By Stephanie Won
After being in the fast-paced, high technology industry for 10-plus years as a marketer, my company had layoffs and I was one of many let go. Since I wasn’t getting any younger, I took time off to raise my daughters, thinking I could always make money and “get back in” when ready.
Boy, was I wrong.
While I don’t regret the personal decision I made — being with my children was important during their formative years, I do regret that the opportunities to get back in were so limited, challenging, and fiercely brutal.
About 10 years after being laid off, my husband was also laid off from his job. This was 2012, and the need for me to work changed quickly. We had two kids under the age of 10, and two parents with zero jobs and zero income.
None of my friends or family knew the magnitude and impact this had on my family, but I immediately went to work — looking for work. It took me almost four years of constantly pounding the pavement with steadfast persistence, and relentless pursuit to find a job.
Getting back into the technology sector was extremely difficult. I was told that I wasn’t recent and/or relevant, and I was questioned about the gap on my resume. One interviewer even asked me when was the last time I got a W-2 form — she (the interviewer was a woman) didn’t consider my pro-bono work to be “real work”.
A BATTLE TO GET BACK IN
I felt that my job search was like a “Tough Mudder” obstacle course, challenging and pushing me at every turn and hurdle.
I tracked my job search like a marketing campaign in a spreadsheet that I updated religiously every Sunday night, constantly measuring and evaluating my return on investment of time in all the activities.
I joined three career search organizations, three success teams, and last year attended 65 events. I applied and interviewed with 29 nonprofits, 37 for profits, and connected with 50 recruiters. There wasn’t enough time in the day. I loved networking, meeting new people, and learning something new each day, but it was a tiring process.
I went through countless interviews, and was rejected — and felt dejected — each and every time. When I felt burned out, I did pro-bono work for causes I believed in, exercised daily, listened to Ted Talks, and surrounded myself with people who believed in me and supported me — my “Yaysayers.”
I read blog posts, books, and surrounded myself with people who had overcome adversity. My target was to connect with one to two companies each week. I reached out to my former co-workers, bosses, their first connections, second, and third beyond. I was relentless in my pursuit, I was not going to fail myself or my daughters.
CROSSING THE FINISH LINE
You know when they say it rains, it pours. Well, the week I got a job offer, I was in the running for two other very strong opportunities and had to make some quick negotiations to accelerate the process.
In the end, I am very thankful and grateful for the marketing position I secured with a utility company.
I know this may sound strange, but there isn’t anything I would change. The real win is who I’ve become in this process. I’m forever changed for the better — stronger, determined and proud.
My words of wisdom: Don’t give up, persist, and hustle. Always thank everyone who has helped you on your journey no matter how big or small. Thank you’s go a long way. Be open to learning and stepping outside your comfort zone. You will cross that finish line.
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