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“After the Gut Punch: Twelve Rules for Surviving Losing Your Long-Term Executive Position”

You were blindsided and that was on purpose. You’ve been in your executive position at your organization, perhaps in the C suite, for a long time, maybe even 25 years. You looked up from your desk to see Security and HR and then you were ushered out of your office. They told you that your personal things will be sent. You are in shock, you are embarrassed. Just like that, it’s over.

There are no guidebooks for high achieving executives like you when they get asked to leave a job, and company, one they very well may have loved going to every day. You loved the people you worked with and were thrilled to be part of the broader backbone of the company. You thought you were part of the decision-making inner circle. So, what do you do now?


  1. Go to Paris. Or Venice. OK, it could be Scranton, if that floats your boat. But you need to take a vacation. Get out of town. Because you cannot be reactionary – you must carefully plan your future and get ready to take the following steps. Realize that, now, your job is to find a job and it is up to you to own the process and control it.


  1. Take a professional inventory. Create a spreadsheet of the responsibilities of the position you lost. What did you love? What motivated you and how did the position propel your career? What, if you never had to do it again, would have you wildly cheering at your newfound freedom?
  2. Take a personal inventory. How did you get in this position? Is there something you could have done differently? For example, did you “play the game” the way it had to be played at your company? Were you visible enough? Political enough? Were you simply downsized? Be honest with yourself. This is the step to express whatever it is you need to express…to yourself. Because holding grudges or keeping negative feelings inside will only lead to stagnation and frustration.
  3. Imagine your perfect day – at work. Where do you go? What do you wear? Who do you work with, if anyone at all? What do you do? What do the people mean to you? Think about this day from the moment you open your eyes to the second you close them. This visualization process may lead you to change careers. Or change industries. Or it may lead you right back into a situation similar to the one you just left. But you need to figure out what you truly want before you create your future.
  4. Speak to the outplacement agency. I know, you think you don’t need one. People at your level don’t use one. Jobs magically appear. No, they don’t. Use the resources supplied to you. And don’t just use them, embrace them. In many ways, it’s like going back to school and you need to be the best self-motivated “student” you can possibly be.
  5. Identify a mentor. I love coaching executives through this transition period. It is challenging and rewarding. Typically, I hear all about why they don’t need me…until they realize the value of a sounding board, advisor and guide. And then I hear from them all the time. Remember, we all need someone, no person should be an island. And in this case, outside of your family, it’s imperative to work with an outside coach or advisor who knows intimately the “lay of the land” when it comes to your situation.
  6. Read and research. The internet makes it easy to keep up on news and information about where you want to land. Educate yourself and keep up to date on your industry and any other you envision entering. Be sure to embrace sites like LinkedIn, which is an extremely way to increase your network, re-establish relationships, and enhance or even circumvent the endless online job application process that is a necessary evil at all levels, even yours.
  7. Reach out. You did not achieve all that you achieved by following the rules. So, beyond the online forms and sending your resume out reactively to job postings, write a letter to the CEO of the organization that you think is the right fit. Be passionate, proactive and productive (“The 3 Ps”).
  8. Give yourself the gift of time. You spent at least 12 hours per day in your previous position and, right now, finding a new one requires about 5-8 hours per day only. So take the time left over and do something new for yourself for the duration. Yoga, walking, knitting, golf, tennis, reading, writing, martial arts or whatever moves you. Feed your soul and you will be better for it.
  9. Network, network, network. There is nothing more important during this phase than networking – re-connect with former colleagues and other contacts, ask those people for names of others you can reach out to, use tools like LinkedIn to power-build your network, and reach out cold to your peers from other companies. Networking needs to be the foundation of your search. Make it a two-way street, so when you are asking for their help, offer your contacts your help in return. There may very well be people you know who they may want to meet and add to their own network. And, as you go through this process, always keep in mind the importance of maintaining your newfound and expanded network as you continue your career.


  1. Embrace your experience. You did things a certain way for many years, but in the time since your left your last position, you have learned new ways. Bring them into your new life and celebrate the change. Simultaneously, look to learn and embrace new technology and new ways of doing things that companies may find appealing. Always moving forward and learning!
  2. Remember. Pay it forward. Think about all the people who helped you in your transition to your new place in the world. And when you get the call from someone who has just been crowbarred out of their professional role, tell him or her that you would be more than happy to meet, but first, “Go to Paris.”