Picture yourself at a cocktail party or in the supermarket. You’re not working. You’re “between jobs.” You run into a neighbor, someone who has a great job running her own organization or someone teaching at the university. She asks what you’re doing for work these days.
If the thought of this question brings up dread and discomfort, we need to talk. Not being employed – being in transition – being in-between jobs – is not a place of shame. Seriously. You are more than a job.
Welcome to the growing club of people who have left their jobs by choice or because they were laid off, downsized, and fired, whose jobs have been eliminated even when they did fabulous work and made the company lots of money, people whose programs were eliminated or who worked for politicians that didn’t get re-elected.
Remember, even politicians lose their jobs! And they probably had no shame about taking time to do the next great thing.
Neither should you.
As a career coach, I’m going to give you some advice. First, give yourself a break. You’re really a good, productive person and you will likely do good, really good work in future (okay, you have to put time and effort into it but aren’t you worth it?).
Second, come up with a reply that is honest.
If you know what you want to do, tell the person for goodness sake! This is called networking. It’s amazing how often someone knows someone or somewhere and before you know it a possibility has opened up.
If you don’t know, tell them you’re thinking about what’s next – and here is where the career coach in me offers more guidance: don’t just think about what you want to do next, do something about it!!! Research organizations, study up on an issue you care about, take a class in something that interests you, learn a new skill, watch TED talks aimed at skill building, or get good at something (like gardening or birding or cooking or helping your kids with homework).
So, when they ask you what you’re doing for work, tell them what you’re learning about or what you’re considering as your next best step. Tell them that you’ve learned to make a super delicious curried squash soup and invite them over for dinner.
Smile when you say that you’re making decisions about how you spend your time. You’re your own boss.
And when you leave, take a look at what’s working in your career search. If your in-between place isn’t feeling productive and focused, let’s talk. You ought to be enjoying this transition time. It’s an incredible time to invest in yourself and take charge of your career.