get their thoughts and lean into key accomplishments.
Why don't we usually recommend resume writers? Because they are typically generalists and often do not grasp the depth of your role. The resumes they often create align more with job descriptions than highlighting your unique skills and achievements.
We also suggest you avoid AI bot resumes that produce over-designed, template-heavy docs. Docs that can mess up ATS systems or look too cluttered to the human eye scanning your resume for key accomplishments.
Our team spends a lot of time talking about resumes and helping tech professionals optimize theirs - use our guides to help craft a resume that gets interviews.
4. Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn has become a vital tool for job seekers. Ensure your profile is up-to-date, reflects your accomplishments, and is tailored to match your resume. Enable the "Open to Opportunities" feature, and pay attention to the visibility and accuracy of your contact information.
Curate the content on your profile to reflect your resume: accomplishments and outcomes focused. Don't be overly vague, as you are a job seeker now, and your goal is to capture the interest of an employer and convert their page view into a call or meeting.
5. Prepare for Virtual Interviews
Given the rise of virtual interviews, it's essential to project a professional image. Whether using a physical or virtual backdrop, ensure a tidy and clean environment with good lighting. Always ensure your camera is pointed directly at you so it seems like you are making eye contact with the interviewer.
Project a professional work-from-home image by ensuring your interview environment has privacy and no interruptions - close the door, and have a plan for young children and possible barking dogs.
Invest in tools like Calendly to streamline meeting bookings. Revive Google or Outlook calendars and ensure they are synced with all your mobile/other calendars to avoid missing opportunities. Be ready to “accept” calendar invites to confirm the appointment immediately.
6. Hone Your Interview Skills
Practice answering common interview questions and learn to curate your responses to address the specific inquiries posed. Avoid providing unnecessary details and focus on what the interviewer needs to know.
Learn to listen to questions people ask you. Curate your answer to the question, and resist taking control and telling them "everything you think they need to know." I.e.
Interviewer: "Tell me about the last role you had and the scope of responsibility within the larger product organization."
Candidate: "Why don't I walk you through my career? And that will give you an idea of the responsibilities I've had."
In that example, the interviewer had a specific question they needed to understand. However, the candidate chose to hijack the question and begin an answer/narrative that most likely included dated information that is not relevant to the current market. Sadly, this is common among inexperienced and nervous candidates. Sticking to the question you are being asked will require discipline. Start practicing with people you know.
7. Demonstrate Your Value
During interviews, emphasize your strengths with real-world examples. Authenticity and concrete examples resonate more than generic descriptors. Be ready to discuss failures or challenges, highlighting what you learned and how it contributed to your growth.
8. Practice Answering the Top 5:
Why did you leave your last employer?
The answer to this shouldn't be a long-winded story and play-by-play of what unfolded that led to your exit. Keep it short and concise. If they want more details, they'll ask. Always be respectful and positive of your employer, no matter what. Interviewers don't typically advance candidates who speak ill of a former employer.
What do you know about our company/business/product?
Always prepare for this in an interview. If you can not describe an employer's business and how it generates revenue, you are not prepared. To have a thoughtful answer, read recent press releases, and if the product offers a free download or trial, try it out. Have opinions about it!
What are your strengths?
Be prepared to make this a meaningful answer backed up with examples. “I'm curious. I am empathetic. I have hustle and grit.” It doesn’t mean a whole lot - employers are looking for authenticity and real-world applications.
"Over the last three years, I've come to realize that I can meet with unhappy customers and identify the root cause of what the issues are and work to resolve those issues to convert them into raving fans. I did that three times last year, and my CEO was thrilled, so I guess you could say "customer success" is my strength, but there's so much more to it."
Give an example of a time you did not achieve the outcome you expected to (or had a failure/problem/conflict). What happened? How did you handle it? What did you learn from it?
Again, employers are interested in authenticity, humility, transparency, and real-world examples. No one is perfect, and this question is the platform that is designed to showcase who you are when times get tough or when you make a mistake. Have an example prepared and be ready to highlight the learnings - what did you take away from it, and how has it made you better?
8. Ask Thoughtful Questions
At the end of every interview, there is always a moment where they will ask, what questions do you have for me? Always have questions for the interviewer, showcasing your curiosity and preparedness. Avoid HR-related queries until an appropriate stage, demonstrating that you are focused on your fit for the role rather than immediate benefits.
Additional Resources for Job Seekers
Looking for more practical advice? Hear honest advice from a front-line Product Recruiter.
Navigating a career transition after many years with one company is challenging but manageable. With discipline, intentionality, and a strategic approach, you can turn this period of uncertainty into a transformative opportunity for personal and professional growth.