Lost in Transition

Have you ever been between jobs and unemployed? It sucks. There’s no greater truth. Throughout my 30+ years of my career, I’ve been in transition twice when I wasn’t working in HR. I wanted to spend some time on this topic because I’m seeing a very unsettling trend. Even though there are millions of people who are unemployed, little is being done to help them.

I’m not talking about social assistance or making a political statement. We need to step back, be reflective, and evaluate this situation because we can make a difference in the lives of others if we choose to. The reality in our lives is that we may genuinely feel bad for those who are unemployed, but we expect them to buck up and shoulder the work (and it IS work) to find a new job. If we were honest with ourselves, we’re concerned if we’re personally employed first and foremost. I understand that and it is important because you want to be able to provide for yourself and those you support. Don’t you think that the same sentiment is important for those in transition as well?

Being in transition is draining, frustrating, and stressful. Like it or not, much of how we define ourselves is through our occupation. If you don’t think that’s true, take note of the first question most of us ask, and receive, when we meet someone for the first time. It’s, “So, what do you do?” We ask about their work and employment. It shouldn’t be the first things we ask, but that’s for a different post.

After time, people in transition lack the confidence, energy, and initiative to keep plodding on. They feel isolated and may even feel like a failure. It isn’t true, but no words of encouragement can breakthrough. The emotional toll that hits people in transition is significant. They may not share it with you, but it’s present and makes any job search of any length even more challenging.

Now, this is the point in most HR blogs where there are tips and tricks for jobseekers including effective networking, resume construction, how to use social media, etc. There are several people who have solid insights and suggestions which can be referenced and used. I want to offer a different suggestion that falls outside giving people more work in order to find work.

Ask those in transition one question – How can I help you?

That’s it. It sounds simple but it will call for you to make a commitment that requires consistency, follow-through, and being willing to put others ahead of yourself.

We don’t do this as often as we could. As HR professionals, we should have more natural connections with our peers and other employers than any other profession. Since that is the case, how can we be more intentional in making connections for people? I’m not talking about filling openings in your own organization. I’m talking about helping people in transition just because you can !!

I’ve been facilitating an in person HR Roundtable for 20+ years. It pains me that we haven’t been able to meet in person for several months due to the pandemic. Several years ago, a peer of mine came up to me after one of our meetings and asked if I’d consider putting people’s resumes out on a table at the back of the room. I was a bit confused. I explained to him that this was an “HR” Roundtable, and he countered without hesitation, “Then why wouldn’t the people who work with people help others? It seems natural to me. By the way, I’d like to put my resume out too.” I was floored and embarrassed by the oversight.

The next month we set up a resume table and have had one ever since. We also allow anyone in transition to attend regardless of their background. I opened up the forum for two reasons. First, HR professionals need to realize we are businesspeople first. We should embrace that and own it. Secondly, people in transition needed a way to show they are talented, smart, and willing professionals who just happen to be between gigs. It’s not uncommon to announce at the end of roundtable gatherings that several people have found jobs.

You see, people need to get healthy emotionally before they land again. YOU can be the person who helps them along that path !! This week, reach out and talk to those who are looking for work that are in your sphere. It may be a neighbor, a friend’s spouse or partner, or a stranger. (Yes, a stranger.)

We can be the solution to helping others find themselves and stop them from being lost in transition. I hope you take this to heart and reach out a helping hand. It only takes one question . . . How can I help you?

5 thoughts on “Lost in Transition”

  1. I agree with you. Everytime there’s a downturn (for me near NYC they were during 9/11, the dot com crash, the great recession and now), I have conducted free workshops, but they’ve been personalized according to who was there. Attendees ranged from bankers who made 7 figures to people who didn’t own PC’s. It was good to not only review the basics but also to have a group that can share experiences and believes in each other. Looking for work can question your belief in yourself and be stressful. Those who can help should. I takes very little to provide a better experience. I have not tried it via Zoom yet.

  2. Thank you so much for this Steve! It is so important for not just us in HR, but also as good humans to offer our skills and time to help those in need. It is true, being in transition is draining. Sometimes what you can do is to simply offer an ear to listen. Yes, of course if we can facillitate introductions and networking opportunities then we should, but sometimes what those in transition need is an ear. Be empathatic and really listen. Also, really important here, be sure to check in with those who you have connected with who are in transition from time to time. Being in transition can be daunting and overwhelming, so having people check in to see how you are doing can be refreshing and provide new energy to the search!

  3. As I’m in this situation myself, I appreciate the empathy and kindness behind this. I definitely agree that although there are concrete things we can “do” it is more important to have self compassion, which is definitely a daily intention and challenge that needs constant reminders. Seeing these messages and getting help from kind folks makes it a bit easier and knowing there are people who have not forgotten what it is like to be in transition. I hope to help others when I do land on my feet. It’s the reason I’m in HR!

  4. It makes such a difference if they feel like somebody cares, and your question is the perfect start.
    For a long time, even before the pandemic, I’ve offered my transition coaching on a deferred payment plan, and then its pay-as-you-can.
    How can I help?

  5. Dear Steve,
    Thank you for this great article that comes from the heart.
    100% agree with you, sometimes I feel like nowadays HR came down to numbers on a computer screen. How many times do we refuse a candidate just based on a piece of paper? I believe that the HR utopia is seeing behind the CV and into the real person, unfortunately this is not always possible, and no one is to blame.
    But yes, I agree that we could all try to help somehow, thank you

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