Reinventing Yourself

OK, here’s the story. After work­ing for over 35 years for a steady pay­check, I found myself on the unem­ploy­ment line. My first lay­off came in Feb­ru­ary 2007 when Rain­bow Media, a divi­sion of Cable­vi­sion Sys­tems let go of almost all of its IT man­agers in an effort to save some cash and I guess to make the share­hold­ers hap­pier than they were already. The first time is the hard­est, after all, it’s not some­thing your ever really pre­pared for. Nine months later, I finally landed an IT posi­tion with a not-for-profit close to home so all was good as my unem­ploy­ment had run out three months ear­lier. Too bad I got blind­sided once again when after only four months on the job I got axed again for “cost sav­ing” purposes.

Who ever really knows why you get laid off, man­age­ment has its rea­sons but are usu­ally loathe to share them for fear of a law suit for wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion. Any­way, I was back on unem­ploy­ment for another four months when I landed a one year con­sult­ing job work­ing with the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Trans­porta­tion Author­ity on a huge secu­rity project. That one ended in August 2009 in the midst of what the media was call­ing the worst eco­nomic down­turn since the Great Depres­sion. All I can say is thank God for a Demo­c­rat in the White­house as the unem­ploy­ment checks lasted almost two years while I was send­ing out hun­dreds of resumes and get­ting few inter­views and no offers.

As you’ve prob­a­bly sur­mised from the length of my employ­ment record, and my more for­mal than what passes for writ­ing these days prose, I’m over sixty now and not exactly what most employ­ers are look­ing for in a prospec­tive employee. Age dis­crim­i­na­tion, maybe, all I know is that the econ­omy stinks, and when faced with both a younger and older can­di­date, most employ­ers choose the younger.

I was actu­ally more for­tu­nate than many in that my wife has a great job with ben­e­fits and I was old enough to col­lect early Social Secu­rity, so food, shel­ter and health insur­ance were not huge prob­lems for our fam­ily. The big prob­lem, was that a highly intel­li­gent, cre­ative human being with loads of expe­ri­ence in Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and cre­ative design had stopped pro­duc­ing and con­tribut­ing to the world. If you let it, unem­ploy­ment takes a severe psy­cho­log­i­cal toll and cre­ates a down­ward spi­ral which becomes all-consuming, I’ve been there and I’ve known many oth­ers who have been there as well.

This trag­i­cally com­mon tale of woe, brings me to the point of this post, rein­vent­ing your­self. Once I finally real­ized that I may never again find employ­ment in my cho­sen field and that I could eas­ily live for another twenty years as one of the non-working wounded, I knew I had to take action to regain con­trol of my life. I started by watch­ing as many videos as I could on Lynda.com in the areas of web devel­op­ment, HTML, CSS, Flash, Pho­to­shop and Illus­tra­tor. I scrapped together some cash to pur­chase a faster desk­top PC and large LCD and worked on upgrad­ing my design and devel­op­ment skills. This was reward­ing in itself and gave me the pur­pose and direc­tion I had lost.

With my enhanced skills I’ve landed sev­eral design and tech­ni­cal free­lance jobs and con­tinue work­ing on mar­ket­ing through Face­book, Twit­ter, LinkedIn and old fash­ioned person-to-person net­work­ing. This is the most dif­fi­cult part of the process as you have lim­ited con­trol of where and when your next assign­ment will mate­ri­al­ize. How­ever, with my new out­look on what’s pos­si­ble, and lots of hard work on my part, I know that the future will present oppor­tu­ni­ties which I am now pre­pared to accept with an open mind and full heart.

About Andy Brown

Graphic designer and ebook publisher.
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32 Responses to Reinventing Yourself

  1. Pingback: From the unemployment line to self-employed | lynda.blog

  2. Kim Green says:

    I admire your per­se­ver­ance and flex­i­bil­ity. Oh, and I agree that lynda.com is very useful!

  3. Laura says:

    Thank you for shar­ing this, it really helps to know you are not alone in this world of (as you put it) “highly intel­li­gent, cre­ative human being with loads of expe­ri­ence in Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and cre­ative design had stopped pro­duc­ing and con­tribut­ing to the world”. Sounds like my story.

  4. Mike says:

    Andy, great post…very dif­fi­cult for me to read. For any­one read­ing this post, I was for­tu­nate to have worked for Andy. Beyond all that he con­tributed to the orga­ni­za­tion he was in fact a man­ager who cared about his employ­ees. I’ll never for­got the moments Andy stopped and noticed times when I was strug­gling with the loss of my Brother in the south tower of the world trade cen­ter. Most would keep going about their busi­ness, there are deliv­er­ables to meet…times a wast­ing, besides who knows what to say in moments like that. Andy sat down with me, shared his own stories…showed he cared and there was com­fort. How does a per­son of this qual­ity get over­looked, I don’t know. As I move for­ward in my own career, I take with me lessons I learned from you, Andy Brown. Ones that tran­scend Man­ager and Asso­ciate, to some­thing of value not found in every day busi­ness. Best wishes to you, and your family.

    • Andy Brown says:

      Thanks for the very kind words Mike. Those were dif­fi­cult times for all of us, espe­cially you and your fam­ily. Glad to know that I was able to bring you some mea­sure of com­fort. The suf­fer­ing felt that day puts a lot of things into per­spec­tive and makes us real­ize that our day-to-day strug­gles aren’t really that bad. I’m doing what I enjoy now and things are going well. Thanks again for your reply and stay­ing in touch.

  5. Deejay Supe says:

    I want to first and fore­most com­mend you on this arti­cle which I am going to share with some friends who need to hear a story like yours. I have been a disc jockey for 17 years and was doing ok while in my 20s. As my chil­dren got older I real­ized that I needed a sub­se­quent solu­tion to estab­lish real sav­ings, retire­ment, health insur­ance etc. I went to col­lege and got a degree from MTI and started work­ing as an Net­work Admin­is­tra­tor for a char­ter high school. When the econ­omy took that down­turn, I was threat­ened with a lay­off but due to hav­ing a unique skill set (IT, 3D FX, web design, DJ/sound engi­neer etc) and the school’s mar­riage of left and right brain edu­ca­tional path­ways, I was saved. It did incline me to ensure that I was so rich in knowl­edge of every related field that the idea of let­ting me go from any place of employ­ment would gar­ner laugh­ter from my boss. I decided that school was going to be a sta­ple through­out my life…both for­mally and infor­mally. Then I started teach­ing myself dif­fer­ent soft­ware using the youtube, video­copi­lot, forums etc. Lynda.com was a god­send and I almost feel like I am cheat­ing a bit. I am not complaining.

    • Andy Brown says:

      Thanks for the com­ments Dee­jay. Glad to hear you’re still in the game and not giv­ing up. I’m con­stantly upgrad­ing my skills and look­ing for new opportunities.

  6. Rafael says:

    Thanks for shar­ing your expe­ri­ence, great post! I agree, Lynda.com is a very pow­er­ful resource.
    I can only say “Don’t Stop Think­ing About Tomorrow”

  7. Andy Brown says:

    Thanks for the kind words Elis­a­beth. Glad you found what you were look­ing for. Look­ing for­ward to shar­ing more on this and other related topics.

  8. Thanks for this ter­rific post and also for men­tion­ing Lynda.com. I’d never heard of it! I’m in a sim­i­lar state of rein­ven­tion, an erst­while writer who needed to expand my mar­ketable skills. More power to you!

  9. Hi Andy — First of all, what an inspi­ra­tion you are to me. I have been work­ing as a Graphic Designer for 23 years, then sud­denly got laid off — twice. At 46, I may have an impres­sive resume, but my age shows and yes, I get turned down. I am slowly but surely find­ing my way to be self employed. As self employed, I get occa­sional free lunch from the restau­rant I design the menu for. I get to take care of my dad, who has can­cer.
    What a won­der­ful life I am hav­ing right now. It may not be a big pay­check, but I know it will come one day.
    Lynda.com has been such a bless­ing for me to this day. I immerse myself daily to bet­ter my Graphic Design skills.
    Thank you once again.

    • Andy Brown says:

      Thanks for shar­ing your story Aleli. Life is a con­stant jour­ney of dis­cov­ery. Sorry to hear about your dad and hope he is hold­ing up under the strain. Best of luck in all of your endeavors.

  10. Dorothy says:

    I am a lyn­dadot­com sub­scriber. I really needed to read you story tonight,and it has given me courage. I am a stu­dent at the local uni­ver­sity try­ing to get my degree in art and visual communication/digital media.
    I am also unem­ployed sin­gle, female, and old(er). In 2009 when I started back to school and there was a school pop­u­la­tion of 27,000. There are two major uni­ver­si­ties in my town, and one of them is Brigham Young Uni­ver­sity, the other is Utah Val­ley Uni­ver­sity, where I go. By the spring semes­ter of 2010. The uni­ver­sity increased to 30,000 then 33,000, and the demo­graphic of that increase was not fresh out of high school. That increase in pop­u­la­tion was the now unem­ployed IT per­son­nel and most of them were well over age 40. I am not an IT per­son, but I had been employed for 17 years when I was let go.
    I need to read this arti­cle again and again to remind my self that I will get my degree, and I will be able to become self employed, and make even bet­ter wages than if I were a work-a-day schmuck.
    Thank you for the arti­cle. Like Glo­ria Gaynor once coined in a song. “I will sur­vive”, and I add “thrive.”

  11. Jon Miller says:

    I can totally relate to what you’ve writ­ten as an IT Sys­tems Engi­neer I too have run into the prob­lem at the age of 57, it is dif­fi­cult to find the jobs now and so the pho­tog­ra­phy does help, but it gets harder each week to make those ends meet. What’s amaz­ing to me is that in all the papers and Seek , you see many ads for IT peo­ple and yet no one is hir­ing.. go figure…

    • Andy Brown says:

      Hey Jon, It has been tough in the IT field and our age doesn’t help. This is why I decided to strike out on my own and become my own boss. Lots of luck in your search.

  12. Graham barnes says:

    Hi, it’s great to hear your story, I myself went to uni­ver­sity, did a degree I didn’t like as I lis­tened to peo­ple (I shouldn’t have) I for­tu­nately had started mak­ing web­sites when I was at col­lege just play­ing around in my free time and before I knew it it grew into a com­pany, I have worked for oth­ers in the fea­ture indus­try and they treat you like a slave, now I’m back doing my own thing with Lynda.com and a few oth­ers at my fin­ger tips, run­ning my own show again, roll on another 15years, I’m build­ing media for portable devices, and although not as strong and deter­mined as I used to be, I will suc­ceed and another ven­ture I have going on I am going to trade­mark tomorrow.

    It’s pretty excit­ing actu­ally get­ting some­thing you acted trade­marked, I can­not wait. In regard to my con­tin­u­ous pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment I went onto teach myself php, although only pro­ce­dural I built a con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem in it which is used on my own site, when I go to inter­views instead of paper I take an iPad opti­mised site with me and blew them away, this I really hope to take fur­ther and push it to other portable media.

    Gra­ham barnes

    • Graham barnes says:

      Sorry was writ­ing on iPad, that’s sup­posed to say cre­ative indus­try, can’t work the long hours asked for due to a small form of epilepsy but I still con­tinue doing what I enjoy.

    • Andy Brown says:

      Thanks for shar­ing you thoughts Gra­ham. I agree that the rewards of being self employed can mean more than any­thing an employer can pro­vide. The mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion may not be as great but the sat­is­fac­tion in doing what you love more than makes up for that.

  13. Velinda says:

    Hi Andy,
    I’m really glad I came across your arti­cle. Being a sin­gle mom and inter­ested in Graphic Design, I started work­ing on my degree’s about 11 years ago. I felt the girls would soon be out of school and I would have my chance to really get in to what I want to do. I received my Asso­ciates and my Bach­e­lors and did­dle dad­dled around free­lanc­ing over the years as I worked in admin­is­tra­tion for the income I needed to raise my girls. Soon after their grad­u­a­tions they all became young moms and now I have 6 grand­chil­dren. The direc­tion I’m tak­ing is that even though I’m in the process of get­ting my MBA with a con­cen­tra­tion in Mar­ket­ing, I’m still no where close to what I want to be doing. Time is the main issue as I help my girls with all the lit­tle ones. But read­ing your arti­cle make me feel bet­ter know­ing that I can still do this and I will work in updat­ing my skills to where I can build my con­fi­dence and get my free­lanc­ing career going. Thank you for shar­ing your story! I look for­ward to fol­low­ing you on Face­book and twit­ter. :)
    Velinda
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Graphics-By-Design-and-More/141037642579849
    @velann3

    • Andy Brown says:

      Thanks Velinda. Sounds like you’ve got a busy life. I encour­age you to keep devel­op­ing your graphic design skills. Noth­ing like doing what you love. I just Liked your face­book page.

  14. Josie Brown says:

    Andy,
    You’ve spo­ken from the heart, and it shows. Every now and again, oth­ers need to hear that what they are going through is the norm, not the excep­tion. You are an inspi­ra­tion to any­one who has been kicked to the curb, despite a great career track record.

  15. Steven Venn says:

    Andy
    Thanks for the post (which I found through a retweet from Lynda.com). I had over 13 years of doing print design and now I am in the junior stages of web design and devel­op­ment and try­ing des­per­ately to catch up. I am too junior for web at this point but too expen­sive for print it seems so I know exactly what you are talk­ing about. I am not alone in this regard among my peers. Free­lanc­ing is what I am doing now but every­one is still cau­tious (even with con­tract employ­ment). I also had a short career in broad­cast­ing from which I was laid off from and no one in the media seems to be safe. Its impor­tant to work on the stuff that has mean­ing to you (and try to make ends meet with other p/t work in the mean­time). It’s encour­ag­ing to know that I am not the only one going through the strug­gle and I am glad that I found your post.
    – Steve (long time Lynda subscriber)

    • Andy Brown says:

      Thanks for the com­ments Steve. It’s still very tough out there, so I agree, keep build­ing your skills and doing what you like. Also, very impor­tant to main­tain a high pro­file using social media and blog. I checked out you web­site, very nice work. Best of luck going for­ward.
      Andy

  16. Tom says:

    Hey Andy,

    Your story and other com­ments make me con­cerned for the future of this field as a career.…IT that is. Many indus­tries are going to cloud com­put­ing and wrestling out the smaller folks. It is depress­ing to think that the degree I just paid 10k to receive will even­tu­ally be some­what use­less. One thing I did learn dur­ing my count­less hours doing home­work, writ­ing papers, design­ing web­sites, etc is that there is the abil­ity to get the skills you need to stay rel­e­vant through sites like Lynda.com, Khan Acad­emy, and the count­less other low to no cost solu­tions. While I am not cur­rently seek­ing free­lance as a pro­fes­sional goal, your post has made me think of it as an option in the future. Thanks for sharing.

    • Andy Brown says:

      Hi Tom, thanks for you com­ments. Don’t get dis­cour­aged, I’ve been around the IT field for over twenty years and had my share of ups and downs. Change has always been a big part of this pro­fes­sion so keep­ing your skills cur­rent is extremely impor­tant. That’s why sites like Lynda.com come serve as a great resource. Free­lance is a good way to keep work­ing and prac­tic­ing what you learn. I’ve also done lots of very low cost work for non­prof­its to work on skill sets while I’m wait­ing for the dough to roll in. Stay well and do what you enjoy, the money will follow!

  17. Pingback: From the unemployment line to self-employed | lynda.blog

  18. Andy Brown says:

    Hi Rus­sell,
    You can fol­low my Tweets @andyztweet and on face­book at http://www.facebook.com/ClickTwiceDesign

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