Being in-between jobs is no reason to sit around and take a metaphorical vacation from being a professional.
I see this downtime as opportunity to create a plan that will prepare me for upcoming interviews and other opportunities.
Being in the workforce (vs. school) puts us at a disadvantage against the young ‘uns looking for jobs. They’ve been learning and absorbing like sponges in a sea of university resources and a nurturing environment.
The workforce fills a lot of our time with games of politicking, gossiping, birthday cake celebrations, and other daily motions of demonstrating we “fit in” with our colleagues (aka “small talk”). Not to be minimized, these are essential in any organization to assist in building rapport between individuals. Not doing so only makes one seem aloof and, eventually, not part of the “team”.
However, this leaves little time stay up-to-minute with technological updates, intellectual stimulation and challenges, current events, personal growth, introspection, et cetera…
That said, when your only team is “Team ‘I'”, you can choose to develop the aspects of yourself you deem important and valuable (as opposed to developing aspects of yourself valuable to someone else).
For me, I’ll use my “mandatory vacation” to develop parts of my brain that suffered from atrophy the last couple of years.
1. Learn fundamentals of UX (User Experience)
I’m continuing to learn more and more about developing my blog and web page out of necessity. “User Experience” (in the context I find relevant to my professional goals) is what the 70’s referred to as “customer service” (aka CX “customer experience).
That is the consideration of what a client (customer/user/visitor/audience) experiences during the purchase of goods and/or services. This will be a fundamental ingredient in sales spanning across all industries. If UX is akin to “customer service”, then it is vital for every business person to understand the magnitude of its value. Or, at the very least, its role in business.
(Customer Experience Awards brief)
2. Recover and reflect
All ego aside, when no one’s watching, I think it’s important to reflect on our experiences when we’re no longer viewing the situation “from inside of the box”.
I’m always looking for opportunities to learn about myself and develop, and one of the best ways to understand “blindspots” or areas of growth is by taking note of others’ feedback.
It isn’t always comfortable to hear people’s criticism, especially when the critic isn’t someone you respect or if the delivery seems more insulting than constructive.
But this is one of those things in life that truly helps with personal development. Reflecting on others’ negative feedback (especially feedback and conflicts that continue to come up) can be viewed like free coaching sessions. Feedback helps identify where there’s a disconnect between your intentions and how those intentions are being perceived by others.
It takes a lot of humility and maturity to be able to accept that others may be on to something especially when it isn’t the most flattering opinion of you. However, if you can accept the less flattering parts of yourself – even before committing to any steps to improve — you’re already a lot further along than where you were before you became aware of that which you were too afraid to admit about yourself.
3. Add some poetry (or fiction) in my life
I’ve been reading so many business-related and reference books, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to get lost in a good story (novels). I have a stack of good books waiting to be read and critical thinking waiting to be had. Finally finishing Neal Stephenson’s “Diamond Age” and/or any of the William Gibson novels will hopefully inspire thought that has nothing to do numbers and statistics.
4. Physical exercise (and yoga!)
(Hopefully, this doesn’t need to be justified)
5. Identify the “color of my parachute”
In other words, reassess my life goals and values and determine whether or not they’re consistent with my professional trajectory. In an ideal world, I’d evaluate and re-evaluate my goals at least monthly to keep myself on track. However, during stressful and busy weeks of full-time work, this important goal gets brushed aside and seems more insignificant than it truly is.
Aligning one’s work with one’s values (aka “not losing one’s soul”) is more important than maximizing one’s 401(k) contributions. I hope to get and keep some perspective.
6. Real quality time with family and friends
I’m sorry to admit that I’m not the best at this. Being obsessed with efficiency and networking and other career mumbo-jumbo caused me to lose sight of what’s truly valuable to me – people. I hope to connect and catch up with my friends and spend quality time with every one of them the real way: face-to-face and with undivided attention.
I suppose this list will continue to evolve once I have a better understanding of what my options are and how long I’ll be on “vacation”.
If you have any experience with how you used your in-between-jobs time to enhance your life and increase your competitive advantage, please do share.
Write soon. Thanks for reading.