Use Unemployment Benefits as a Bridge to a New Career

Use Unemployment Benefits as a Bridge to a New Career


One day you have a job you love, the next day you are laid off and standing in the unemployment line wondering how you are going to survive without a job or any leads to employment.  You thought you had a stable career at the Chicago Tribune, even after the buy out and bankruptcy restructure or at least enough time to find a new job, then one day you walk into your manager's office and they bid you farewell.


Welcome to the job market where one never can be too comfortable in their job.  It's not just this economy, it happened to me when I worked in media years ago.  I was laid off all the time. Four jobs later, after a number of radio station buy outs and the elimination of entire sales departments, I was forced to evaluate where I was in my short lived career. 


On a late November day, standing at the street corner on south Michigan Avenue, with the bitterly cold wind blowing through my hair, I was fired for the fourth time in three years due to a lay off. This small radio rep firm I worked for was undercapitalized and couldn't afford to keep me. I was left with a two week severance pay and the keen suggestion to go to the unemployment office to buy some time until I found my next job. 


Up to this point I was riding high and passionate about every station format I sold. There was always another radio sales job out there for me.  But did I want to sell radio time again, just be laid off?  After four lay offs, I was outpacing my colleagues in lost jobs and I either had the worst luck in choosing the wrong station, was not very diligent in my choice of stations or I wasn't passionate enough to make this industry work for me.  I was burnt out on the radio industry at the ripe age of twenty-four.


 What was I going to do with my life and how would I make money?    At this point it was too late to try to go back and interview at the advertising agencies.  I was too old to get in the market.  Yes, I was too old at twenty-four.  Some industry's pass you by before you have a chance to figure it out.  I was more passionate about learning the sales process than making wise career choices.  


I was invited to a commercial real estate industry cocktail party by my then boyfriend who was a commercial real estate broker at a downtown firm.  I didn't even know what a commercial real estate broker was until I met him.  While at the buffet at the cocktail party, I met a man who was a former Heisman trophy winner and the general manager of the Chicago office for Coldwell Banker, a large national commercial real estate firm, which is now named CB Richard Ellis. 


The Heisman trophy winner gave me his card and committed to meeting me to discuss his business.   We met for coffee where he discussed his industry and suggested I speak to a number of companies in his field before I made any decision where to work.  He wanted me to learn as much as I could about the business before we spoke with me further.  In some ways, I don't think he thought I would want to work in his business, where few women survived.


He said I could use his name when calling these companies which helped me set up meetings. I met with numerous companies who had various levels of interest in hiring me; mostly not interested. CB liked me, but not enough to hire me.  I continued to meet people in the industry until I finally got a break at another large brokerage firm who wanted to hire me. Still interested in working at CB, I called them and told them I had a job offer from their competitor; they hired me on the spot.


Look at your unemployment benefits as a free loan to cover your expenses while you look for a new job or career.  Know when it's time to leave a career and look at other places to work.  Get out there and meet people.  Network like crazy to find an industry you think you'd like to pursue.  Use your time wisely by treating this time on unemployment like a job to consider a new career!



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