As noted last month, my June layoff from corporate America severed me from more than my job and career. Along with those indignities, it plucked me out of my circle of long-time colleagues and business associates, leaving me with a vastly diminished support system at the time when I most needed the proximity of caring people.
While I'd resisted any form of social networking while I was employed, launching my own business convinced me that it was time to get with the program and join LinkedIn. As I described in my previous diary on my LinkedIn experience, I've been careful in crafting my profile and connecting with others and recommending them and endorsing their skills.
It's been a revealing process looking back over 37 years of corporate life and selecting the people that I'd like to take along on the next phase of my professional journey. When you're chosing companions for any journey, you want people you can trust. People who've stood by you, particularly when times were tough. People who've given you a helping hand, eased your way, or just made your days brighter.
As of today, I'm connected with over 200 professionals on LinkedIn. Most are people that I invited although increasingly, they've have been the ones inviting me. I initially targeted my former clients and prospects, most of whom now grace my profile. My hope is that people who stop by - especially if they're potential clients for my servies - will be impressed to see such illustrious folks in my circle of connections.
I also invited capable and experienced technical colleagues I've worked with over the years. I've tended to favor those who, like me, were laid off and have launched their own companies or gone to work for competitors of our former employer. It's my way of avenging my layoff and providing some free advertising for those folks... and reminding passers-by that my former employer jettisoned many of these excellent people.
I also invited other folks who were integral to my professional success: attorneys, subcontractors and subconsultants, experts in academia and industry, and people I've worked with in professional organizations.
Being back in touch with former colleagues has had a very therapeutic effect. Just hearing my iPhone chime when someone accepts my invitation, or seeing them pop up on my computer screen is cause for a microcelebration. More importantly, I've been heartened by folks recommending me and endorsing my skills, and providing offers of collaboration and sharing of business. Just being back in touch with people - some of whom had been out of touch for many years - is wonderfully sustaining.
As anyone who's been laid off will soon find out, your friends and family - no matter how well intentioned - will eventually tire of hearing about your worries, your resentments, your aspirations, your joys, and your setbacks. They just want you to find work and move on, the sooner the better. Your LinkedIn friends - if you've chosen them with care - will "get it". They'll share your outrage at being laid off, and their faith that better days lie ahead for someone with your skill, determination, and moxie.
What's also interesting is selecting the people that I'll be leaving on the shore as I sail on to the next phase of my career. Sometimes they pop up as "People You Might Know". Oh, yes. I know those folks. The ones who took credit for my work. The ones whose negativity was like a black cloud in the office, draining our joy. The ones who used me as a stepping stone to their own advancement. The ones who... well, you get the picture. I'm sure you've encountered people who made themselves similarly extraneous to your professional life.
Oddly enough, being reminded of these people is strangely therapeutic. While some of them loomed large in my days in corporate America, they now seem tiny and silly as the Cassandracarolina pulls away from the shore. No matter where it's headed next, I won't have to worry about those folks ever again. That's kind of cool.