By: Revanche

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…

Captain Reynolds: How come 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? 

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and Lively Chicken*

24 Responses to “Planning for job evaporation and asking “What’s next?””

  1. Kris says:

    If you have a year to figure it out, how about testing the waters on hanging your shingle to a) see if it’s what you really want to do and b) if there’s demand. Give it 6 months, small scale – Good to do it at a time when the calendar isn’t making it urgent quite yet. Just a thought, anyhow – given that you have a lower-risk time to test it in before the job potentially ends.

    • Revanche says:

      We’re approximating a year, I figure it’s a nice round number that is relatively realistic so that I can focus more on figuring out what I can do and less on worrying about the money.

  2. Leigh says:

    I’m worried I bit off more than I should have with grad school while working and trying to figure out my plan for September. Since I’m not necessarily planning on staying at my job next year, I have been stockpiling cash instead of making extra mortgage payments. I plan on using my summer off to work on making some decisions about my path forward.

    Could you guys live off of PiC’s income for a bit while you experiment with things? Is that something you’d be willing to try?
    Leigh recently posted…How I Use MintMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Feels like we’re semi in the same boat!

      If I weren’t also supporting my family, I think we could swing that, but they eat up a lot of reserves :/ That uncertainty makes me nervous about relying solely on one income, plus if it doesn’t work out and I need to look for a job, it could take a long time to find a good one in my field.

  3. SP says:

    At this point, I honestly don’t know. I like my job, but if it went away, getting a similar one might be geographically inconvenient (longer commute). I would probably look for a similar one that used a subset of the skills I use, and the job would be less interesting and possibly pay slightly less? There is not a great option that is obvious to me, but I could figure it out. I also have half-considered the idea retraining in a more versatile technical skill (i.e. programming), but I honestly think I’m too old for that crap. Not literally, but I just don’t have the hunger to start from near-scratch on that path. My husband is in a similar boat.

    I do find you give very sensible advice in general, with a strength in career / management related stuff, and would be a good in an “ask a manager” type job where she gives advice and occasional resume edits. You’d need your own spin, but this is more just to say I think you’d be good at that type of thing!
    SP recently posted…January Highlights / February PlansMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      I never thought there’d be a downside to holding your just about ideal job, but the fact it might go away is a pretty big one!

      Thanks for the weigh in, I appreciate it! I don’t want to compete with Alison but I suspect there’s probably a bit more market for that stuff than just she can handle. I’d have to hope, anyway.

    • NZ Muse says:

      Agree with SP. You’re like a fairy godmother with all things advice (and career stuff is probably the most marketable type of advice too?)

      I’ve been thinking a little about this kind of stuff. Like the next step up would be into more project management/strategy and i just don’t think I’ll enjoy it as much as the doing. There is nothing else I really want to do (well lots of things I think would be great fun but unrealistic, like book publishing, working at a record label, similarly creative/artsy type industry things that would be hard to get, unstable and low paid). Although I am pondering indulging my interest in cities and transport and growth and maybe looking into something more planning/council-y. Also I love real estate but I cannot imagine enjoying working in the industry.

      “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.” YES. YES. YES.
      NZ Muse recently posted…The best money I’ve spent latelyMy Profile

      • Revanche says:

        That’s the most flattering description of me ever!

        I’m not sure whether it was a learned preference or a natural one but I tend to waver between liking doing the job itself and managing it instead. And yes, there are quite a few industries I may be interested in but wouldn’t want to work in, real estate’s a prime example of that!

      • Femme says:

        Agreed with both! I’d try it out since you have the finances to support yourself for a couple years. If after year one it’s not moving fast enough, you’d still have time.

        I hope I didn’t miss something, but is there any chance you could find a similar remote position? I’m sure you’ve already thought of that, but thought I’d throw it out there.
        Femme recently posted…Cheap and Free Tax Preparation Options (Without DIYing It!)My Profile

  4. I try not to play the what if game too much because it just leads to worry. If I’m doing everything small on a day to day basis to take care of myself and my finances, the rest works itself out.

  5. I can’t handle the What If game. If I lose this job, we’re screwed. I might be able to handle part-time work. Maybe. Certainly not full-time. And I have no idea what field I’d do PT in.

    I’m sorry this stress is upon you. Any chance the rental will supplement your income any? Yeah, you could probably make this blog profitable, but you might grow to hate it. I worry about that sometimes, in my current search to up the profits a bit. Keep an eye out at FinCon (assuming that’s still in the financial cards) and see what you see. Worst case scenario maybe Mom and I can fit a cot in our hotel room? I dunno.

    You have resources which are good. While you want to touch as little as possible, two years’ expenses is quite a bit of breathing room. In case you did want to try to build up a business from home. Because I agree that you going into an office every day — or maybe even every other day — could tank your health. How much money, exactly, is that worth? (Especially with potential extra medical expenses as things slide down.)
    Abigail @ipickuppennies recently posted…Why we’re quitting CostcoMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      It’s not GOOD for me, but like I said to Tonya, my brain always wants to be working at something so I have to feed it or it gets angry. Angry angry brain.

      I’ve had some critiques of the blog that are great advice and I’m betting would make it profitable but would so fundamentally change that nature of it that I’m not sure I’d want to be its friend in the end. Maybe. Or maybe I just don’t want to change. That’s also a possibility.

      Hm, I hadn’t considered cancelling just yet because it might be worthwhile in the way of professional development, but I’ll have to focus on making it a miles and points paid trip. I’ve done that before and I can do it again.

      2 years is a bare minimum of breathing room for me – the last time I was between jobs, my health wasn’t this crap (so I wasn’t as picky) and it still took almost a year to get a new job. Now between the baby and the family back home still needing support, it honestly feels like I have to have 3-4 years’ banked to feel unpanicky about making choices.

      We could afford for me to make less for a while if that was necessary to start up something that fit all the other criteria. My pride would sting, but money-wise we could swing something like that.

  6. Sense says:

    Does a new job HAVE to involve corporate BS? It sounds like you are in a good position to negotiate a similar (or better?) job at a different company. Did you consider that option?

    From the tone of this post–it seems like you want to move on, though?

    If my job ended in a year, I’d just do the PhD full-time, get it over with and move to the States earlier than planned! 🙂 Or maybe just quit altogether because I cannot afford to live in Auckland on a PhD’s salary and I don’t want to eat up all of my savings.

    Your employable strengths would be your ability to manage ALL the details and also see the bigger picture. Good management material, too–I’d love to work for you as you sound fair and compassionate but also able to be firm when needed.

    • Revanche says:

      Most likely any new job in the same field for a similar or better job would definitely mean corporate BS because I’ve moved into a specific niche of my industry and the pool of employers is quite small. I think I know just about all of the likelies and none of the are appealing.

      But you’ve read that right – I’ve been feeling the need to build my next steps regardless of the renewal (or not) of my commitment here. There’s no reason not to, and now, there’s very good reason to!

      Would you ever consider finishing your PhD in the states?

      Thanks for the input! These are qualities that I try to practice but it’s hard to be objective about whether it’s been accomplished.

  7. Hannah says:

    Your expenses, I think are higher than mine, but facing a similar situation, I am deciding to just leap into the abyss. I know I have marketable skills (like you, in marketing). I know that I bring value to the table, and I know that if shit really hit the fan, that I could go back to 8-5 (or 7-5) (that’s where we might be different as you have health considerations that I do not).

    It’s hard to decide what to do, but I wish you the very best of luck!

    • Revanche says:

      We have quite a few extra expenses that aren’t the standard, I always have, and PiC and I are in a high COLA so I am typically very risk averse, but as I’ve previously shared, things have improved to the point that I can actually take some without heartburn. And if nothing else, I think I’ve learned that not taking the chance is as bad as never having it. Perhaps worse!

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. Linda says:

    I think “life coach” is the term I see used by people who offer advice on varied topics such as career, finances, prioritizing, etc. You’d be a good one! However, you would have to find your market: those that are willing and able to compensate you for the time you’d put into such work on their behalf. It seems there are people in the Bay Area with lots of disposable income these days, so you could hopefully connect with them somehow.

    The “worry mode” is something I can relate to. I fight it as much as possible, though, since I can burn through too much precious energy that way.

    If you’re not totally against working in a corporate environment, give me a holler if/when you find that you need to change work. I telecommute most of the time, as do most of my colleagues. I can’t control the tendency to have lots of meetings, though. :-/

    • Revanche says:

      You’re right, I think the confluence of my skills would most easily be identified as a life coach but I shy away from that because it’s such a wishy washy sort of “field”. I might have to focus it primarily on career and financial management. Of course, I suspect the folks in the Bay Area with money to burn may not really care about these things. I’ll start investigating.

      Yes, worry mode uses a LOT of energy. So I try to direct it at useful things and point it at projects, try to make it a useful expenditure 🙂

      Thanks for the offer, that’s very thoughtful!

  9. If my job were ending in a year, I would certainly become more focused in intentions to become self-employed. I work at home right now for a company and I can’t imagine losing the flexibility that it offers. Therefore, I would have to make my own way.

  10. […] Planning for job evaporation and what’s next […]

  11. A year is a pretty good head start to figure out your plan! Personally, I think I’d work harder to monetize my blog and look into ways to work online. I think it gives you the flexibility to search for a more traditional job you might want without having to take the first offer – even if it means starting a new blog besides this one.
    Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted…Financially Savvy Saturdays #131My Profile

  12. Michelle says:

    My current position is one that I considered to be my dream job when I graduated for college – it is my “something I always wanted to do.” I’m using my degree and my company has great benefits. BUT the day to day activities can be a bit monotonous. So if I knew I would have to find something different within a year I would be at a complete loss. I don’t know if I’d stay in the same field or try something new. I wish I had some good advice for you, but I really don’t know what I would do in your situation. But things always have a way of falling into place so I know it’ll work out for you in the end. Best of luck!

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