Zen and the Art of Being Unemployed

The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”

Bob Marley

For me, there are two great truths about being laid off. The first is that it sucks. It’s hard not to feel singled out, slighted, and angry. I know that I am a hard worker and have always gone out of my way to be helpful to anyone who asks something of me, but after termination it’s impossible not to think to myself, “What could I have done to prevent this?” Sadly, the answer is often “nothing.” All too often a reduction in force is fueled by factors that have nothing to do with performance, likability, work ethic, knowledge, or cooperation.

The second truth is that discomfort can be a blessing in disguise. Whether it’s a sore muscle, relationship troubles, or the pain of losing a job, suffering is an opportunity to break old patterns and do something different. In my case, I was forced to rethink the direction my career was headed and ask myself what it is that I am really passionate about and where should I be applying my talents.

Thankfully, my wife and I are planners and listened to our finance guy when he advised us to keep enough liquid assets on hand to weather any unexpected storms. This meant that I didn’t have to jump at the first company that offered me a paycheck. I had the freedom to not only be picky, but to be thoughtful in my choice. So, while I was immediately offered a few quick pathways to employment, I knew that I had the luxury of playing a longer game.

Of course, money in the bank won’t find me employment. I need to get in front of potential employers and find ways to show them who I am, what I can do, and how I can help them to be more successful.

This is where networking plays a huge part in job hunting. However, networking should not start the day you are shown the door. It needs to begin long before you ever think you will need it. It’s also important to realize that networking isn’t limited to one-on-one relationships. While those are absolutely necessary, one-to-many relationships allow you to expand your influence to people you may never meet and to places you may never go.

I think of my blog, Tao, Zen, and Tomorrow (the former SIP Adventures), as my most powerful networking tool. It has over 2.5 million lifetime views, thousands of followers, hundreds of articles, and approximately one thousand views a day from every corner of the world. I never made a dime from any or my articles, but the exposure value has been priceless.  I write what excites me in the hope it will excite others.  So far, that has been a very successful formula — for my readers and me.

My blog led me to writing for No Jitter which only enhanced my name recognition. It’s the difference between self publishing and having Doubleday print one of my poetry books. The credibility factor of being a No Jitter author has opened many doors for me.

Next, there is public speaking. People would gasp and shake their heads when I told them I was presenting seven sessions at a conference like Avaya Engage or Enterprise Connect, but I knew what I was doing. Not only do I honestly enjoy standing in front of a crowd of technologists and playing professor, it was 30 to 50 more people a session to know who I am and what I am passionate about. Every conference brought in new blog subscriptions and every subscription is another person watching what I am up to on a very regular basis.

A large number of LinkedIn connections and blog subscribers isn’t what networking is all about, though. It’s about being honest about who I am, being willing to share what I know with friends, coworkers, and even competitors, and being an active listener to what others are willing to share. We all do better when we all do better.

Mischief Managed

While this article has been all about me, you don’t have to follow my exact steps to express your unique self. The point of this article is to know who you are, to not be afraid to tell the world, and to express integrity along the way. Don’t let others brand you.  That’s your job.

Remember, you don’t need a blog and you certainly don’t have stand in front of people. That’s not for everyone.  Make your own kind of music. Sing your own special song.  Find what works for you and go for it with everything you’ve got to give.

I am very close to making a decision about my next place of employment and will have something to announce shortly. While a new employer will certainly change some aspects of my life, it won’t change how I express my passion for technology nor how I present myself to the world. In fact, I expect a bit of new job rejuvenation and hope to see a newfound enthusiasm for writing, creating videos, and public speaking. Stay tuned. I am not done yet.

14 comments

  1. devra swiger · · Reply

    Good luck! A lot of lost our jobs during Covid 19 and what seemed like the end of the world, turned out to be a valuable experience.

    1. Thanks, Devra! I am positive that this will be a good thing for me. A very good thing. 🙂

      1. devra swiger · ·

        I’m glad. I was furloughed from the studio but next week I go back. My home studio took a big hit and I will end up losing about half my clientele as they are too afraid to return. Anyway, we all tend to figure it out eventually. Good luck with it.

      2. I am sorry to hear that. My gym opened up this week and I don’t think I will be returning anytime soon. As much as I want to get back to weight lifting, I feel that this thing is far from over. Good luck to you, too!

  2. Sterling · · Reply

    Thanks for this very positive post, I needed it. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thank you for the kind words!

  3. Hi Andrew. Having been in this same position, your words just rang out to me. Well put and thank you for sharing. I couldn’t have said it any better. Best of luck to you.

    Greg

    1. Thanks so much, Greg! I am happy you enjoyed my article.

  4. Steve Romanelli · · Reply

    Great stuff Andrew! You are an inspiration to me and your followers. I have always been impressed with your presentations at the Avaya conferences over the years. I always made it a priority to sit in on your sessions. You not only share great technical information, you do it with such great wit and humor. I feel honored that I had the pleasure of spending the last few years in the same company as you and most recently, on the same project. Your explanation of how you felt being let go was exactly as I felt when I was RIF’ed in early April. Good luck with your decision on where you will land. I hope our paths continue to cross in the future.

    1. Thanks for saying all that, Steve. I expect that our paths will cross in the near future. This is a very small industry!

  5. Hi Andrew,

    Many of us like your blog. We learn from it and we enjoy your style and your spirit. Getting laid off happens to hundreds of thousands of great employees. Companies need to make money to survive, and when revenues drop, they need to cut expenses. I know it’s hard not to take it personally. I have been through two layoffs. Both times I landed with better jobs than the one I had before! Good Luck on your next adventure!

    1. Thanks, Jim. I have no doubt that I will find a much better job.

  6. Petar Gavric · · Reply

    Hello Andrew. “Covid 19 time” was the first time in my life, I have not surfed through your articles and blogs since 2014. Today I started “reading you” again and saw your article. First of all I must say that you are incredible good presenter and almost all I’ve learned about SIP is due to you. You must have been a wonderful human being too. I wish you all the best and have no doubt you will success everything you start. Best regards from Serbia

    1. Thank you so much!

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