A Career Brick Wall or A Window of Opportunity?

Sometimes things happen in life that are simply unexpected, unfair, and come from out of the blue and smack you in the face like you were never expecting it.  That happened to me this past January.  I had a great career for almost two decades consulting and teaching. My motto was “I teach what I do and do what I teach”. Then one day, one half of that career was just gone.  No warning, no expectation, no nothing; it was simply gone and by no fault of my own.

When something like this happens: What does one do? What can you do? What would you like to do? What is realistic? What is professional? What is acceptable? Do I react? Do I accept? Do I move on? Do I start over? There are so many questions running through your mind. It’s like you have been running so fast and suddenly you hit a brick wall and you fall down and can’t get back up, for what starts out to be hours, then days, then weeks which end up turning into months.

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How many of you have hit a brick wall in your mid or late career? I am 100% positive I am not the only one.  I remember the first time I was laid off at 23 years old as a Training Specialist for a mortgage banking company due to a downturn in the economy.  I was devastated but too proud to go to the unemployment office.  Little did I realize back then that I earned that unemployment and should have taken it.  I was laid off a few more times in my career and saw it coming again due to economic downturns, company restructuring, etc.  When you are in HR management, often you know your job is going away before the rest of the company knows, so it is part of the career path.

This time was different.  This time it was personal.  This time it had to do with what I believed in, what I stood for, what I taught, what I consulted on, what was right and just.  While I still cannot talk about the details freely,  I can say that it hit my core. I worried about my reputation, what people thought of me, how I would come out of this.  Remember I told you this was no fault of my own.  However, what do we do as women? We take on what is not ours to take on.  Therapy helps and it is not a bad thing, believe me!  It took me a while to also relate this situation to fears I had always lived with as well.

That brick wall represented fear and was like losing something or someone.  Part of myself.  It was a huge loss.  I finally realized: it was grief that I was going through.  It was not until I was deep into the depression stage that this reality hit me.  I had already managed the loss of half of my career through the denial, anger, bargaining stages which took about one and a half months.  The depression stage was the longest stage of all.  It was prolonged by COVID-19, quarantine, and the loss of several consulting and training gigs.  So in a way, I was starting to feel I was hitting another brick wall because what did the future hold with the consulting half of my career post COVID? I was starting to feel that was going to be the next thing to go, to lose, to grieve.

I struggled with decisions about whether I should continue to consult only, or if I should look for a full time HR job.  I knew if I did that I would most likely have to give up consulting.  I have not worked a typical 8 to 5 job for nearly 20 years.  I have been my own boss, managed my own schedule, and done so much without being under someone else’s thumb for so long; how I could do that again?  Luckily throughout all these months and all these stages I had the support of so many positive people telling me I would be ok, and this too shall pass. 

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Words like freedom, choice, and your own path was used often in discussions.  While it took me a while to push down that brick wall and be open to this change as a window instead of a wall, I finally came to see the light.  I finally realized this is my chance to finally put all my effort on revitalizing, building, and growing that consulting firm that I started with nothing so many years ago.  I have worked hard over the years to build my skills, knowledge, and experience.  I am an HR subject matter expert after all having worked, consulted, and taught for almost 30 years now.  Why not look through that window and see opportunity with clarity and purpose?  Why not turn all that negative energy into something positive, something better, and something that can help other?  Continuing to help others is what I have always been about.

You see, we all struggle, and this is not my first.  It certainly will not be my last.  I just hope I have inspired someone who is reading this to not give up on your dreams just because someone else decides one day to change your reality because they can.  You have the power to change your own future.  Get up and do it and do not look back.  Look clearly through that window of opportunity!

About the Author

Donna Rogers, SPHR

Donna is Founder and CEO of Rogers HR Consulting. She has a Master’s in human resources development from UIUC, a Bachelor’s in Public Relations from ISU and two associate degrees in Information Management and Pre-Business Administration. She has maintained a senior HR certification since 2001 and earned two additional HR certifications as late as 2019. She regularly delivers numerous presentations among professionals at meetings, seminars, and conferences locally, nationally, and internationally. She is on Twitter as @RogershrConsult



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