Momentum I: Losses and Collateral Damage to Your Career

8 Jan

Today I want to talk about the place of momentum in building young careers.

There are a couple of tried-and-true methods for dealing with abrupt stops on your resume.  If you’re fired due to downsizing, you’re advised to fudge the dates to years (a job that ended in January 2012 becomes “2012”).  If you’re out for a long time due, particularly due to child-rearing, you’re supposed to populate that time period with activities that demonstrate transferable skills like leadership and management.  I have yet to see a post that tells you how to deal with the loss of momentum.

Four years ago, the s@#$ hit my own personal fan.  Within 12 months, I experienced (kid you not):

  • Death of a parent, close friend, to-be mother-in-law and two aunts, all prematurely,
  • Death of a grandparent from grief, and,
  • Exit of fiancee, who wanted to start fresh without baggage.

At that point, a background in classical drama became a blessing because, ye gods, Oedipus had it worse.

People understand grief: something like losing a parent is supposed to stop your heart for a while.  It’s stark, but clear.  We have well-wrought rituals for sending flowers and casseroles and eventually the person becomes okay.  What we don’t know how to handle is the collateral damage.

Because of all these losses, I

  • Moved home to take care of my father,
  • Ran the holidays and birthdays for younger sibs so that they could finish school,
  • Became the point person for lawyers, wills, and estates,
  • Turned in an incomplete thesis, dropping from summa to cum laude,
  • Got a low-stress, low-status job back in my hometown to be on hand in case there were additional complications, and,
  • Developed immune and emotional trauma disorders that messed up a few projects.

Looking at my resume from the last five years, it looks “fine”, just a little like “underperforming”.  But in a competitive industry, that’s damning with faint praise.  It reads like laziness.  People don’t believe that this sort of stuff happens to 24-year-olds, and most 24-year-olds for whom it does happen don’t end up with so much of the responsibility.

Next: how to offset the loss of momentum.

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