Jan. 7, 2014 at 11:26 AM ET
In "Reset," Dwain Schenck provides a practical, tip-laden pep talk towards getting out of a slump after a job loss. By providing the right strategies, "Reset" can help you prepare for the next stage of your career. Here's an excerpt.
Lost and Found
What I’ve Learned
Here’s what I’ve learned. I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions. Asking questions is the lifeblood of landing a job. That’s what I’ve learned. Here’s what I mean.
People are willing to help you all day long, but if you don’t ask them for their help—and more importantly explain in detail how they can help—you will be lost in space without a jetpack. I have been asking for a lot of help these many handfuls of months. I’ve also been conscious of the fact that the people I admire most who have jobs show gratitude I haven’t seen in the past decade when it comes to employment.
I truly understand what Joe Scarborough means when he says he feels guilty even thinking about complaining about the ups and downs of his job or the unbearable hours he and Mika put in these days. They make it look fun and easy, but it’s not. It’s hard work, but like his father before him he learned at a young age to be grateful for the job he has and to be working and providing for his family.
I think we can all learn from the wisdom he has attained as a US representative for the state of Florida right down to being a coach for his boy’s Little League baseball team: “It’s incredibly important to be optimistic and play to your strengths, waking up in the morning knowing that something good is going to happen,” Scarborough tells me on the phone as he and Mika race across town to an event in Manhattan. “What happens to me is, when something good doesn’t happen, I get angry, and I wake up the next morning even more driven, and I keep going like that every day.”
It is that optimism and vision that helped him start a whole new career after spending six years in Congress.
On the very day I left office, the local paper asked me, “What are you going to do next?” I said I’m going to practice law and then get a TV show! Everybody laughed at me. I remember Jeb Bush a year later asking me, “So, where’s that TV show, Congressman Joe?” I knew I was going to do that. You talk about reinvention—I had just decided that was what I was going to do, and I made phone calls and pushed and pulled, and I received a lot of push back from networks, but I kept going, and by the end of 2002 they called me up and said come on over. Let’s talk.
It has required a lot of sacrifice for Scarborough and his family to get to where he is today, but he is quick to say it turned out to be as happy of an ending as he could have ever imagined. I remind him that he is far from the end.
And, as fate would have it, a new beginning was starting to take shape for me. While all of this time I was interviewing for full-time positions, I started to pick up more and more small freelance PR consulting and writing jobs along the way, especially as I am coming to a close in writing this book. A friend of mine hired me to do some writing for his website, and that led to some work writing corporate bios for another friend’s website.
I had also been nurturing a relationship to do executive communications work for a managing director of a media and information company that was starting to materialize in New York City.
Then my wife brought to my attention a writing opportunity at a local nonprofit organization. I was familiar with the organization and believed that I could do more for them than writing if they had any marketing or PR positions open. I e-mailed my résumé to the recruiter and called to see whether I could set up an interview.
I was put in touch with human resources, who set up a meeting the next day. Things were moving quickly. It was unsettling, actually, how quickly things were taking shape. Within a week I was sitting in front of the CEO interviewing for a communications position. The meeting went great, and I thought there was a good chance I might finally land the full-time job I’ve been looking for all this time.
The following weekend the CEO called me while I was watching my daughter play softball to see if I might consider joining her organization on a temporary basis—sort of a try-before-you-buy arrangement. I said yes. This would be a great addition to the portfolio of clients I already had.
Without consciously planning it, but certainly working it every step of the way for the past year and a half, my own reinvention was finally blossoming. I had finally let go and gone with the constellation of talent theory my friend Pamela Mitchell had so eloquently talked about. I also had embraced what Mika had been saying all along: Snatch up the first freelance opportunity that comes my way. Chances are it will turn into the full-time job of my dreams, or at the very least keep the wolves away from the door for another week.
The handful of consulting jobs I now have has allowed me to incorporate under the name Schenck Strategies LLC (www.schenckstrategies.com). I’ve even hired other professionals to help me with the workload. In many respects I’m back to doing what I did before the Great Recession but at a much higher level, having a lot more fun and making more money.
I am grateful to my new clients for the confidence they have shown me. What many of them may not know is how much harder I work on their behalf because I never want to be unemployed again. It’s a win-win. My clients are made up of influential individuals, corporations, and organizations in media, finance, entertainment, politics, and philanthropy. My small firm provides a broad range of high-level communications services including strategic counsel, corporate positioning, profile management, message development, media relations, brand building, and crisis management.
This journey has not been easy. That’s an understatement if you’re still with me here. Conversely, it has forced me to step outside of myself and be as honest as possible in hopes that I can help thousands of people like you reading this book take heart that you’re not alone in your own struggles to land on your feet, whether it be in a new job or a reinvented life. We all eventually find our path to salvation, and no two people are alike or experience that journey the same way.
This book may be coming to a close, but our conversation together is just beginning if you like. I will continue to share what I’ve learned and speak to anyone who will listen or who is interested in learning how to keep their sanity and their identity while preparing for their next, greatest act—landing a new job!
I say be with it—whatever it is—right now. Be open and kind and do your work, and be grateful, because even if you’re sick and they chop off your legs and they don’t return your calls, you have a hell of a lot to be grateful for. You don’t need a guru; you don’t need a special prayer; you don’t need to emulate anyone. . . . You have the strength. You have the power. You can do a lot of s__t. Do the s__t.
—Susan Tyrrell, 1942–2012, actress
James Grissom’s blog post, June 18, 2012
Text copyright © 2013 by Dwain Schenck. Published by Da Capo Lifelong Books. Printed with permission of Da Capo Lifelong Books.