Sometimes jobs go badly. And we make mistakes. And we have no idea how to start fresh without making the same mistakes all over again. Add to that the fun extra obstacle of a long gap in employment, and you see some of what Dee is dealing with.
Although her question has so many twists and turns that it would be easy to lose sight of the road, ny answer contains suggestions that might be useful to anyone starting over.
After a long gap and many mistakes Dee writes…
Dear Ronnie Ann,
After working for a local company here in Los Angeles County for over 10 years I was forced out. I was told I made too many mistakes. And that I was possibly a company spy.
This was a shock to me, since I was a loyal company person. Well, the human resources person told me if I could go one year without making a mistake, the company would give me a raise. And promote me into management. But I knew going one year without making mistakes would be impossible.
My family suggested I should quit, so I did. However, since I wanted my 401(k) I was told I would not get a good reference. Plus, I would not receive one anyway because of my poor work performance.
10 years at the same company!
Ronnie Ann, I spent over 10 years at this company. And received more than once bonuses for my great work. What changed? I was told by human resources they would see to it I would never work in the corporate world again.
But here’s the real problem … this is the fifth time I was let go from a company. And the fifth time that they told me I would never work again in an office.
Am I choosing the wrong career? Am I really a poor employee who does not see her mistakes Or did they just want to get rid of me? This was seven years ago.
And now Dee has 7 years without a job
So now I have not worked in seven years. A very long gap without a real job. I chose to return to college to pursue my graduate degree in Arts and Letters. But I am now finding out my mistakes have followed me into the program.
At first, I did well when I took some lower division classes at the local community college. The classes included mostly theatre and some astronomy classes. At the university, as long as l was taking undergrad classes or independent grad classes I did great. I hold overall a 3.52 gpa.
Now I need to find work in order to pay back my credit cards. The cards were used to register and take classes at the university. Although I am part of a living trust, and part owner of rental property, my present income is not enough.
Plus I am afraid when my mom dies I will once again — make those mistakes I do not seem to be able to recognize. And so I will cause our business to fail. Please help!
Reaching out after long gap good first step
Wow! My heart goes out to you. This is a lot to try to figure out all by yourself. So I congratulate you on taking a great first step -– reaching out to others for some help. And perspective.
No one should have to resolve all this without some input from the outside world. As a former teacher of mine used to say “You don’t know what you don’t know you know.” And that’s exactly where you’ll need to go to make a fresh start anyway. Plus you’d sure like to understand what is really going on!
So … where to start?
Clearly you can’t undo whatever happened in the past -– that’s behind you now. And regrets belong there too. In fact, something I once found in a site called in A Dude’s Journal advises job seekers to stay away from all that and focus on what we can do well now.
“Some unprepared candidates, flustered by this question, unburden themselves of guilt from their personal life or career, perhaps expressing regrets regarding a parent, spouse, child, etc. All such answers can be disastrous. As with faults and weaknesses, never confess a regret. But don’t seem as if you’re stonewalling either. Say you harbor no regrets, then add a principle or habit you practice regularly for healthy human relations.”
Although author is talking about interviews, this is good advice in general. We can’t undo the past, but we sure can resolve from this day forward to choose a fresh start!
Next steps after Dee’s long gap in employment
First, you need to figure out what your strengths are now and build from there. But it might also help to find out about some things you say you’re not aware of. Once you know more about what’s going on inside (where your power resides too), then you can take charge of helping fix things for yourself. In this case knowledge can be power!
So first, it might help for you to get some honest feedback from people who know you –- work and otherwise. If you aren’t in touch with any former co-workers for feedback, perhaps you can go to one of your professors for some constructive tips about what to work on to improve your chances of getting a job. Maybe they’ll even know of a job that might be right for you. You never know until you ask!
Important note about getting feedback
Although honest feedback can be very useful (especially if people do it in a supportive way), it can also be very hard. And you may come up against reasons for your “mistakes” that feel unsettling. Now these can also be what you need to find out, but having a trained professional as a sounding board during these times can be useful!
More things that can help after a long gap
Also, you can turn to the State for resources aimed at helping people returning to the work world. I remember taking advantage of that when I lived in California. And I know they offered skill-enhancement, as well as employment counseling. So this could be helpful for you. Especially since the resources are free for state residents.
One-on-one sessions with a professional work / career coach could also be useful. But since you say you have lots of debt, this might not be the best idea for you right now. Unless of course you feel you can afford it. But hopefully the State will offer similar guidance. Also there may be some career guidance services at your current school. And even the community college you went to.
Good ways to reboot your career!
I don’t know what jobs you’ve had. But sometimes a person re-entering the job market has to be open to learning new work skills (if needed.) Ones that lead to actual jobs.
And, of course, approaching the whole venture with a fresh positive “I can do it” attitude will help a LOT. Meaning don’t let the mistakes shine brighter than your determination!
It doesn’t have to be a dream job to start
In your particular situation, a fresh start might include taking almost any job offered at first (I’ve done that myself more than once). And then you simply do your very best to build a new work history for yourself.
During tough times in my own career, I did temp reception work even after I had my MBA. And one of those jobs actually taught me a new skill that led to me being able to talk my way into something much better!
So you can even use the new job to focus on improving your work skills right where you are. And giving your boss the best you have to offer. Meanwhile preparing for even better opportunities one day — there or elsewhere. (Having a work coach or therapist to check what your perceiving during this “reboot” time might be really helpful in solidifying your new-improved work habits. Again if you can afford that.)
The part-time career “long gap reboot” option
Thinking about it some more … starting out part-time with a low-pressure job might be a really good way to help you ease back slowly into working again. And, bit by bit, this can also a great way to build up your skills and confidence.
I hope one of your local employment assistance organizations (state or non-profit) can point you in that direction. CareerOneStop may be a good first resource to check out. If not, you may find a helpful local temp agencies.
And, once you’re working again, you can take advantage of the outside feedback you got — and all you’ve learned in the process — to help you start off on the best foot possible.
About that real estate business…
As for the real estate business you speak about … while I don’t know the details, I do have one thought: If managing the business turns out not to be your strength, maybe you can hire someone who knows the business to help you when the sad time comes?
Meanwhile you can concentrate on your new career. And if you do want to eventually run the business, there are always small business consultants (even free ones from SCORE) who can help you get things in order in the beginning. And then advise you along the way for a fee.
A few final thoughts
But first, let’s get you back to working agin. So please don’t worry about all that right now. Sometimes we let fear of future possibilities get in the way of creating actual good futures for ourselves.
Yes, it’s a long gap. But your main job is figuring out how to get yourself back into the work world. And also brushing up on skills that can help you do things a little differently this time. Please remember to be proud of yourself for even wanting to take that on!
Oh … about those college expenses on your credit cards: I’m glad to see you’re looking to pay them off so you can stop supporting those banks! And if your rates are high and you haven’t already done this, please consider getting some (free) credit counseling assistance to help rework the debt if at all possible. (The NFCC may be a good starting point.)
I know this is a lot to think about. And some of it may feel a bit scary. But you only need to start with one step at a time.
Good luck, Dee!
[Post updated 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.
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