I am currently in a job transition. However, this time, before I jump back into the fold, I’ve decided to take a breather from corporate HR. It’s been a new and enlightening experience for me. This is the first time since 1996 I’ve had the opportunity to take time between full-time jobs. That’s a mighty, mighty long time.
Interestingly, although I’ve chosen to take some time, I typically don’t do “limbo” well. I’m a creature of habit in many regards. For example, I was at my last job for 7 years. The job before that 10 years. Other examples? When a McDonald’s employee who served me coffee every day for 2 years was no longer there – it stunk! Who else knew I was “small coffee, two Splendas”? When my past company ran out of Coke Zero for a week…the horror.
My point is, even silly transitions can throw you into limbo.
My definition of limbo is the period of time when you are either a) struggling with or b) waiting for a decision.
- Struggling with a decision is usually self-imposed angst, i.e. “Should I take my bonus and pay down the mortgage or should I spend that money on my child who must go to cheer camp to be on the team?”
- Waiting for a decision is when someone else hijacks your time because their decision-making skills stink, i.e. “Sorry Jane Employee, the CEO still hasn’t made a decision on benefit premiums costs, ’til then we are in limbo.”
But here is the deal – limbo, especially due to job transition, can be good. At the very least, endured. It is not lost on me that it can be terrifying going through limbo when you don’t know where your next check is coming from. But even that situation does not change the fact that limbo is occurring…not will occur, rather is occurring.
So, here are some things I’ve discovered that have helped me through my current limbo (which happens to be job related).
- Assign Positive Intent. This is pretty big. When you think about your last gig – think of the good. When you think about the new adventure – think of the positive. If some people you used to hang with can’t call you back – don’t take it personally. They are likely not intentionally ignoring you. Even if they are, nothing good comes from assigning negative intent. IF you are having trouble with this – ask for help.
- Get up every day at your “normal” time. Or hell, since you don’t have to be at the office by 8am, sleep in a few hours. Whatever you decide is cool, just get up at that same time every day. If you don’t, you’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll be sleeping 13 hours a night, taking long intermittent naps, or getting up at 3am to watch 10 episodes of The Wire. Sorry, but this doesn’t lead to anything good and will likely exacerbate depression.
- Determine who your advocates are. You do have advocates. When you are in limbo, you may not feel you do. The ones that call you to check in, they are your advocates. People you helped, they are your advocates. Leaders you did great work for, they are (typically) your advocates. Find them, and be sure you connect with them regularly.
- Get new email, calendar, and contacts systems up pronto! If you don’t, your life will feel bizarre. Being off the social media grid for a while is good – being completely off the grid is nuts.
- Talk to friends who have nothing to do with work related activities regularly. For real. Tell them you are in limbo, need human interaction, and do they mind a few calls a week. Honestly, most will oblige happily! All of mine have. Get over feeling embarrassed if it’s a friend you lost touch with. The worst thing they can say is “no” and at least you’ve identified a non-advocate.
- Get specific with what you ideally want to do now. How often do you get a “refresh”? Don’t waste this opportunity.
- Read blogs, books, attend webinars, etc., that educate you on that one thing.
- Swing some kettlebells. Exercise 15 mins a day (or more). For quick workouts download Aaptiv. It’s awesome.
There you go. And remember, if you can get through the disappearance of the McRib, you can get through this.
Dawn Burke, VP of Talent Consulting at Kinetix and founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker, and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/recruiting/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, with past gigs including a foundational role as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.
Most importantly: She is addicted to TV, knows most of the lyrics to Hamilton and West Side Story, loves to cry at movies (check out Cinema Paradiso for a cry fest!), thinks wine, a wheel of Brie and Milk Duds make a well-balanced dinner, and sings in her car daily. Her husband and cat are the Yin to her Yang.