On December 1, 2017, when Jenna Wise walked into a meeting with her new supervisor, she wasn’t surprised to hear her department was being relocated to another state and her position was being eliminated. “I was not blind-sided by the news,” Wise said. “It’s still shocking even when you’re expecting something like that.”
Wise, 36, allowed herself to mourn her position as a communications specialist, but by the next week, she began developing a strategic plan for a job search. She made sure her partner, parents and closest allies knew what was going on.
Wise had eight weeks to find a job before her last day with the company. Her resume includes an undergraduate degree in English and a master’s in communication from Queens University of Charlotte, plus nine years of professional experience in marketing, branding and communications at several corporate companies in Charlotte.
Turning to social media
Within the first week, Wise made the decision to put it out on social media that she’d lost her job. She learned how to use Canva, a free graphic design software, and created banners and posts for Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. She wanted to find a balance in her posts – stay true to her values and brand while making it clear what she wanted.
“I never wanted to seem desperate,” she said. “But I also wanted to show that I was very serious about what I was after, what I was looking for. And it wasn’t just, ‘I’m unemployed, hire me.’ It was, ‘this is who I am, this is what I’m looking for and are you looking for me?’”
Wise received immediate support from friends – even leads for jobs and connections to people at companies that may have positions open. Sharing these posts was a tangible way for people to help with Wise’s job search.
“It was important for me to sort of ‘live out loud’ and embrace it, to be able to lean on my support system and my network, to not be afraid to ask for help or be open to exploring something new or make a new connection,” she said.
It was scary for Wise, especially as a private person, to put this personal issue out in a space for everyone to see. Negative thoughts about being laid off – “I’m not good enough,” “Am I a failure?” seeped into her mind.
“Sometimes it seems like people retreat into themselves in an unemployment situation and try to take on this highly stressful experience alone and quietly,” Wise said. “While maybe that works for some people, I don’t think this is a good approach for all of us. It wasn’t for me.”
Wise started a newsletter for families and friends who were interested in her job search. The newsletter curtailed the concerned text messages about her employment status and rehashing the same information to many people. She used Constant Contact and MailChimp to send it out.
“It can be demoralizing to have to say all the time, ‘It’s going fine’, but feeling like, if it were going well, I’d have a job by now,” Wise said.
Wise’s newsletter, named “PUNemployment: Adventures in job hunting” for her love of puns, was two to three pages with images and titled sections. She included personal quotes, job search updates, lessons she’d learned and her plan for the coming week.
It will be nice to go back to sleeping well and having normal dreams. I keep dreaming that I’m late to interviews. Or dressed inappropriately. Or I forgot to shower. – Jenna Wise, PUNemployment, March 11, 2018
Surrendering to the process
Wise didn’t find a job within those first eight weeks. She expected the world to fall apart on February 1, her first day of unemployment, but of course, it didn’t.
Wise built in a routine which included mental health breaks and a day away from job searching. She also volunteered at Levine Children’s Hospital in the Arts For Life program.
“I tried to stay focused and motivated and not make any decisions out of desperation,” she said. “I was constantly balancing persistence with patience.”
Wise interviewed with 11 companies, thanks to many leads generated through her social media campaign. When Wise didn’t get a job offer after an interview, she asked for feedback from the company. She learned a few tips from the process: answer the interviewer’s questions succinctly, be prepared to give specific examples of your strengths in action and don’t wait to be asked to show off your work samples.
In April, Wise accepted a marketing position with a regional corporate company.
Photos: Nicholas J. Good, Jenna Wise