Six Lessons Learned in 2016

“What’s your dream job?”  A friend asked me in early 2016.

“I have my dream job,” I answered.

Just about a week later, the new boss dropped in from D.C. and delivered pink slips to our entire Denver team, and in a flash my dream job was gone.

That about sums up the year that was 2016. As jarring as a layoff can be, it provides a rare opportunity to gain perspective and reflect, which I have done…in spades. As the 2016 calendar hurries to an end, here are a few takeaways from my unexpected quest to find my dream job.

  1. Who’s got your back? Seriously, who will be there for you when you need them? Professionally, I was lucky enough (er, unlucky enough?) to have five colleagues who were in the same boat with me. Day-in and day-out, we supported each other reviewing resumes, sharing job listings, proofing websites, eating queso, listening to the occasional profanity-laced rant, and toasting to the future, whatever it might hold. Personally, I couldn’t have made it through this year without the unwavering support of countless family and friends. To each of you who has been there for me, rooting for me, encouraging me to be bold and brave, thank you. It means more than you will ever know.
  2. Cut your overhead. The financial implications of a layoff can leave a family in dire straits. A serious look at your monthly income and expenses should be your first order of business. Identify where you might be able to cut expenses and begin trimming out the extras immediately. For us, child care expenses were the first to go, but there are other little things that start to add up like ordering dinner in, leisure travel, and shopping to name a few. Cutting overhead is best paired with a disciplined approach to saving, which I recommend starting early in your career. Over the years as my income rose, I’ve saved the income that I didn’t need for day-to-day expenses, raises and bonuses in particular. Ostensibly, that was to support my retirement plan, but working with a financial planner, I have built up a rainy day fund, which allows me to access my savings without the penalty of dipping into my retirement accounts. Keep in mind, this is only a temporary situation. You will find a new job eventually.
  3. The hustle is real. Networking, combing job boards, talking to a mentor, meeting a colleague for coffee, applications, interviews, lining up part-time work to help makes ends meet, volunteering, reworking your resume, updating LinkedIn, blogging, continuing education, reworking your resume again, checking in with your friends, and finding a tiny spark of inspiration to get you through the week are all part of the job seeker hustle. It can be exhausting, but it’s also vital to your success and extremely fulfilling. This time gave me the chance to reconnect with many former colleagues, with whom I had lost touch over the years. Commit to weekly goals outside of submitting resumes online. Try to attend events IRL at least a couple of times a month. In order to succeed you must do the job seeker hustle. Trust, this is not a spectator’s sport.
  4. Self-care. Between raising two tiny humans and working all. the. time. Where does one find time to take care of herself? Well, it was just not happening. So, with a glut of extra time on my hands, it was time to recommit to me! Starting with jogging around the neighborhood with the baby in the stroller over the summer, then joining a new gym (that includes child care!) in the fall, I was off to the races. Getting back in shape has been essential to both my mental and physical health. There is plenty of work yet to be done, but it feels good to know that my commitment to my own health and wellness is not just a passing fad as the calendar turns over to a new year.
  5. If you can’t find your dream job, create it. Surely, you’ve read this far because you are DYING to know where I found my dream job. The bad news is, I didn’t find my dream job working full-time at a great company with flexible hours, stock options and amazing benefits, even though that is the narrative that has been drilled into my head about what a “good job” looks like. The good news is, my dream job was staring me right in the face. I’ve spent my entire career “renting” my time and talent to others so they could realize their dreams. Now it is time to realize my dreams, being an entrepreneur and working for myself. After a few consulting projects came my way as a result of my relentless commitment to the hustle, I’ve decided to set out on my own as an independent communications consultant. I’ve never been a risk-taker, which is why I’ve always fallen for the “good job” narrative. So wish me luck, and let me know if you have any communications needs, as I set out to build my dream job from the ground up.
  6. Be grateful. I’m only half-kidding when I tell people I’m just trying to make it out of 2016 alive. This has been a difficult year for so many people, on so many levels. And yes, losing my job was a tough pill to swallow, but it pales in comparison to so many of the circumstances that others are facing. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to step back and gain a bit of perspective about what is truly important in this life. At the top of that list is the health and happiness of my family. I’m grateful to spend more time with my kiddos as my son started Kindergarten in the fall and my toddler daughter destroys everything in her wake, as she explores and expands her vocabulary daily.

Here’s to health and happiness in 2017. And don’t let the door hit you on your way out, 2016.

It’s Award Season

It’s award season, and it’s always an honor to be recognized for both personal achievement and creative excellence by my peers. Last month, the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) recognized me with a Horizon Leadership Award for contributions I made to the 2015 Fall Conference Planning Committee. The 2015 Fall Conference was the highest rated program to date, which would not have been possible without the contributions and collaboration of the entire conference committee.

Last week, at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Colorado Chapter’s annual Gold Pick Awards ceremony, the collective work of the Farm Credit national communications team and our agency partners was recognized with the highest honor of Gold Pick in three categories – external websites, online videos and media relations. The microsite, the Farm Credit 100 essence video and media relations for the Salute to Farmer Veterans event were the winning projects in their respective categories.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, and to all involved in bringing these projects to life!

Enterprise Content Strategy

Whether your key stakeholders include employees, customers, policy makers or prospects, each has a unique set of information needs. Keeping them all informed requires a customized content strategy, delivered across multiple communications channels. I created and implemented a multi-channel content strategy for a nationwide network of cooperatives, delivering timely and relevant information to all of the organization’s key stakeholder groups.

Brand Development

When a decentralized cooperative network is seeking brand alignment, is there a better time to drive adoption than during the organization’s centennial year? Quite simply, no. I directed a complete corporate brand standards update, including the introduction of guidelines on the centennial brand in addition to multiple program brands.

Internal Communications

The Brand Asset & Resource Network (BARN) was developed to solve a 100 year old internal communications challenge for the Farm Credit System – how to communicate more consistently across all markets. The decentralized network of cooperatives needed one place to access and customize branded assets for local use. I led the project from concept to implementation, identifying a vendor, creating technical requirements, building out a suite of customizable assets, developing an organizational structure and creating processes for ongoing maintenance.