Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Baby Steps…life after losing your job

Square peg, round hole.

That sums up how I felt day one at my previous employer. Knew it the first day. Figured I could beat it. Felt bullish! After all, I had conquered the franchise/dealer world. This would be piece of cake.

Lasted 15 months. 9 of them hell. Couldn’t get a handle on the client. Despite my best efforts. Challenges with the internal team in terms of getting them on side. Roles duplicated and not clearly defined. I was in a marathon and the company was running sprints.

It was uncomfortable. But there was learning. Lots of it. Steep learning curve. Very steep! Unfortunately the learning didn't help with the work situation, but it led to a brave new world for me...

It began with Alan Kay of the Glassgow Group http://www.glasgrp.com/ . He was brought in to lead a series of cross department training sessions. How to implement change within an organization. Nothing new here. What was new to me was the approach: breaking down the goal into smaller ‘baby steps’. Won't get into the details, probably mess them up. Check it out for yourself. My takeaway:

  • Define the goal (s) you would like to accomplish
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, rank where you currently stand on each one
  • Then ask the question, “What would it take to move to a 10?”

The answers are the ‘baby steps’.

What appealed to me most though was focusing on solutions. Never liked 'analyzing a problem to death'. Negative energy! Solution-approach: positive energy! Felt right for me. Embraced it. Then forgot about it.

Layoff in August '08 galvanized me into action. But not until I had spent months playing the blame game.

Bad timing. Not only were agencies holding off on hiring, most of the ones I wanted to work for were downsizing. And crazy me, I wanted to work in the automotive category based on my previous experience!

Blamed everyone and everything. “Poor me”.

Finally in early December a friend (thank you EI and I don’t mean Employment Insurance) suggested I participate in a teleconference hosted by Jack Canfield of ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ fame http://jackcanfield.com/intro_audio_thankyou. It was the catalyst I needed to get going again.

And once I added the ‘baby steps’ process, positive things started to happen.

Set my goal: work. Simple, I was unemployed.

Rank: about 4 out of 10. Maybe even lower. Middle age ad guy looking for work in the advertising business north of Toronto as we sink into recession! Tons of experience though, smiles a lot and likes selling.

“What would it take to get to a 8?” OK, had to be realistic.

First step, decided I wanted to work with a small firm with direct contact with Creative and clients.

Second step, wanted to be close to home. Looked to Barrie.

Third step, contacted all the ad agencies and design firms in Barrie. Cold called them actually.

Got response from 2. One was interested and ‘put me on file’. Next.

The other was interested but was busy with work. Understood that. The mad rush to complete work before the end-of-the year. Set up a meeting for early January.

And after a 3 week courtship of emails, telephone conference calls and late afternoon meetings at the Williams Coffee Pub in Barrie, we closed the deal. Result: started working on new business with alteredperceptioninc on January 27. Check them out at http://www.alteredperceptioninc.com/. They do great work and I am excited to be working with them. I know, I know…shameless self promotion :)

And the best part of the experience? I blog about it. Now, that will get me to a '10'

Goals. Baby Steps. Positive Energy. Moving forward. The story continues…


  1. Fantastic, Michael! I actually had a similar experience that I posted about in LinkedIn. (see below)
    But I agree with the 'baby steps' concept. In fact the first step I took a while ago was to write down a vision statement for myself - it's amazing how much difference an idea can make, once you have it down on paper :-)

    Wishing you the very best in your new job, your career and in life! Keep blogging!
    regards - archita
    Dr. Banerji - Couldn't agree more with you! I recently used a not-so-traditional idea, to get back into the Marketing domain. So the 'product' I was trying to market was me, as a Marketing professional. Mind you, I had the basics in place - an MBA in Marketing and work experience early in my career in Mkt. However recent circumstances saw me in a Project Manager role, often working extensively with IT. While I still worked on Business initiatives, the perception was that I was 'IT' (can't write a line of code to save my life!)

    Here's what I did before starting to apply for positions (within my current company): I started to write a blog to show that I understand the basics of Marketing. I did not offer any 'expert' advice, but in stead wrote about my experiences as a consumer, the oh-so-important factor in a Marketer's life :-) Based on some sound advice from a friend, I named my blog to aid retention & recall. Finally, I added a line in my resume: "Author, www.achtung-bitte.blogspot.com , blog on a consumer’s insights, as the target of marketing activities".

    Soon, I heard back on a position I had applied for, reporting to a VP for a Sr. Consultant role (so, not a fresher position!). Key point: 2 of the 3 senior Managers who interviewed me, remembered not only that I blog, but also the *name* of my blog :-). I am sure I was judged on parameters other than simply the blog, but it proved to be a great point for conversation - and a solid validation of my ideas!

    I am happy to report that I did get the job! And was pleasantly surprised recently to get enthusiastic support from my manager, when I used a Mind map to present some ideas, versus a powerpoint or linear list. This is just the beginning, I know - but I do try to bear the point you've made in mind at all times!
    regards - Archita Dasgupta

  2. I love your comments. Wow! It is important to remember that the first step toward achieving goals is to write them down first. Your comments and article have given me an idea for my next blog post. Thank you.

  3. Hi Chris, thanks for the inspiration! Great reminder about baby steps (patience, patience, patience is my 2009 mantra lol).

    Also find writing down my currrent goal on a post-it note (and target date) helps with visualizing the goal/dream to become reality. Sticking the post-it note on my bathroom mirror reminds me when I wake up every morning what I am working towards :)

    All the best with your career, and continued success in life Chris!!


  4. Hi Angela:

    Thanks for your comments. And great suggestion about the post it notes. I am setting up a bulletin board in my office that I call my visualization board. Putting up pictures to inspire me.

  5. Thanks so much Chris for your reply ... first time I have made a comment on a blog so it's great to see a personal reply!!

    I haven't included pictures yet (thanks for the reminder) ... and will do so shortly (am also trying to eliminate the word 'but' from my vocabulary in 2009).

    Am in sales, so will add your inspiring blog now to my delicious bookmarks to read on a weekly basis.

    btw, I posted my LinkedIn address above incorrectly ... here is correct one below. If you want to add me to your network, feel free to send an invite.

    Have a great rest of week Chris!



  6. Hi Angela. WOW! What a great treat meeting you at the twitter event Thursday night. Hey, this social media thing really works :)


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