What I do when my professional life falls apart.


On the next to last day of my contract, I went to a routine meeting with my new boss. I set it up and it was to discuss what I had done over the summer and where I was taking the program in the fall. The moment I walked into the room I could tell that this was anything but routine. The chair of the department was there along with the new dean and they both looked tense. I smiled, sat down, and instead of saying hello they said: “We have decided not to renew your contract.”

I felt my stomach drop and the room felt warm. This must have been a joke. After all, months earlier I was told my contract was good for another year. I had done an amazing job launching a new program and they were excited for year two. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a joke. Despite anything I tried to say, the decision was already made. So on the next to last day of my contract, my position was eliminated and I was out of a job.
I slowly walked down to my office to grab my bag with the weight failure on my shoulders. All I could think about was how much I felt like damaged goods.

I founded the bottled water company, IndigoH2O. In 2015, it was named the best-tasting water in the world. It was also included in the Oscar gift baskets. Shortly after that weekend, the state of Indiana changed the laws to force me out of business. They threatened to sue me, fine me, and close my company. I had to hire a beverage attorney to help me. After looking at the case he said: “I have no idea what they are doing but you clearly pissed someone off.” Two months later my company was closed.

Each of these events made me feel broken. No form of advice seemed to help. I would stay up until 2am pacing thinking about how I was going to lose everything. I couldn’t eat or exercise only sit and stew. None of these brought me the money in the bank I wanted or returned the self-esteem that was stolen from me.

I could go on and on about times when things didn’t go my way and I had to change direction. Every time his has happened to me I have found new ways to cope and adapt. Every time this happens I get better at the process of moving on. If you’re going through a stressful change I hope this helps you because it has helped me.

1) Breathe
This one may seem obvious but it’s important to remember to always breathe slowly and deeply. When you control your breathing you can control how your body handles stress. When things go bad keeping yourself calm will help you think clearly and logically.

2) Allow yourself to feel.
A lot of emotions are going to come up, at least they did for me. Anger, resentment, frustration, fear, shame, helplessnesses and that it just the first few minutes. Embrace these feelings and let them flow through you. Keep a journal and jot down what you feel. Don’t short change this time, you will go through these feelings now or sometime in the future.

3) Do one thing a day
Self-pity was my enemy and it would force me to have the same lifeless routine. I didn’t eat well, shower, sleep, or read. I would only lay on my bed and think. It was only when I forced myself to do one thing a day that I broke this habit.
My one things included:
1) Going for a walk
2) Going out to lunch with a friend
3) Writing a thank you note
4) Taking a shower and getting dressed up
5) Going to a networking event
6) Exercising
7) Emailing an old friend and asking how they are.
8) Row
Create your own list of things that motivate you. The key thing is to start off by doing one thing a day. When I did that for a week it broke me out of my pattern and helped me move on.

4) Let go of anger
Everytime things don’t go my way my mind goes into the planning mode of how to get revenge on those who wronged me. At no time has this ever been helpful. Every time I go down this path I am reminded of a quote by Seneca:
“Anger: an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
The people on the other end are just trying to survive as well. The sooner you let go of resentment toward them the sooner you can move on.

5) Journal
I don’t consider myself to be a writer but I find journaling to be helpful. Writing in a journal helps me clear my head, express my feelings, and track my progress. It’s a form of therapy, creative expression, and a history of my thoughts. When I am stuck on what to do next I start writing out lists in my journal. What I am good at, what my friends say I am good at, and what the market currently values. Somewhere in the middle of those is where I find my next career move.
If you don’t have a journal I recommend you go out and buy a cheap notebook. Start the practice of writing out your thoughts and feelings every day. It’s therapeutic.

6) Contact people you know and take them out to lunch.
Once you feel ready to move on its time to reach out to your friends and colleagues. Unless you know what you want to do, having coffee with a colleague is fun but not always helpful. Trust me, there have been so many times where I just wished they would tell me what do to next. That moment has never happened.
Once you know what you want and let the people in your life know it, things will start to happen. Ask for their advice and recommendations. Your friends want you to succeed and will be happy to point you in the right direction or make introductions. Every conversation you have will lead you closer to your next great opportunity. Don’t be afraid to let people know what you need and want.

Whether you’re working for a company or starting your own there is going to be a time where things fall apart. When things fall apart it helps to keep a positive attitude and move forward.

If you’re going through a career change now hopefully you found this useful. If you need help with the next step please reach out to me, I would be happy to help you find your next move.

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