Every piece was coming together. I had recently transitioned out of five years of active-duty service as a Captain in the United States Marine Corps Infantry, I moved my family to a new state, and I was about to put roots down. I finally had each piece of the puzzle to “have it all”- or so I thought when COVID-19 entered the scene this past spring.
At noon on April 24th, 2020, my wife and I were scheduled to close on our dream home. As I logged in that morning, I received a calendar hold for a one-on-one meeting with Human Resources. I lost my job along with around 1000 of my colleagues. I felt abandoned by my company and certainly could have thrown my hands up and cried “why?”
I learned in the Marines, there is always a way to find victory in defeat. As an officer in the Infantry, we teach Marines “RTR”; a simple ditty on how to respond to a surprise in combat. “RTR” stands for “Return fire, Take cover, Return accurate fire.” With the news of losing my job, I fell back onto my Marine Corps training and networking and skills from my previous role in executive search. Now, I found myself using these skills to find my own opportunities.
Return fire: I immediately reached out to those who made the most sense – recruiters that I had connected with in the past. I shared that I was interested in exploring new opportunities and attempted to rekindle conversations that I had had with them when I transitioned out of the USMC a year prior. This effort was to get the proverbial wheel turning and to see if a quick win would arise. It didn’t.
Take cover: Next, I took cover and I asked myself — what do I want to do? Who do I want to be? In response, I created a search strategy for the careers in which I was interested. An integral part of this strategy was crafting and delivering my own personal story, which highlighted my skills in logistics management and talent acquisition roles.
Return accurate fire: Now it was time to take deliberate actions towards new goals and to direct “accurate fire” towards these career targets. I tirelessly shared stories with individuals who were in my fields of interest. Day after day, I connected with leaders on LinkedIn to have meaningful conversations. I asked their advice on who to connect with next and if they would keep me in mind for future openings. Soon, I was in the final interview stage with three F500 companies. And shortly after, I accepted my current role.
What I wish I knew: I saw my peers sharing their own job loss on LinkedIn. To me, many of these posts read as sad stories. My own pride kept me from publicly sharing that I too had been let go, so I refrained, thinking that I could find a new role on my own. That’s when hearing from an old friend from the Marines reminded me of the strength of a team; that properly asking for help is a critical step in finding success. My idea of accurate fire shifted from looking for a new job on my own to knowing that my way forward was through my relationships with others.
After gaining some courage, I shared with my community that I had been let go. I shared that I was thankful for what I learned, that I was ready for the next challenge, and that I was eager to get “back in the fight,” as we said in the Corps. Three days after I publicly posted that I was looking for a new opportunity, I was contacted by the person who is now my current CEO. Owning the setback of being let go, demonstrating resilience, and communicating that I was enthusiastically looking for a new team directly led to the role that I am in today. If it was not for the USMC teaching me the power of my community and the concept of “RTR,” I would likely still be on the bench now.
Today, my wife and I live in the dream home we thought we lost that day and the new firm that I am with today increased my compensation because they valued my military experience. I am confident that the market will continue to shift to open new opportunities in new areas that need creative thinkers raised in a digital world. To those who have, are, or will experience a defeat, remember – you can always find victory. “RTR” & Semper Fi!
Wayne Worthington is a Vice President at Raines International, a leading executive search and talent consulting firm with 9 offices in the Americas. Based in Dallas, Wayne serves clients in the innovation and TMT industries.