In early 2009, I had just begun a new job at a digital agency. Just seven short weeks after starting, I was called in to a conference room and laid off. As I sat listening to the CEO explain the situation, I looked around the room and noticed something: of the dozen employees being let go, only one of them was a developer. Everyone else was a strategist or a project manager (like myself).
One thing was clear: in that tough economic climate, if you didn’t have hard technical skills, you were expendable. So there I was, laid off, with no essential skills to speak of, left staring at a $300 weekly unemployment check and one of the worst job climates in our nation’s history.
I was devastated, but determined to find my way out. And I did. Here’s how.
Step 1. Learn a Skill That is in High Demand
Someone (I wish I could remember who) recommended I spend just an hour each day sending out resumes and fill the rest of my time learning something new and marketable. And that’s just what I did.
Inspired by my experience in that conference room, I decided to learn to code. I opened up a book on learning HTML and CSS and started to work through it. I desperately needed something to do to stave off the unemployment tailspin, and I figured, learning to code was better than watching television. The skills I learned not only allowed me to be creative and build amazing things, but they also turned out to be insanely marketable!
Seriously. It was like falling into a honey pot kind of marketable.
Mastering code wasn’t easy or fast. In fact, I’m still learning new things everyday! But that decision — to gain clear, marketable, digital skills — changed everything. Suddenly, I could execute. If I had an idea, I could make it happen. And every new skill I learned opened up 10 new opportunities! And each new opportunity got bigger and better.
Within three months, I had enough familiarity with HTML, CSS and other coding languages used to build websites that I landed a new job as a technical project manager, plus a gaggle of freelance clients who wanted me to build them websites. Within six months, I had made more money than I would have made in that period if I hadn’t gotten laid off.