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POSTED JUNE 10, 2020

    By Tom Phelps

A Perspective Change That Changed My Circumstances

In late September 2019, I was laid off from a Learning & Development role I had held for almost 5 years.  I wasn’t surprised when it happened, and truthfully, I was ready for a change.  I worked with some very intelligent people and learned a lot during my time in this role, but the company had restructured some things and – stop me if you’ve heard this one – my position had been eliminated.

Interestingly enough, this was the second time this had happened to me.  Back in 2012, the medical device company for which I was working had been acquired by another company and, you guessed it, did some restructuring.  In the process of the reorganization, my role was redefined, and I was asked to interview for it. 

Yes, I was asked to interview for my own job.

I wasn’t (re)offered my job and was laid off.

I started the job search process and ended up in a few different temporary roles until a recruiter got me an interview at the company that eventually hired me.  And then laid me off.

That was an 18-month process, and though I was employed during that season, it was temporary, contract work and I was earning less money than I had in the past.

During the seasons of underemployment and unemployment through which I travelled after these two layoffs, I learned a very valuable lesson that I thought I’d pass on.  It took some time for me to experience a paradigm shift in my own thinking, but it ultimately paid off.  I’d like to pass on this lesson to you in the hopes that, whatever season or situation you are in right now, it will help you find fulfillment and ultimately help add value to those around you.

The Paradigm Shift

I enjoy reading.  I have a goal this year of finishing at least one book per month.  I started off the year reading a book by one of my favorite speakers and authors, Terri Savelle-Foy, called 5 Things Successful People Do Before 8A.M.  In her book, Terri shared a very simple yet profound statement that made me stop, underline and highlight it, and ponder it for a bit.  She says, “Your thinking has to change for your life to change.” (Savelle-Foy, Terri, 5 Things Successful People Do Before 8 A.M., p. 82)

As soon as I read that, I knew it was for me.  I wanted a change in my life, and more specifically, I wanted to find a role in which I could see myself for the next 20-30 years.  I also knew I wanted to start thinking differently about my career, the work I do, and how I add value to those (people, companies, teams) around me, so I got to work. 

I started following a woman on YouTube named J.T. O’Donnell, and her company called Work It Daily.  She has posted many, many insightful videos that help people in positions of career discontentment, unemployment, or just wanting to contribute at a higher level. Though I learned TONS from J.T. and her videos (and took full advantage of Work It Daily and the services they offer), the major paradigm shift came from a different source.

From Employee to Owner

As I was going through my daily job-searching activities, I was reminded of a book I read by Rabbi Daniel Lapin called Thou Shall Prosper:  Ten Commandments for Making Money (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).  This book is loaded with wisdom and insight that I could apply directly and immediately to my own life.  My copy of it is full of underlines, highlights, and my own personal comments and notes.

When I began re-reading the book a few months ago, the following quote caught my attention. It stopped me – arrested my thinking, as I felt like I had just discovered the key to finding my new role.

The quote begins on page 92:

Learning to view yourself as being in business rather than as merely an employee brings enormous benefits in its wake.  You gain a tremendous sense of security.  Also, you’re no longer subject to the capricious whims of your employer. (p. 92)

That was it!  I knew I needed a change in my thinking for my life to change, and this was the place for me to start.  I wanted to start contributing more to the circle of life around me, including the company for which and the people with whom I work.  This was a fresh perspective for me to employ.

Rabbi Daniel continues:

Of course, this also means that you have to seize responsibility for your life and for your new business career.  This requires some attitude adjustment.  You used to think that finding a job was the end goal and that from that point on the responsibility was all your employer’s.  He had to pay you, he had to tell you what to do, and he had to correct you when you made a mistake.  Wrong!  That is not how a business professional views his job.  The responsibilities are mostly yours. You have to find ways to make sure that the wage paid to you is a bargain.  You have to find out what most needs doing and you have to do it.  You have to know when you have made a mistake, and you must bring it to the attention of your boss or supervisor . . . oops!  I mean, your customer.  Finding a job is just the beginning.  Now you must grow in that job, always seeking new areas to expand your responsibilities and continually seeking ways to enhance your usefulness. (Emphasis mine)

I soon realized that I had been thinking of finding a job as my ultimate goal.  Now, I was thinking long-term rather than short-term.  My perspective had changed from simply getting a job to finding a place where I can continue to grow, seek new areas to expand my responsibilities and enhance my usefulness.

The Job Search Process

Let me tell you, this changed everything.  I began taking a must more intentional look at my own personal inventory.  I started to define more clearly the things I liked to do, things I was good at, and things others think I’m good at.  I also made serious considerations regarding the things I don’t like doing and things I’m not good at. 

When I did all that, my job-finding journey took on new joy for me.

Think of it this way:  When you buy a new car, do you start to see more of the same make and model as yours out on the road?  If so, why?  Is it because all of a sudden, more people are driving Hyundai Sonatas? Probably not.  It’s because you’re more aware of it.  In the same manner, when I defined my perspective, likes, abilities, and talents more clearly, the job-search process became much more enjoyable – and, dare I say – easy!

Finding the Place

After learning all these things, I found a role in which I was very interested.  The role description began by explaining the blend of customer service and training, and I was very intrigued.  After applying and making it through the phone screen process, I eventually got and in-person interview, which lead to an invitation to perform a mock training session. I truly appreciated and enjoyed every aspect of this particular interview process.

I was offered the job and was thrilled to accept it.  I continue to challenge myself to find ways to grow and make sure I am always enhancing my value to those around me.  It is my hope that, in a year (and in twenty years) from now, I can look back and see the fruit of my change in perspective and the work I’ve done that has followed.  

Tom Phelps is a Training & Development Specialist at The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, where he works in the Customer Contact Center to provide training solutions for new hires and employees across the department.  He enjoys working to help people thrive in their roles by providing the best learning and development experiences, which he appreciates learning about through his involvement with ATD-GTC. When he's not working, Tom enjoys running, singing, and spending time serving at his church. 


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