Wednesday, August 03, 2016 Gabby Bill 0 Comments

(If you haven't already read part one of this series, where I detail the story of my layoff, please click here to check it out!)

There's no doubt that getting laid off was a shock to my system. At first it didn't even seem real. I felt as though any moment I'd wake up from this crazy dream and be right back where I started.

But as the days and weeks passed by, as I completed my 30-day "transition" at work and no longer had to report to the office, the reality of my situation sank in, and so did the confusion.

You know how when you stand on a dock overlooking the ocean, it appears that the water just continues on forever? Well, that's sort of how it feels to lose your job and not really know what step to take next. Of course, your life situation will predicate some of your choices (obviously if you have a family to support, you'll be in a different position than I was), but for me, it felt as though there were limitless possibilities of what I could do next. That's a liberating thought, but also a terrifying one.

I had been following a path, even if it had been the wrong path in many ways, for the last 10 years, and even though there were twists and turns, I had never strayed too far from the road. Now, I had a paintbrush in my hand, and only I could decide whether to continue painting or start on an empty canvas.

They (whoever "they" are) say that in these traumatic moments, you begin to take inventory of yourself, and often when you do this in earnest, you find you aren't the same person you once thought you were. We spend so little time in introspection, pushing away or ignoring our emotions, wants, needs and desires, that when we make these punctuated attempts, it can be startling to notice just how much has changed.

This was very much the case for me. A deep, strong desire within me was calling for me to work from home, to find a career with innate flexibility and to operate, as much as possible, on my own terms. I was sick and tired of marketing -- I no longer found it inspirational or challenging, and the thought of returning to yet another job in this field gave me pangs of anxiety. I knew I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I had never, ever been able to figure out what kind of business I'd want to run. I found myself dancing around in circles trying to piece together all of these thoughts, while not forgetting the reality that I needed to work, and ultimately I'd end up so frustrated that I'd just push it all away.

Then I remembered career coaching. And not in the, "Oh, this is what I want to do with my life" vein, but in the, "Oh there are actually people out there specifically trained to get me out of this funk" way. As a Harvard Business School alumna, I got access to three complimentary sessions with a career coach, and I soon discovered that as a SoFi member, I also had access to a coach. I took advantage of both, figuring that in my uber-confused state, I'd need as much help as I could get.

My HBS coach, Jill, wound up being a life changer. At first, she sent me a few worksheets that were exceedingly frustrating to fill out. All she was asking me to do was to identify things I liked and didn't like about my past jobs, or things I wanted from a new job. And yet the intense fear of listening to my own gut instincts paralyzed me. It took weeks of staring at those papers before I gained the courage to actually write something down. Even then, things were clear as mud.

I remember getting on the phone with Jill for our second session, completely fed up with myself. I had spent (what felt like) hours working on the assignments she'd given me, and all I could come up with was that I liked to write, give speeches/presentations, solve problems and help other people. But looking at those, I saw four distinct skills, not a job category.

Then she said the magic words: "Have you ever thought of becoming a career coach? I think you might really enjoy it."

I hadn't. Not once. And yet, upon further examination of my past, we saw that so many signs pointed to this line of work. I had signed up as a career counselor and advisor on two online "helping" platforms, and had loved reviewing people's resumes and doing mock interviews. I had relished the chance to lead the recruiting process for Disney Vacation Club's professional interns for nearly three years, working hand-in-hand with HR to find resumes, interview candidates and onboard the newbies. At Capital One, I had wanted nothing more than to be a people manager, and when I successfully recruited two all-star candidates, I was quickly the go-to person on the team for help with hiring. When I looked back on my corporate experience, it wasn't the marketing accolades that I remembered, but the impact I had on the growth and development of others.

If I'm being honest, it's not like discovering these things suddenly made everything fall into place and make perfect sense. But what it did do was give me a kernel of hope. It showed me a) that there was value in my skill set, and b) that there were possibilities for fulfilling work beyond what I had been doing for the last decade. And at that stage, the hope that this inspired meant everything.

I was laid off on September 7, 2015, and on November 15, 2015, I hit publish on my website. Was my business perfect? Did I have every piece in place and feel uber confident that I'd sell out in a month? Absolutely not (and if I'm honest, being an entrepreneur is a never-ending process of growth and change). What I did know was that, for the first time in my life, I was laying the groundwork for the future of my career, cement and bricks in my own two hands. And the excitement and exhilaration of pursuing something so bold was a feeling I'd never quite felt before. Walking into the unknown, and continuing to forge my own path, is the scariest thing I've ever done. Yet I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

(If you'd like to learn more about career coaching and how the process might be beneficial for your job search, feel free to grab a free, 30-minute consultation with me. I'd love to learn more about your challenges and discuss how we might work together to move you through them!)

Sign up for email updates (no spam here, I promise). You'll also get a FREE copy of my guidebook, 7 Strategies to a Seamless Job Search, just for signing up.

Gabrielle "Gabby" Bill is a career coach and consultant who believes everyone should be working in a job that leaves them feeling fulfilled. She coaches groups and individuals through a reflection process, uncovering often hidden motivations, values, goals and skills as they relate to their career. These reflections are then parlayed into concrete action plans to guide clients through the process of finding, creating and landing their dream jobs. You can learn more about her services by visiting