This situation sucks. I’m sorry. Thanks for sharing some haunting lessons here, which I hope other readers will take to heart.
Let me focus for the moment on the immediate priority — building your network. I had a few thoughts while reading your post:
- Who can you ask for help? Could be a family member, a friend, a gym buddy. Unless you’ve been living in your office for the last 20 years, you have people in your life. It’s rare for a person to have no one. Having friends to emotionally lean on can be a lifesaver when times get tough, even if they can’t immediately help you solve your problem.
- “If your company needs help with something, perhaps I could be your guy?” People are too busy to do your homework for you, so you’ll have to be more proactive than that. What skills do you have that can transfer elsewhere, and what proof do you have? Doesn’t have to be directly associated with your previous career. Maybe you have experiences from volunteering or hobbies. Worse comes to worse, there’s always classes or certifications which are fairly easy to acquire that can open doors to you.
- Back to point #1: you have connections, even if you haven’t nurtured them in 20 years. Talk to your friends, talk to THEIR friends, reach out to alumni at your alma maters. Take people to coffee. If you’re relying on luck and resume scanning machines, you’re gonna have a bad time. I never got anywhere with online job search engines. All my best jobs came from coffee dates, friends, and/or conferences. A lot of people will hire someone they like and trust, even if the new hire don’t have applicable experience. It comes down to the relationship.
- Want specifics on how to do all the above? There’s a really smart guy named Ramit Sethi who writes about something he calls “natural networking” — or, how to make friends with important people and network your way into the best jobs. I highly recommend you read everything he’s written online about this topic.
Good luck. This situation has got to be a real gut punch, but you have options.