Coping with the ups and downs of being in transition

In the months since my former employer and I parted ways due to the closure of the site where I worked, there have certainly been some highs and lows.

We knew this was the path that awaited us. Photo credit flickr user Sunnyswede.

My then-colleagues and I were all forewarned of the impending emotional rollercoaster when the fate of our site was announced. Counseling was made available to us, and we’ve supported each other in various ways ever since. Still, it’s been a toll on our collective psyches, unquestionably. The worst part, for me, has been the knowledge that I’m competing with former colleagues for positions. I guess this is really nothing new—we’re always competing against our coworkers. This is especially true around performance review time, and further amplified if there’s a forced distribution for ratings. Now, however, the stakes are particularly high. There’s no perfect outcome, it seems. If they get the job, you’re left in the cold. If you get the job, you’re happy, but there’s still some associated survivor guilt. But maybe that’s just me. We were all put in the same boat. I prefer to think that we’re all wishing the best for everyone, including ourselves. I don’t believe anyone would deliberately sabotage a former colleague’s chance of success to secure their next position. Okay, don’t get me wrong. I’m no Pollyanna—although I do bear a striking resemblance to Hayley Mills (…he said, exposing his age demographic—and a need for some form of corrective eyewear).

Luckily, none of us has had to resort to cannibalism—yet.

The best part has been the ability to reflect and decompress—to recharge my batteries while trying to decide what I want to do next. I’ve been engaged in professional development activities (like project management training), networking meetings of various kinds, and working with an outplacement agency. I’m just trying to stay active—physically and mentally. I’m having a great time contributing to this blog. As a result, I’ve been able to get to know some terrific and talented people that I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise. If you find yourself in a similar period of transition, I really feel for you. If you have the luxury, some time for self-reflection can be very valuable. Take a mental inventory of what you want to find or avoid in your next position. I hope you’ll rediscover, as I have, that you have an abundance of transferable skills, and you can envision a fulfilling position in many fields. The chorus of advice for people in transition is to use this time to find your dream job. Well, my last job was a dream job. But, really, that’s not a problem. You see, I believe I have more than one dream…and I hope you’ll find that you do, too.

Author: Glen Ernst

Chemistry and pharma researcher and manager. Lifelong passion for science, the arts and language. Blogger for CENtral Science, also blogging as The Scientist Next Door. LinkedIn:

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  1. Survivor guilt is widely recognized in psycological circles. You sill be far from alone if you feel it after getting a job. I voluntarily left my employer two years after mass layoffs that hit all parts of the company including R&D. Some of my former coworkers were still unemployed when I changed jobs. I certainly felt guilty even though my former coworkers did not meet the requirements for my new job.

    Project management is becoming a profession itself, not just a job skill. It will be the subject of one of my upcoming ACS Career Blogs.

  2. Glen, that was a great meditation on the mixed feelings of having this time to reflect. I’ve read that layoffs are often more stressful on the employees who stay at the firm. The colleagues who have to leave the company have no choice but to move on, while the ones who stay dwell on it. But then again, if they closed the whole operation, that may not be much of a comfort. Still, it shows the value in looking forward with an open mind – as you are doing – rather than waiting for the ax to fall.

  3. Since I was let go from my company, it has been very stressful and difficult to move forward. The relationship between your spouse, because you’re relying on their income and your siblings asking when will you get your next job is very painful mentally. It’s tough on a single income.

    I am in the process of finding the job I want to do and throwing a broad net which can use my transferable skills. To touch on the transferable skills, you can say you have this to offer, but so does the other thousands of applicants. You can only come up with a limited ways to state how your experience can help a company. Other factors include the lack of experience you have for your ‘Dream Job”. We are caught in a catch 22 situation…how can we gain the experience if no one will take you on. Networking may help in some cases, for me personally, I have hit the brick wall many times.

    For someone with my experience, I thought my skills would be very valuable to certain sectors of industry I am interested, but trying to get the foot in the door is the problem. If I was to take a a course/training, what would be the chances of getting the job…? What about the Financial burden, calling recruiters (if you can find the right ones) , searching on the job boards (perhaps a waste of time because they are unreliable). I am still trying to see the light at the end of my tunnel…

  4. Great piece, Glen! Kudos to you for keeping your chin up during this process. I think, most of us chemists tend to over-work ourselves to the point where there really is no room for introspection on a regular basis. I was very inspired by this given the following that happened recently.
    I am currently a post-doc and am in the market trying to find suitable positions. Another post-doc in our lab. who started around the same time I did, was recently hired by a medium-sized pharma company. The catch: I recommended him for the position, while applying for the same job myself. Although, I haven’t heard back from the company yet, it has been such a monster of a couple of weeks. In hind-sight though (the kind of sight we all like:)), I would probably do it all over again.


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