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Packing Light (for Your Future Career)

By Nan S. Russell

Travel season has arrived. My travel goal is always to pack light. But typically that evaporates before I ever leave the driveway. Despite thoughtful planning, I pack more than I need, feeling encumbered and oppressed during the trip.

It happens with job-loss, too. We bring too much baggage with us.

It may not look like baggage, but it weighs us down just the same. It’s disguised as past relationships with bosses; previous work experiences; mind-talk about whether we can or can’t do something; how we’ve been treated in work (and life); or how we think we have. Plus, there’s usually one duffle bag stuffed with our expectations.

After a job-loss experience, too many bring their suitcases brimming with self-doubts, old patterns from prior relationships, and self-fulfilling prophesies with them to their next interview, and their next job. In doing that, they allow their past work experiences to dictate their future ones.

That’s a mistake you don’t want to make. If you want your next job to bring career prosperity, leave most of your work-baggage behind. Here are three tips to keep your future light:

1: Toss the physical stuff.

There are suitcase equivalents full of stuff you don’t need. Old papers and mementos from your previous job(s), outgrown or out-of-style clothes, miscellaneous clutter in closets and attics and garages. Start there.

Eliminate the physical baggage from your past. Use it as a symbol and catalyst for building a new path to your future. But more than symbolic, the act of eliminating physical clutter from life is renewing, energizing, and self-empowering.

2. Stop looking in the rear-view mirror.

Learning only through hindsight works if you like Monday morning quarterbacking. It has a place during the job-loss recovery process, but it can be as helpful as a refrigerator magnet’s counsel, "mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life." Sure, they are. But, do you need a reminder that you can’t change the past? Doubtful. Your road is forward. Keep your eyes there.

3. Refocus future expectations.

In work (and life) we tend to get what we expect. If you’re encumbered with emotional baggage and poor expectations, you’ll get poor results, even if you get a great new job. Instead, follow author Deepak Chopra’s advice, “Always expect the best and you'll see that the outcome is spontaneously contained in the expectation.”

One Bag

The directive was clear. One bag. One small size. No exceptions. When my husband and I took a photographic safari for our thirtieth wedding anniversary, that rule for traveling on the bush planes to game preserves in Botswana was a big challenge for me. But, like a seasoned world traveler, I learned to pack only essentials.

People successfully transitioning after job loss do the same. They complete the inner-work to get to the outer-work they seek. (See Coming to Terms with Change: Letting Go.)

By bringing to your new employer only those skills and experiences that will positively impact your work-future, you’ll thrive. Leave the rest of your baggage behind. Want a bright future? Pack light.

About this author...

Nan Russell

Job Loss Recovery Expert Nan S. Russell discovered a Stanford degree didn’t protect her from being fired from her first professional job. From minimum wage to Vice President of a multi-billion dollar company, she learned the hard way. Now she helps others with what does and doesn’t work at work. The author of three career books including, The Titleless Leader, Hitting Your Stride, and Nibble Your Way to Success, Nan is a national speaker and work issues consultant. More at; and her job loss seminar: Rebooting After Job Loss.