The Life Raft

a post on Professional Life

18/12/2010 · On a train through Bavaria, Germany · It was sickening to watch the ship go down. Our main client walked in early one morning and tore a devastating gash in our hull. All hands were called; half our crew was lost. The brave few that were asked to stay knew our moments were brief. Thankfully, my life raft was ready to go.

At even the most reputable agencies churn seems inevitable. Just under three years ago I found myself staring at the abyss of unemployment, but through determined effort and whole lot of blessings I was able to jump to a much more ship-shape employer a mere month after my last agency began it’s descent. Avast! Start building your life raft now! My vessel consisted of just a few simple parts:

  • First, I built a buoyant foundation of experience. I identified the most relevant, interesting aspects of my discipline and dove into them with gusto. In my case, this meant specializing in web design (which led to application design as well).
  • Next, I fashioned a rudder of books and online resources. My anxious energies were plenty to convert any idle hours into deep studies of craft and perfection (or pursuit thereof), led by many new-found heroes of web-design. These salty resources helped me find my sea-legs:
  • Finally, I weaved a sail of the best, most recent work I had - no student work, and nothing over a year old (I have heard that 6 months should be the furthest back, but this really depends on the nature of the work you do). Where I felt I was lacking, I worked with some fellow castaways to invent exciting work to help us all strengthen our rigs.

Your life raft should be built and maintained in prosperity in case of emergency. Art=Work, for example, is a large part of my raft, keeping me motivated to grow, learn, and showcase my progress. I also work to build my Twitter profile and make friends – not contacts – among my peers.

Do not wait until your skies darken to start building. A life raft is in no way disloyal to your current employer, nor is it a sign you are looking to jump ship. A life raft should be a measure of your current career health, mixed with only a bit of insurance.

Brighter Times

By specializing and following my passions in the spare time that inevitably crept in during the lean times, new routes became obvious to me. In fact, while digging in to a brilliant little article, I found a little shop that has been nice enough to employ me ever since.

Since those fateful days, all my co-workers who fell to the sea found sunnier beaches. I kept in touch with as many as I could, and we all helped each other in those treacherous waters. In our conversations, I heard their uncertainty but was heartened by their positivity and confidence.

If you are out there in rough waters know that you can work your way through this. Steel your efforts and use any free time to build your life raft into a bonfide battleship. You may just discover your own paradise.

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