You’ve Got a Friend

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You’ve Got a Friend

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Carol King is one of my favorite artists from the 1970s and 80s and You’ve Got a Friend is one of my favorite songs of hers. So, it sounded like a good theme for this post. 

This article is inspired by all of the layoffs I see in the technology community—particularly the agilists who are finding many companies not valuing their contributions. There are also quite a few thought leaders in the community using this as an opportunity to (1) foretell the end of agile ways of working or (2) to explain how their new-fangled agile approach (Agile 2, SAFe, Elon, Flow, whatever) will deliver us from all the chaos.

I know quite a few of you are caught up in these challenging times, so I thought I’d share the following story and some related advice.

It was the year 2000. I’d moved to North Carolina 4 years earlier and just joined Lucent (Bell Labs) as a Director of Software, leading a large team. I felt like I’d just won the lottery to find the job of my dreams. Then the telecommunications bubble burst in 2001.

Layoffs were rampant across the industry, tens of thousands of jobs were lost, and our entire optical networking facility of ~300 folks here in Raleigh, NC was let go. To say that I was devastated is an understatement. To add insult, I was selected to be on the leadership “closing crew” who helped everyone pack, leave, and turn the lights off in the building.

I still shudder when considering parts of that time. But in hindsight, I believe it was one of the best things for my career and life. It fundamentally changed me and helped me to pivot in several meaningful ways. For example, I—

  • Importantly realized not to put all of my eggs into a single basket;

  • Starting writing my first book, Software Endgames;

  • Incorporated my RGCG consulting practice;

  • I began to speak at professional conferences and events actively.

And generally, began the journey from FTE engineering leader to where I am today as an Agile Coach and thought leader in our agile community. Probably one of the more important discoveries I made that this time was that…I am a brand and to begin building and clarifying it.

If you find yourself laid off or otherwise unemployed, there may be no better time than now to pivot to something different and not simply a new job. As you saw in my story, I incorporated, reframed my career goals, wrote a book, and began a consulting side gig, all inspired by my being laid off.

Reflecting on it now, it was the pivotal point in my career. At the time, I didn’t perceive it as that. Instead, I was very depressed and stressed about it. But in hindsight, my staying on the path forward really paid off.

This brings up some novel ideas for you to consider right now—

  • Reflect on your professional journey, where you’ve come from, where you are, and, importantly, where you want to be. Now may well be a time for you to make some “adjustments” to your path, so consider them. It might also be a time to reach out to a mentor and/or coach.

  • Take a class or two, expand into areas you’re unfamiliar with, amplify your curiosity;

  • Pull together a reading list and begin a deep dive reading immersion;

  • Join a lot of Meetup groups and spiral your networking outward; these are typically free, so actively engage with them;

  • Consider your strengths and weaknesses and work to amplify or improve them. My writing and public speaking weaknesses were my inspiration to work on strengthening these areas.

  • Make LinkedIn your friend and actively increase your network; begin posting (reactions, posts, shares, etc.) and not just job requests.

I want to amplify the “get help” advice. I’ve found our agile community to be thoughtful, caring, and generous so actively engage with it.

Now take this section with a grain of salt. It’s been over ten years since I’ve had to look for a new role. But that being said, I’d like to offer these ideas for your consideration—

Finances first – much of the pressure in a job search is financially driven. What is your savings buffer, and how much severance did you receive? Your first determination is fully understanding your runway for getting that new job.

Get creative here, too, as you’ll want to have as much runway as possible, so you’re not rushing into the wrong role or putting too much pressure on yourself. So, budgeting, re-budgeting really, can also be a big help. Bring things down to must-haves and challenge yourself to become minimalist.

Reflection – take some time to reflect on your to-date journey. Not only the good but the challenges. And reflect on your performance dynamics. Often there are “tells” for you to be aware of and improve upon if only you can find them. Consider making reflection a daily practice during your search.

Activate your network – don’t be shy about letting folks know your situation. You’ll want to activate your friend and colleague networks first. One thing I learned during my layoff was that I had not tended my network very well. Since then, I’ve been working on it continuously. If you’re like me, this might be a wake-up call for you. Avoid getting frustrated, and work on your network every day.

Once you have your personal network activated, get to work on growing and activating your professional network.

Find a coach or job search buddy – going it alone sucks, so don’t do it. Find someone to partner with you somehow so you’re not going it alone. This could be a career coach or professional coach. It could be someone else who is looking for similar work. Or it could be a trusted recruiter who you lightly partner with.

Balance searching versus self-care – there’s probably no bigger mistake I’ve made when job searching than looking at it as a full-time job and not doing anything else. Of course, it’s a priority, but so are you. So, please balance looking for work against recharge and refresh time for yourself.

Giving back – while it’s counterintuitive, now is the best time for you to help others in their search. The point is, don’t just be a taker; give to and help others as much as possible.

I firmly believe that the universe will pay you back for such generosity.

If you’ve read this post and found something useful, it served its purpose.  If I’ve inspired you in some way, just a little, then I’m grateful.

If I can help you by offering career coaching, please go here and check out my personal coaching services. Remember, you have a friend in Bob Galen. If you believe it will help and are committed to doing the work, I’d be happy to partner with you on your journey forward.

I have limited WIP, so first come, first served. But do realize that I’m serious about helping.

Stay agile, stay positive, stay patient, and stay focused my friends,


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