Dawn Fletcher (LiveVox) had her dream job. She had a goal, a plan, and a promising future. Until she didn’t. She shares how she survived the unexpected change and how you can too.
How do you handle change?
Have you ever giggled in a serious situation? Said what was on your mind when you knew it shouldn’t have come out of your mouth? Seen yellow dots in front of your eyes when you heard something shocking or stressful? These are common responses I have when I’m crippled by anxiety or hear shocking news.
It started when I was ten years old. I walked into the house after school and found my father sitting at the kitchen table, visibly upset. I asked, “What’s wrong?” He replied that my grandfather had passed away. My response? I laughed. And not just a small giggle. A full on guffaw. No, I didn’t actually think it was funny. I just didn’t know how else to display my emotions. I knew “change” was coming. Big change. And, the thought of that made me panic on the inside, but laugh hysterically on the outside.
I had everything I wanted. Until I realized I needed to change.
Fast forward to my adult days. I became a very career-motivated woman. I climbed the corporate ladder and was living the dream. I was successful, happy, well-balanced, secure, and content. The company I worked at was thriving and I was a big part of it. I had an assigned parking spot, my own office with a purple carpet, badge-access that allowed me into the super-secret executive entrance to the building, even access to the “private” restroom.
I know all of that sounds superficial, but each of those perks represented a reward I was given because of my hard work. More importantly, I was finally in a position to help others be successful. I reached a point in my career where I was able to make a difference with our clients, employees, and others in the organization. Then, the winds of change started to blow.
New leadership. Tougher competitors. Higher demands from clients. It became clear to me that things were changing in ways that wouldn’t be great for me.
One night, after I put my kids to bed, I found myself weighing my loyalty to my company and my direct reports against my own happiness. Suddenly, I realized I had to chose me. I started calmly weighing my options.
I was ready for my next opportunity…or so I thought.
I started networking and flying around the country for interviews. I was offered a new job with better pay in an industry I knew well. I was ready to take on my new opportunity. Or at least I thought I was.
The night before my new journey began, I had a full-blown panic attack. The reality of the change I was making hit me. I was taking a huge leap out of my comfort zone and I was scared. I questioned myself on so many things. Am I ready for this? Can I handle this? Am I smart enough for this?
Day 1 silenced all of those questions. I spent 5 rewarding and fulfilling years there. Until I decided once again that I needed to make a change.
I lost my dream job. I didn’t see it coming.
I chose another new, promising company. It was an incredible opportunity. I was confident this was exactly where I was meant to be. I walked into the office with a goal, a plan, and the promise of great things.
Then, on what seemed to be a normal Monday morning, I walked into the office with a smile and an iced coffee and walked out with a box of my things.
The truth is, there were a lot of red flags leading up to this moment, but I wanted this job to work out so badly that I ignored them. I suddenly realized I made a gravely bad choice in dismissing the warning signs that are now so obvious to me. I’ll never know how I kept my composure in those horrifying moments. The opportunity that I was most excited for ended up being the worst experience within my professional life.
So what did I do? I smiled graciously, laughed aloud (because that’s what I do when I’m in shock), and boxed up my things. As a newly unemployed woman with an incredible amount of responsibility on her shoulders, I stopped and bought an obnoxiously expensive latte and went shopping with a grin plastered on my face. It was the best latte of my life. It took me two full days to fully accept my situation and start moving forward.
Here’s how I got through this unexpected change. If you’re facing a change, you can use the same steps to help get you through.
I let myself be afraid. I had trouble sleeping, was unable to focus, and began overthinking my future and what my outcome would be. Unhealthy thoughts looped in my mind, and I found myself consumed by paralyzing fear. What if I can’t find a suitable enough job and provide for my family? What if I disappoint them and change the way they are accustomed to living? What if I don’t have the skillset I thought I had in order to get my career back on track? What if I am not enough?
I mourned the loss of my career and my stability. Losing my dream job made me question my identity. I struggled to understand what my day would look like as a newly unemployed woman. Waking up with nowhere to go is an incredibly uncomfortable existence for me. I went from the chaos of the morning-rush of balancing kids and punting them off to school and getting to the office on time to sipping my latte and watching Good Morning America.
I gained a positive perspective with the help of my friends. I had a conversation with a friend who simply said these magic words, “Everything will be okay.” That’s it. These words had such an impact on me that I went to bed thinking about those words rather than the ugly words I was telling myself on a loop. I woke up with a new and improved attitude. I realized that I was in a very good place. If I kept calm and positive, I could find a solution.
I started to see opportunities. I had choices! I decided at that moment I was going to change my career altogether. I was going to walk away from my comfort zone and challenge myself with something new. I understood that in order for me to land in a place I wanted to be, I was going to have to embrace change and challenge myself to be courageous instead of fearful. I found my confidence and the bravery to put myself out there.
I started over. A new company, a new position, a new line-of-business and a job where I had no clue what I was doing. But I committed to the learning process and was patient with myself.
Change happens in stages. It’s okay to be afraid, sad, or confused when big changes occur. With the help of your friends and network, you’ll find your determination and a reason to remain positive. Remember, “Everything will be okay.”
Here’s what I learned after surviving the change:
Have an alternate plan, and, when the time comes, make the change you need to.
Keep your network active and surround yourself with positive people who want to help.
Pay it forward.
It’s okay to laugh when you’re not at all okay. Do what you need to do to process changes.
Find words that calm you and that you can cling to when times seem bleak. Mine are, “Everything is going to be okay.”
Splurge on the latte.