A little vulnerability

After I left my last job, things got really tight before I got a new one. I went 10 months without a paycheck and with very little contracting work. I have a family of 6, and we depleted all our non-retirement savings and used credit cards for bills.

Things are okay now. We're living frugally, paying off debt, eating at home, saving up, and letting the coffers refill. I just can't imagine how people that don't have the same privilege, family support, work experience, or professional network are getting by.

I felt like I needed to say this out loud because a lot of people I've talked to, especially those with less experience, are putting on a facade of success so they don't come across desperate to a professional network they desperately need for work.

I'm confident things will turn around eventually. Design and engineering continue to grow in relevance. But it's a tough time in the industry, probably more so than I've seen in the 20+ years I've been at it.

  • If you're experiencing massive success right now, good for you! Please don't strut.
  • If you're a recruiter or hiring manager, be respectful of the people you engage. Have the decency to be honest and responsive. Please don't ghost.
  • If you're struggling and need help right now, let me know. I don't have much to offer at the moment, but I'll do everything I can to help. Please don't despair.

I shared that post on LinkedIn the other day, and it clearly struck a nerve. In a single day, the post got hundreds of comments, 5,000+ reactions, and almost half a million views.

What surprised me most though were the dozens of people who messaged me in response about their own struggles:

  • "I'm scared, I'm nervous... I'm trying to keep a courageous front for my family"
  • "I am definitely putting on a facade so I don't come across as desperate"
  • "This is the first time I've been unemployed in 20 years"
  • "It is definitely the hardest time of my life... most people don't understand what it feels like"
  • "I've been throwing myself into networking strategies"
  • "It's been YEARS of fruitless interviews"
  • "I almost lost custody of my three children"
  • "I've been off a paycheck for the past 5 months and it's starting to get scary... your words made a difference"
  • "Your post showed the honesty people like me need to see to not feel like the biggest loser ever"

This is, I'm sure, only a fraction of the people sharing similar struggles.

I shared a snapshot of all these messages with a good friend of mine who is struggling himself, and he exclaimed: “Oh my goodness. I’m not alone!!!” Vulnerability doesn't pay the bills, but it can help people feel understood and a little less alone.

Be kind to people. Give them the respect they deserve. Don't make them think that a bad job market or a workforce reduction means their work is subpar. Let's do everything we can to help each other, even if the all we can do at the moment is be vulnerable and authentic.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” ― Brené Brown

Jesse Gardner

Up Next: Asynchronous buy-in

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