The Gen X Dilemma: Starting Over

Four months ago, I quit my job. Was it a spontaneous decision? No. It had been brewing for almost three years.

How did it happen?

One particular day, a small event drove me to pull the trigger. So small, that I can’t even remember the reason; but it was strong enough for me to realize that the person sitting at my desk, wearing my clothes and doing my job, was not me.

I had turned into a person I did not like and missed the person I used to be. I needed to reconnect with my old self. I needed a dynamic environment, constantly evolving and growing; I needed something engaging and dare I say, fun. I felt like a millennial trapped in a Gen X body…

I had lost the thrill of coming to work, to climb another mountain, overcome another challenge, like I had done many times before. It was time to stop and find myself. I knew I was somewhere under the invisible lead mantle I was carrying.

But this time, I had to do something. I called my husband to let him know that I decided to resign. While discussing my options with him, like I had done many times before, he mentioned that it would be hard to find a new position while unemployed. Of course I argued (not sure if to convince him or myself): “… we are in America! I have “transposable skills” and time off will not hurt my career.” I rambled on and on “… you know I started my life as an engineer doing long term mining planning, moved to environmental planning and remediation in mines, and now I lead a worldwide Kidnap and Ransom (KR) portfolio ….that, my friend, is the example of transposable skills. It’s time I find my dream job, it will not be hard.”

I moved to the United States in 1999, and one thing that always caught me off guard during interviews was the question “what is your dream?” Those of you born in developing countries know that there is no dream; you work hard in whatever job you land, and see how far you go. After 18 years in the US, I’ve finally started to want this illusive “dream job”. For me, this means a place where I can be creative, engaging, inspiring, and practice my best ability: problem solving.

My husband and I had had the same conversation so many times but I am sure he knew this time I was different, so he said “do what you need to do, I support your decision…” and so I drafted my resignation letter.

Do I regret it?

At the end of the day no. I am confident that I did the right thing. I feel light, free and full of energy. I needed the time off to reconnect with myself. Bring on the mountains! Mount Kilimanjaro looks like a puy (a mining engineer never forgets his/her origin) from where I stand now.

There are times, however, that I resent leaving the stable career I worked so hard to establish. I miss my portfolio, my team, my clients and my successful career. Similarly, I am not enjoying my impending loss of Global Services status and my diminished bank account.

What is next?

I armed myself with the courage to start searching for my dream job. Step one, updating the famous LinkedIn profile. Then reality hits, what do I write? Soul searching? Playing hide and seek with old me? So many options…

I know there are innumerable articles about what to write when you are unemployed, or should I say, on a sabbatical? In my case I wrote Business Owner, as I am providing insurance consulting services to several companies in Brazil. But I could also have written about the second job I have had for the last XX years (Not giving out my age!)

CEO of Never Stop, a one-person company created to serve my family. The description of my most recent accomplishments would read something like this:

  • Contributed to the development of three superb persons/professionals, a lawyer, a marketing analyst, and an awesome 10th grade student. (aka: parenting three strong and accomplished young women)
  • Enabling a Chief Data Officer to arrive promptly at work by procuring safe and reliable transportation, saving US $10,000 per year for the last 11 years. (aka: Driving spouse to and from the airport for weekly cross-country commute)
  • Engaging subcontractors to design and execute improvements of building, taking into consideration ROI. (aka: Planning a home remodel)
  • Engaging architect and contractors, evaluating bids and selecting remodeling priorities within budget. (aka: executing on said remodel)
  • Procuring building materials through extensive research and suppliers to execute project within allocated budget. (aka: buying construction materials online and in stores for the best prices, again for said remodel)
  • Creating and leading the Town’s Friendship Club. (aka: it’s a friendship club…)
  • And the list goes on…

These tasks were challenging, and in many cases, required the use of knowledge learned from my many years of education, and a high dose of patience, communication and leadership skills. Despite these tasks being executed extremely well, they will not help me find my dream job. Therefore, business owner providing consulting services seems more dignified.

With the LinkedIn profile updated, all I needed was to apply for the positions I felt confident I could perform really well and I would have many choices to pick from.

Was that a challenge?

Yes, though not in the ways I had expected, given my past experience.

First hurdle: Decipher what the employers are looking for. Some of the descriptions not even Superman or Wonder Women could perform. Why wasn’t I born a Vulcan? It seems like a mindmeld may be the only way to find out what they want.

I think back to when the tables were turned and I was the employer, looking to grow my team. While working working in the insurance industry, I wrote concise list of tasks I needed a person to perform. When reviewing resumes received, my goal was to get answers to the following questions:

  1. What are his/her core abilities and can this person perform the tasks related to the jobs
  2. Is this person committed to learning and doing a good job?
  3. Is this person a job hopper?

When I found a resume that matched what I needed in terms of skills and core abilities, and had a positive response for questions 1 and 2 (Question 3 was only used if I felt the responses to the other questions were “iffy”), I would bring them in for an interview for the sole purpose of answering three questions:

  1. Is the resume truthful?
  2. Is this person really intelligent?
  3. Can this person fit/adapt to my group’s dynamic?

This method always yielded excellent hires. Because it worked well and was such a logical method, I assumed that most recruiters would use a similar system. Apparently, I was wrong.

Second hurdle: Applying for jobs and never hearing back. And when I would hear back, it was always something like: “your resume is impressive, but we decided to go in another direction.” or “It was not the right fit.” What does that even mean? If it was that impressive, why aren’t you in interested?

Rather than looking at me as a seasoned and creative professional, I believe recruiters look at my resume and think: “… she only knows KR insurance…”. If I were in the medical field, this specialty would be equivalent to being a specialist in the right corner of the left eye. But that does not make one less of an ophthalmologist or a doctor.

Last hurdle: Ask for recommendations and introductions on LinkedIn. How can you really recommend someone you met in one or two meetings? Moreover, how can the recruiter read, review and validate the recommendations of so many job seekers? I find it renders that tool somewhat ineffective.

And now what?

After four months of deciphering, applying, and asking for recommendations and introductions, I have concluded that either prospective employers use a completely different method of vetting resumes (a system that I clearly don’t thrive in), or I was fooled by the idea of “transposable skills.”

What’s my next hurdle: Finding a new career as a hard-working professional who is starting over after leaving a specialized career. I’ll let you know when I find out how.