Advice to a Friend

Advice to a Friend

This has been a year of many transitions – for myself, for my family, and for far too many of my close friends.

For me, a great new job.

For my family, a new town, a new state, a new set of schools and friends. New beginnings, in return for so many hard goodbyes.

And, while some of these transitions have been trivially easy, others have proven to be – jarringly – life altering.

Several of my friends went through similar transitions this year.

One such friend asked me for advice, when they suddenly – and quite unexpectedly – found themselves back on the job market.

This friend – like the majority of my contemporaries – has the heavy mantle of someone who has lived quite a full life, and the corresponding responsibility of being the primary financial support for their family, squarely upon their shoulders.

Below, I share my advice to them (highly redacted); not because I believe my advice to be the wisdom of the ages, but because this was some of my most personal writing that I did this year, something I hope might help a struggling gentle reader, faced with the same challenges.

Here is that advice to that friend, on what one might do, when the rug is yanked from beneath you.


OK. Finally – a few uninterrupted moments!

I think if I were to be brutally honest, I didn’t work my network early enough in the process, and hung my hopes too early on, on the (too) few jobs I wanted. That was a critical error on my part, and my hubris I think kept me from being in the running in places I should have been in the running for. Lesson learned. 

When those didn’t pan out, and by the time they didn’t pan out, I was so far into the […] decision cycle that I despaired a bit. I went […] months – before landing [my next gig]. My severance covered a lot – but [certainly] not all – of this time.

So, I would counsel not only applying only to the “right job(s)”, but as many “right now” jobs, as you possibly can.

[…] The key is getting in front of the decision makers, and out of the slush pile. When I had any success in getting […] interviews, it was through my connections parallel to, or even outside, the formal search committee process. 

I had just about given up hope of landing anything, when [my next] opportunity came along. It was well outside of my comfort zone – a redneck boy from Old Hickory, TN, working in a conservative Jewish Yeshivah in […] Brooklyn. I took a chance, and to my surprise, they hired me over other candidates.

Professionally, I flourished in about as unlikely a place as one can possibly imagine.

But my family wasn’t [flourishing][…]

Second piece of advice – not every job is worth it, if your family doesn’t benefit.

For me, I was able to cope, by compartmentalizing as much as I could, so that fear and panic didn’t freeze me in place. I took on consulting gigs to get me through when the severance money petered out, submitted and published articles, created a podcast series, and wrangled a social media invite to a NASA event – anything I could do to keep my name “out there”, to keep creating something – anything – and to tread water until something “took.”

My third piece of advice is to keep Asking. Ask for referrals. Ask for introductions. Ask directly to be hired. Don’t let pride be a barrier to doing what is right for your family. Straight up ask for the job(s) you want.

One thing I experienced, that I didn’t really count on, was my loss of identity and authority by virtue of my past – and lost – association with [Y]. I truly loved my job there, as I know you do – and did – at [X]. When it was gone, I struggled with regaining my own personal “brand”, and identity, separate and apart from [X]. I still knew the things I knew, I could still do the things I could do – but then, I had to craft a narrative to describe my path past [Y], and to reassert my claim to my identity […]. You are not your job – but I was surprised by how much of myself was invested into my [past] identity.

My fourth piece of advice – assert and reclaim your individual identity as a leader, outside of your past identit[ies].

I don’t know if any of this helps. I only know that I have been in your shoes, have felt the things you have felt, and I understand. 


May your 2017 be entirely good, gracious, and kind.


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