I knew before I entered the room that this meeting would change my life. How ironic it was that just when I was getting my groove back--that I would face a lay-off. Seven years before that life altering day, the company I had worked for merged to join forces in order that both could survive in the global marketplace--a familiar scenario these days. I relocated to the US Headquarters site and was excited about working for a multi-billion dollar company.
My prior 25 years of HR experience had always been in medium sized businesses. Being in my 50's, I didn't want to change employers again. With 5,000 people on the US site alone, I could continue to grow by changing positions within the company. It didn't work out that way. When the companies merged, I supported a Vice President who I sensed right from the very beginning—didn't like me.
Perhaps he didn't like anyone in HR telling him what he could or couldn't do; maybe it was because I was a woman; or maybe I simply reminded him of a person he didn't like. I have recently recognized that I spent most of my life being a people pleaser. I did whatever I could to be the perfect person so that my parents, husband, friends, kids and employers would like me. Now I met my match--it seemed no matter what I did, I couldn't "win" this VP over. After the merger, I quickly realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore.
One of the things I enjoyed about working in a smaller company was that as the Head of HR—if I saw a need and could make the change. Now working in such a large company—my power was defined as that of "influence." With 50,000 employees, I felt my influencing powers were the size of a grain of salt. The months and years of selling and implementing initiatives I secretly didn't support and trying to gain skills I didn't have, eventually made a toll on me. Then one day, a colleague remarked that I looked like an abused puppy.
Ouch that hurt--but I knew it was true. It was my wake-up call. For the next several months, I began to figure out what had happened to me. I made a decision to look outside the company for another job. But in the meantime I built up my self-esteem and rediscovered who Jane really was. Then the fatal day--a lay-off.
I went through the usual emotions, but once the shock wore off, I realized it was a gift. I was now free to be me. After my involuntary retirement, I quickly followed my dream to become a life coach. Now instead of being an abused puppy, people comment about my energy and positive outlook. Do I have stress? You bet—but it's exhilarating and exciting and hardly feels like "work." Oh, I forgot to mention—I also followed another dream—to move to a warmer climate.
Within 12 months of my last day at that company, I moved to Asheville. I know my experience is shared by many others—how often do you hear "Corporate America" referenced in a less than positive tone? Several of my coaching clients have shared they are numb, they don't know their goals and they don't have a vision for the future. By trying too hard to make a bad relationship work—whether it is a marriage or work situation, we swallow our true feelings. Over an extended period of time, the good feelings get buried too—creating a zombie-like existence.
If this sounds like you, what can you do? Wake up - Start observing what is happening around you. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Jump up—Tune in to your heart. What dreams have you buried? Pay attention to what brings you joy.
Step up - A dream without action is just a wish. Take one manageable step towards a life that brings you joy and excitement.