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How I Re-Thought My Career Path After Losing My First JobFeatured

In 2020 I, like many others, lost my job to COVID-19-related downsizing, which devastated me. For the first time in my (admittedly short) career, I didn’t have an internship or job lined up. Picking myself back up involved reviewing what I wanted out of my career and how I could get there – here’s how I did it.

I had always done internships, encouraged by my dad, who embodied that one quote about idle hands. From the age of 14, I had the opportunity to engage with the industries I was fascinated by, from journalism to marketing – the jury is still out on how helpful I was in those early years.

This meant that by the time I was out of university, I had (or thought I had) a solid idea of my career path. And then COVID hit. And then I lost my job.

The experience of losing my job – the first out of university – and the opportunity to join another company I was interviewing with as they froze hiring devastated me. Over the course of April 2020, I moved back in with my parents and moped around for the whole month. I had never been without something to do, so that forced break was not ideal.

I struggle with mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and that really hit me in those first few weeks after being laid off. I had been so confident that I knew where my life was going, and suddenly I had to rethink everything.

Internet deep-dives and the buzz around remote work led me to discover content marketing. I was sure I could do it and started offering freelance services through marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork – but so were the millions of people who had also been laid off. I lacked core skills like SEO and analytics, which also set me back significantly. Combined with the hundreds of applications turned down, I wasn’t in a great mental state.

But discovering remote work and content marketing was a light at the end of the tunnel. I realized that to become like the people I admired and followed their careers on social media, I had to be strategic.

So I stopped applying and focused on skill-building by taking courses and joining communities of other remote workers and content marketers. I made connections, built relationships with people across different industries, and shared every scrap of work that could be remotely relevant to future roles.

This worked because one of my seemingly random articles caught the attention of a recruiter with whom I had gone through an interview process that didn't pan out. She recommended me for my first proper content marketing project with a health technology company called kGoal. It was an intensive period where I had to handle all content processes alone – but it was more than worth it.

The articles I wrote for that project helped me land my job at Animalz, where I learned how the pros did content marketing, and eventually made my way to Buffer, where I handle content more confidently than ever. I’m also in a better place mentally than I’ve ever been.

Without my willingness to pivot and stay open to potential opportunities, I don’t know how 2020 would have gone. I can be very resistant to change and find it difficult to stick to anything I don’t nail on the first try. But if I hadn’t done that, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to where I am within two years.

My idea about my career was that it was bullet-, pandemic-, and life-proof. This is probably attributed to being told I was gifted as a kid and the following expectations. But life and your career are so dynamic. You need to keep your mind open to the changes and pivots that will inevitably happen.

Are you going through a watershed moment in your career? It can be a lonely process, but you don’t have to go through it solo – share your story in the comments!

joannarutter's profile thumbnail
I resonate so much with this @tamioladipo! Being able to pivot is such a superpower...I'm taking notes from you!
bernicewelacky's profile thumbnail
I went through a very similar experience, including the depression and living at my parents' house. However I was a hotel manager and now I just want to coast through the rest of my working life as an office admin. But after 2 years of not working because of COVID I can't seem to get hired.
jadesolakareem's profile thumbnail
really interesting read, found it super inspiring
maiabenderlong's profile thumbnail
I am going through a similar experience right now. Laid off from my first job out of college and am now trying to pivot. This is so encouraging to read -- thank you for sharing!