Planning for job evaporation and asking “What’s next?”
February 22, 2016
My jaw aches set in at dawn. When I close my eyes, my stomach’s flipping and turning like a bucking bronco. I think I know why.
My body is signalling: PAY ATTENTION.
By and large, I’ve been happy at my current gig. That’s shorthand for “I’m discontent with some things, I hate other things, and I’m fine with the rest of the things.” The scales tilt back and forth but always come back to neutral-positive.
This job’s been good for work-life balance in a way my previous gigs have not been, though, there are trade-offs. There always are.
My current set-up gives me autonomy and flexibility in exchange for being spare to the point of bare in the benefits department. It’s the first time I could make that choice and it’s because PiC and I have joined forces. I can now spread the risk and rewards across both our jobs, so I am not alone in providing all the income, all the care, and all the savings. This gig’s crap benefits don’t impact me the way they would have five years ago.
I took a calculated risk taking this job with this compensation package, for specific reasons, and for the most part it’s paid off: our money management has gotten better, my health has slowed its steep downward trajectory, and we even grew our family. These are not small things. These are all good life-changing things. Even if I harbor some disaffection over poor management, again, by and large, this has been a good career move for my life and my family.
It’s also somewhat less stable than your standard job in an at-will state. We renew my commitment every 12-18 months rather informally.
Financial State of the Union
As with all jobs, I maintain the perspective that this isn’t forever.
Every year, we sit down and discuss our budget, our savings plans and goals. After this year’s chat, PiC and I are facing something new. If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, there may not be a renewal of my gig in about 12 or so months.
I’ve seen company buyouts before. I’ve been through corporate buyouts, and small partnerships hitting the reef buyouts. I’m seeing some decisions that may be nothing, or may be the early warning signs to a buyout situation. We don’t know. We do know that it never goes smooth…
And thus: the tension.
What if this job is over a year from now?
What if I am allergic to a traditional workplace after having tasted the nectar of a flexible working arrangement? (Magic 8-ball says: odds are high)
What if the next jobs are full of politics, meetings, and bureaucratic crud? (Ugh, I hate playing office politics)
What if I don’t want to stay in this career path after this?
NOTE: Since I started writing this, I’ve gotten confirmation that my reading of the red flags was right. It’s not imminent but I would be wise to plan ahead, starting now!
What shall I do next?
A job loss would immediately halve our income and dramatically focus my waking and unsleeping hours on replacing that income. Not the early retirement anyone dreams of!
My Catastrophizing Catamaran takes flight and I’m rethinking our 7-year-plan to pay off the mortgage, look for a house, heck, even digging into our savings to buy a replacement car.
It all boils down to two main things to worry about: money and what’ll I do next in my career.
The money part
We have a nearly impressive pile of cash in CDs and savings accounts totaling 2 years of living expenses in cash-like accounts. My secondary goal this year was to pull half of those cash assets into dividend stocks. The market’s down right now, it’s a good time to buy.
With this moment of uncertainty, if there’s no job in a year, it might not be great to lock that cash up. We’ll still be fully investing in all our retirement accounts, but our stock portfolio may only get about 1/3 or 1/2 of the cash originally intended.
The job part
This part is more complicated and doesn’t have a firm conclusion yet.
Much as I would love to be one of those bloggers who finds herself transitioning from a job loss to blogging full-time for a great income, this isn’t that kind of blog, is it? I’ve been around these parts for on a decade, doing what I love, and it’s fulfilling but it’s not filling any coffers. At best, this hobby has paid for its costs but it certainly hasn’t bought me a donut. Not even a bag of donut holes. And any money I made was put aside for the dogs. Dogs before donuts!
For now, this is a labor of love, not an income stream because the writing only truly flows when it’s authentic and authentic me isn’t necessarily Ye Most Marketable.
Instead, I cultivate our mundane income streams: the rental, our dividend investing portfolio, and of course a day job. Except replacing that last isn’t really firing up my engines.
Beyond all other things, my career was my passion, for years. The weight of the world rested on my shoulders so I hustled with the best, I outpaced the tireless, I strove and I strove. With that awful responsibility, working a traditional job was the only thing I wanted to do. Entrepreneurship could take a flying leap. My parents had been entrepreneurs. They built, they innovated, they slogged, they toiled 365 days a week, 18 hours a day, for years. It ended abruptly, with no savings, because of a huge number of factors. The upshot of that shared experience and picking up their pieces was I got as far away from it as I could. I did perfectly fine for myself running away from my parents’ choices. “Fine” got us to a place where we could actually plan ahead for emergencies, taking them in stride when they hit, and even have fun.
Having tasted the nectar of freedom from a traditional office, particularly when this lifestyle preserves precious energy, I find myself never wanting to go back there, either.
I get so much more done when I dictate my schedule, don’t have to dress up for an office, and don’t waste time on a commute. Twitter serves as my water cooler. I can dip in for quick mental refreshers, get caught up on news, and keep in contact with the rest of the world. Who needs an office?
Lastly, I’m great at my job in my current industry but I’m at my role’s peak if I don’t want to make massive sacrifices of time on business meetings and travel for not much more money. Quick confession: Nope. Life is too valuable to trade “up” for minimally more money.
So, what’s that leave?
I’m honestly not sure. I’ve never been this uncertain of my professional path forward before. There’s always been some plan, harebrained though it might have been. At least this time it’s not fraught with nightmares. There’s some self imposed pressure to make this next step a good one, but that’s always been true.
My instincts are directing me to look away from this field and explore something new. It’s worth a try. It’s worth kicking around some ideas and seeing what sticks.
One of my skills is resume and cover letter review and editing, and career advising. This is only offered on a highly selective basis but, to date, every single one of my advising sessions and rewritten resumes have borne fruit. For one friend, it spawned two promotions and a $10,000 raise with each. For another friend, lessons in negotiation resulted in 2 promotions and three raises. For the last, three interviews, two job offers, one perfect job. Not a bad track record but the sample size is small.
Another thing I’m pretty darn good at is money management. Again, for a select few, I’ve served as a financial adviser with all the requisite warnings that I’m not a licensed professional. I can only promise that I take this service very seriously and the suggestions and recommendations I make are what I would do for myself if I were in their shoes.
Could I hang my shingle out for either of these things? Sure! But the question is: is there enough of a demand that it would be a sustainable, worthwhile, pursuit? I’ve had a few people say in passing they’d pay for either one of those services but not enough to establish a strong demand.
I’ll keep testing ideas and testing the waters. Something will pop out.
What would you do if your job were over in a year? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Never wanted to do?
Self assessments always ask “What would your friends say you’re great at?” I don’t know. What would you call out as my employable strengths?