It's been a week since I was laid off, and all the paperwork has been submitted for unemployment. Now what?
After thinking about it and bouncing ideas off of a lot of people, I knew one of the most important questions was whether or not I could make ends meet. Fortunately, I spent the last few years getting rid of previous debt, and so my current costs of living are shelter (mortgage) and food for my twin boys and myself. Since those costs are manageable, that takes the pressure off, for a while.
My peers keep asking if I've found a new job yet. I know that it's meant well, but the more I look at things, the less I think that jumping into a new position is the way to go. For the last 10 years, I've been more of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to computer support. Do I want to stay good at a lot of things or become great at a few?
This is a big decision: Do I rush back into the work force or go back for retraining and some specialization? With the current job market, I'm afraid of ending up in a job that requires more specialization than I currently have — or in such a remedial job that I am bored to tears. Of course, I will look anyways, just in case.
The other option is to get some training and brush up on some skills, maybe even pick up a certifcation or two, which will open a few more doors a little down the road. Next week, I'll find out if I "qualify" for state-paid training. I'm not sure how being displaced could make me NOT qualified, but the nice lady behind the counter seemed to think my degree could count against me. It's hard to believe that our government would punish people who try to better themselves.
Since I'm not one to sit around and wait on a "maybe," I stopped by the place where I got my BA in networking. Part of the benefits for alumni is the ability to take a class as a "refresher" for free. The problem is that the class is in week 6 of 15, and the next rotation doesn't start until the fall. So, I decided the best solution was to join the class immediately and catch up. Tuesday is Cisco 3, and Thursday is Cisco 7. Sure, the class is from 4:30 P.M. until 9:00 P.M., but other than not being home to make dinner two nights a week, what else do I have to do? Within a few months, I could have my CCNA, and by winter I could have my CCNP.
Did I make the right decision? With 26 weeks of unemployment benefits (before extensions), I'm thinking seven weeks of this is a good investment.
If you were an employer (and I know some of you are), how would you look at this path? Am I heading the wrong way in this fork in the road, or is there not really a "right" way to take? Would you "ding" me in an interview for not jumping right back into another job, or would you value someone who looks to increase their skills?
For those TechRepublic members who have been in my position, what did you do? Did you have the choice?
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Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.