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This article by Carolyn Foote Edelmann was prepared for the
October 8, 2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
by Carolyn Foote Edelmann
First you crash. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
Even if everyone within and without your ex-company agrees on toxicity
levels, you are shocked not to be there any more. It’ll be some weeks
before the concept of "free" creeps into your consciousness.
"Fired" is all you know.
So what if the new euphemisms are in the driver’s seat:
core," "reorganization." "Fired" may be out; but
so are you.
After the good-bye party and the emptying of that six-year office,
numbness sets in. It’s like being a post-op patient, waking up
in the ICU. After awhile, Dr. Time moves you to another room. But
it’s still a hospital. And your roommate’s name is Fear. There are
no I.V.s in this establishment; no considerate nurses.
As after surgery, it is essential to become and remain ambulatory.
To walk out the door of the room you share with Fear, down the hall
to light, to air. In my case, I literally had to hit the trail;
the Towpath. In the face of blistering days and suffocating nights,
I had to conquer resistance, put one foot in front of the other,
and metaphorically. In a hospital you’d have a walker to support your
faltering progress; a nurse to order you out there. In the state of
disemployment, you become your own attending staff.
There is enough diversity in nature, it turns out, to distract me
from my unaccustomed state. Swinging my arms, I theorize, may be
brain hemispheres. I fling the left one high to exercise the nearly
moribund right brain, starved during all those administrative
hours. I pump the right one near the end of my trek, to get the left
in gear so I can begin essential filing.
Integrating items from the vanished office had loomed large to
Leaving them in a pile somehow perpetuated toxicity. Four pristine,
sturdy bankers’ (ironic name) boxes swelled with career materials,
reference letters, proposal information, freelance opportunities.
Tidy and full, these boxes reassure me as a pantry full of home
used to do when I was a mother.
In my current feisty mood, I also look upon them as
my stores of ammunition. Warfare is not an inappropriate symbol for
what I face. I think of these alphabetized resources as a grid on
a metal bridge. Because you can see through such structures, they
do not seem strong. Yet they support you to the other side, where
I most urgently wish to arrive. And their order nourishes, encourages,
every time I enter my writing office.
At long last, if you’re lucky, Outplacement Services click in. Only
that phrase, also, has become obsolete. Mine’s called Right Management
Consulting, although management seems to have little to do with my
life! They’re not far away, on Research Way. And my way, these days,
has everything to do with research.
I spend nine entire hours under their tutelage, that first day,
my complex resume to shreds, reforming it from fragments old and new.
I learn concepts and ideas and words to include. I learn the no-no’s.
What is the one part of speech that is never to appear in a resume?
First-person pronouns. In a document forged of purposefully
ego, "I" and "me" are verboten. Power Point
are declaimed. Flip charts are filled. Questionnaires are distributed,
which we must painfully fill in, in excruciating detail. Our entire
lives must pass, not only before our eyes, but under our pens.
At one point, I quip that it’ll be easier with St. Peter than filling
out these sheets. We are coached in crisp, punchy language. We are
surprised that only the most recent 10 to 12 years matters — that
scholastic honors are irrelevant, basically. What it comes to, as
in politics, is "What have you done for me lately?"
When I clutch my scribbled pages to my chest and exit the building,
I feel as though I’d spent the nine hours in the labor room for a
first-born. Everything was just about that unfamiliar. And, as when
my daughters arrived, the little package in my arms was going to need
a great deal of ongoing work. Unlike labor and delivery, however,
our parting advice is that every one of us may well need a new resume
within two years — such is the climate of our times.
Joseph Kroiss of Right Management Consultants has been our
With practicality, severity at times, optimism, and wit, that man
insisted that we "push" our professional accomplishments to
the forefront of consciousness and expression.
I squirm, realizing that this may be the most essential writing
of my life. Yes, we walked out with "a product," as promised.
Raw material, really. Parturition no longer works as a metaphor,
this baby does not breathe nor cry yet on its own. It’s still going
to have to be slapped into shape. We have the privilege of sending
our draft to our coach, so that it may undergo his "refiner’s
fire." At the conclusion of that process, we will be granted a
and adventures of U.S. 1 readers who are changing jobs or careers.
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