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Graceful Transition

By May 25, 2023Features

The author spending time with veterans in France. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

I lost my dream job on a sunny Tuesday morning in February. 

I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. I was slowly removed from some corporate accounts, and my job had changed. I had gone from traveling to France to visit battlegrounds with WWII veterans and the Best Defense Foundation volunteers and tagging along in Kodiak, Alaska in Coast Guard members’ MH-60T Jayhawks to being assigned (and writing) less stories. I was losing enthusiasm.

Thus, the bad news came. I first saw my two editors taken out of the work communication channels. Then came my turn. The whole meeting only lasted a few minutes. I was asked if I had any questions, while my editor’s advice was ringing through my head: “Maintain professionalism.” Of course I’ve got questions, but none that’ll serve me here or offer me any solace. 

In tears, a little angry, and a little hurt, I was left to face the hard truth: it was time to move on.

I read an article that referred to something resembling my response as “threat mode.” It sounds most accurate for how I immediately went to job boards searching for a description most closely matching the dream job I was just relieved from. It’s got to be out there, I thought.

Removing my mark on company property. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

I had to purchase new equipment. My company requested mine back. So, I commenced removing the stickers, wiping my files, and undoing the past year I’ve lived out with these pieces of technology. That night took a lot out of me. (Also, no one told me about the blow dryer method on stickers until after I’d scraped them off!)

Now, I spend some days buried in my laptop just searching job boards, messing with my resume, applying to jobs, checking my email, and updating my LinkedIn. Other days I let myself soak up some sun on a local beach to clear my head and regain some hope that I’ll be ok. I’ve worked so hard to have a solid career that it really knocked me down when it all went downhill. But it’s just a job.

After it happened, I was informed that my former employer had set me up with a career coach to get me back into the workforce. It reminded me remarkably of how the military sent me back into the civilian world with their Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program. 

A decorative pillow at a coffee shop in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

My instinct with this new resume and career path coach was to cry to her. But her job is not to be a therapist – instead, she is a coach meant to launch me into my new path. I recognized that and held in my grief for another time. She was here to help me look forward, not backward.

“Allow the road ahead of you to speak louder than the road behind you.” – Unknown.

A lot of people in my life are serving this purpose. They lived my whole past 18 months with me or through me. They don’t need me to tell them that I’m heartbroken or that it’s hard to make such a transition when you’d had such high hopes. No, they wanted to serve my future. They wanted to help me on my new adventure, and this was their opportunity to be a part of it.

I had so many people looking out for me. I had not been fired before, but I’d moved on to new jobs plenty. This time it was like I’d already set myself up. I had networked well over the past year and publicized my passion for my job. People reached out the second they heard the news, and I think that was the most helpful occurrence. 

The author on a Florida beach. Photo by Noelle Wiehe.

I got phone calls. I ran into folks who’d seen my social media post about being let go, and texts poured in with resources to use in my search for my new path. Some of the most notable were a colleague from my first-ever journalism internship 12 years ago and the folks at Military Veterans in Journalism.

I knew back in the summer of 2011 during my internship and in 2021 when I came across MVJ that I had found my people. They have the same passions, goals, and ambitions. They’re climbing ladders alongside me and helping me prop up my own when I fall down.

Every step of this journey, whether employed or unemployed, my fellow journalists and others I built these professional relationships with have been on my side. I fully intend to keep my journalism colleagues and MVJ in my pocket no matter where this journey goes.

My advice, from experience, is to give yourself some grace in these times. I followed through on the vacations I planned, took plenty of time for self-care, and called on friends when I needed them. Grief is a salty mistress. It comes in waves, and while losing a job isn’t comparable to a physical loss, it put me into a grieving cycle that I’m still in.

I am lucky I have a little time to figure it out yet. Time is money, though, so I’m constantly looking, hoarding the pennies I’ve got, and searching for the way I’ll bring in my future paychecks. I’m making sure that way is what I want.

I’m searching for my dream job again. We all go through it. At least, that’s what I hear.

Noelle Wiehe, the author of this article, joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted public affairs soldier. She followed her dream of telling the military’s story from outside the uniform, working in downtown Savannah as editor-in-chief at Connect Savannah before landing a fellowship through Military Veterans in Journalism to work for Coffee or Die Magazine. She is now seeking to continue her journalism passion. Connect with her on LinkedIn!