If you’re just starting in your career, midway through it or even in the waning years, there’s good advice in this guest post from someone who knows what she’s talking about. There’s good advice in this post for anyone who is still working. Because losing your job could happen to anyone.
When I saw that one of my closest sister-friends had written this inspirational piece and posted it on LinkedIn, I knew I wanted it posted here, too. Joanne Sullivan works in–and excels in–the field of development, otherwise known as professional fundraising for non-profits.
It’s a job that seems easy, until you have to do it. Imagine having to ask for money. Large sums of money. Every year. Over and over. Not for the faint of heart.
Building relationships, keeping one’s word, remaining ethical–these are some of the hallmarks of a good development executive and she brings that and so much more to any job she’s had in the 20 years I’ve known her. So when an organization she worked for re-organized her out of a job, it was no surprise that she used the network she’s built and solidified over decades to find herself a new job.
Preparing for the Unexpected
By Joanne Bucci Sullivan
I did not realize it, but I have been preparing to be unemployed for over twenty years.
Good fortune allowed me to live in the same community for several decades. Wonderful career opportunities provided me with the chance to meet and know extraordinary people. Love of my community propelled me into volunteer service with marvelous organizations. Without realizing it, I built a powerful network of business and personal relationships; people who knew me as a professional with high standards of integrity and a deep commitment to ethical performance; people who respected me.
When the unexpected happened, when a position I had truly enjoyed and flourished in was suddenly eliminated, although I did not comprehend it at the time, I was ready. I admit I didn’t feel ready the morning my boss and the HR Director met with me to tell me my job no longer existed due to a departmental reorganization. I felt disbelief, distress and disappointment. It took me all of 24 hours to begin activate my powerful network, not as a source of referrals or business development opportunities; this time on my own behalf.
A job search at any juncture is not for the faint-hearted, but approaching it from the other side of sixty could have been daunting. However, armed with a virtual Rolodex that would be the envy of many in my town, I set to work, calling, texting, emailing.
With the counsel of a wise friend I characterized my separation from my former employer as the kind of thing that frequently happened when a new leader arrived in an organization, disappointing of course, but forward looking and positive. I set up an Excel spreadsheet to manage information, deliverables and follow up. I got up every morning with purpose and intent. Coffee meetings, lunch meetings, breakfast meetings – I was out looking smart and sassy. I fairly bristled with optimism.
It was more than gratifying to be able to secure meetings with those who were in a position to be supportive, helpful and encouraging at a time when the way forward did not seem clear. To sit down with a valued former colleague or a past contributor to discuss possibilities was invaluable. To receive messages with offers of assistance was reassuring. To have my phone calls and emails returned raised my spirits immeasurably. My network was stellar in keeping in touch just to check in and see how I was. I was buoyed by good wishes and caring messages. I was assured of sterling references and enthusiastic endorsements.
No surprise that my next career move came about through a strong and well developed professional relationship. Unknowingly, I had set the wheels in motion long ago to create a successful outcome to my unexpected search for a new position. The time to build a strong network of powerful relationships is long before you need it. If you wait until you do, it may be too late.
Joanne Bucci Sullivan, CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive), has provided fundraising support to a diverse group of nonprofit organizations in Tampa, Florida. She is now Director of Community Relations for USF Health at the University of South Florida.
The National Association of Fundraising Professionals – Suncoast Chapter, recognized her in December, 2015 with the prestigious Lloyd Horton Lifetime Achievement Award. She was chosen as FSU Alumna of the Month in January, 2015 by the Tampa Bay Seminole Club. In 2012 she was selected as a finalist for the Business Women of the Year Award sponsored by Tampa Bay Business Journal.