What am I going to do now?
It doesn’t matter that you’ve been waiting for many months just to be offered this exact thing. It doesn’t matter that you’ve felt like you’ve not been professionally stretched for a considerable time. It doesn’t matter that you’ve felt like the purse string holders around you have little desire or insight in the development of great experiences. When you’re offered voluntary redundancy, it doesn’t feel great.
Whilst I’m sure some people have a good experience going through a redundancy, it’s not always handled nicely. The mechanisms used to deliver aren’t always pleasant – nobody’s giving you a pat on the back, a gold watch, and a ‘thanks for all your hard work’. It’s not the traditional leaving experience. Instead, I found myself going through all of the traditional grieving stages. I distinctly remember denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and probably faking acceptance.
Not all bad
Despite all this, I was grateful for the opportunity to have some time off to reflect on my working life and my non-working life, regroup, and wait for an epiphany that would certainly magically appear and steer me down a new a path. Friends and family all assured me that it was a good thing and that I’d look back on this stage as a time when my life changed for the better. No pressure then!
Luckily, I am blessed with an understanding wife, who wanted me to make sure that I did not settle for just any position, but that I took my time finding something I would like. I needed something that would make me skip out of bed in the morning, ready to greet the new day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (or at least not moaning). And most importantly, something which wouldn’t prevent us from spending the whole summer holiday in our campervan travelling through Europe (every cloud…!).
What do I want?
I would love to tell you that I took a proactive approach. That I used my User Experience designer and researcher skills to properly explore the problem space, to properly define both my personal requirements and those of my stakeholders (i.e. Madeleine aged 7, Jacob aged 9, and Gill forever aged 25). But to say that would be a blatant lie (or at least incredibly delusional). I took a more ‘laissez faire’ approach.
I did not update my LinkedIn profile. I did not network or contact recruiters. I did not actively go looking for a new job, because I didn’t know what I wanted. I knew I didn’t want to do exactly the same job, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted either. I rejected any offers of work because either the contract was too long (and so would interfere with our summer plans) or they were permanent roles that did not excite me. I did some pro-bono work for a friend in the council. I did some decorating. I did some paid labouring for a friend. I caught up on films and TV I had missed. I played a couple of my 150+ as yet untouched computer games on Steam. And I thought. I thought a lot.
This time spent introspecting did produce a few results. I like Experience Design and Research. All of it. User Experience, Customer Experience. Digital, non-digital. Psychology and technology. High-level strategy down to observing people and wireframing. It’s helpful to come to this conclusion as this is what I’m trained for and have experience of, but with the wide variety of jobs on offer, this did not help narrow the scope nearly enough. In-house, agency, or freelance? I’ve liked them all, however, a combination of family life requirements and a preference for being end-to-end on a project meant that permanent in-house was a strong preference.
A little help
During this time, I also received one of my regular calls from Sameer at RedCat Digital. Sameer and I had started chatting many years ago. I was interested in expanding my team at the time and the company mandated recruiters that were not specialists in the UX or CX field. He’d called me and despite company cuts regularly putting an end to aspirations of expansion, we’d kept in touch. He had the right balance of subject knowledge and interpersonal skills for me to have kept in contact with him, via phone, every few months or so. He already knew me, and he took the time to understand this new stage in my life. He knew my logistical requirements (e.g. location and salary), he knew my professional requirements (the things I had done which had excited me), and he knew I wasn’t looking to work until after our summer of European campervan fun.
The market was fairly plentiful but I’d seen nothing that made me say ‘yes’. Sameer knew enough about me to find that for me. I shouldn’t have been surprised that he found me a role I hadn’t seen. I hadn’t been overtly looking, but I also hadn’t been asking Sameer to look. He knew me. He knew the job. He knew how to put them together.
One successful audio interview in Austria, was followed by a failed attempted Skype around a Slovenian lake, (due to insufficient Wi-Fi). The second attempt at Skype around an Italian lake was more successful, and when I was offered the job (whilst at a bus stop in Florence) we were all very happy. Sameer helped me through it all. Whether it was contract negotiation, rescheduling interviews, or interview prep questions, he made it all very easy, and for that, I can’t be more grateful.
If you were to stop now, and think about where you should spend your work-life, would you choose your current position? Are the constraints you put on your options the right ones? Are you jumping out of bed in the morning, proud of the work you are doing? Without realising it, I had the strategy I needed to work out my next step. So, what is my advice to anyone else in the same situation? Stop. Think. Question yourself. Enjoy the pause, and introspection. Have an awesome recruiter on your team. And above all things, do not panic!
Written by Alan Pimm
Published by Sameer Murtaza, Senior Consultant – UX and Design
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