Regrouping After the Layoff – Lessons from Valerie JL Coleman

Valerie J Lewis Coleman Pen of the Writer

“How I Survived the Demise of Dayton’s Automotive Industry”

I recently had the opportunity to interview Valerie JL Coleman, bestselling author, award-winning publisher and motivational speaker.

“After a twenty-six-year engineering career with Delphi Automotive Systems (formerly General Motors), the plant closed and my position relocated to Mexico. Since that time, I have embarked upon full-time entrepreneurism and adjunct teaching. My business, Pen of the Writer, was created to write and publish books, and position me as an expert on the topics of my books. As of today, I have launched careers for scores of authors including almost fifty high-school students. The transition has not been easy as the loss of my job represented 65% of our family income,” says Ms. Coleman.

In our exclusive interview, Valerie shares some of her experiences, how she overcame the financial and emotional challenges to fulfill her dreams.

Here are some of the highlights from our talk:

About the Layoff

You know the layoff is coming if you pay attention to the signs.  When the company starts to “downsize” the number of buildings in your area, and the manpower starts to shrink, you know it’s time to get prepared.

About Security

Working for yourself takes away the so-called security of a steady paycheck.  With the drop in income, you no longer have the discretionary money to spend on things like clothes and trips.  You start to fear how you will pay the mortgage this month.  Until you build up your business, there will be some lean times.  Build up some savings in the bank to get you through.  On the flip side, you start to see the intrinsic rewards you get from helping others.  That’s what keeps you going.

About Hard Work & Time Off

Valerie’s job in the automotive industry was in a factory environment, male dominated with a strong union presence.  She was an engineer with 26 years of experience, so the hours were long but the work was familiar, somewhat routine, and not very stressful.  As an entrepreneur, you don’t need permission to take off from work and you can do what you want when you want, but there is always something to do and you will work even harder.

About Focus

Choose one thing & stay focused on that one thing.  Valerie allowed herself to get off track initially by focusing on the needs of a music artist for the first 2-3 years instead of what she intended to do.  Without a written business plan, she wasn’t confident in her plan and got pulled into what we call the “shiny object syndrome”.  Today she uses a daily mentoring program and an accountability partner to keep her on track.

About Business

Figure out what part of your business is the most time consuming and whether you can outsource it.  Measure your sales to learn which products are the most profitable and focus on those.

Before You Start Out

Learn everything you can about the business you want to be in.  Look at the competition, what the market price is for your products, and determine what it is that sets you apart.   You also need to have a support network, get out there and network and join professional groups.

These are just a few of the highlights from our interview.  Valerie is a very lively and entertaining speaker and I recommend you listen to the whole interview. You can get a copy on our podcast or download it from iTunes by searching for “Mojo Solutions”.


Regrouping After the Layoff – Lessons from Valerie JL Coleman

Keep Moving Forward or Die

Maybe not die literally, but slowly and insidiously….

Like a shark that needs to move forward to breathe, successful careers need to keep moving or we suffocate.  That’s the premise of Simon Sinek’s new post, Obligate Ram Ventilation.

You hear about career burnout, but this is more like career “rustout”.

Burnout occurs when you are under consistent pressures, work too many hours, and feel like your job is out of your control.  This is very common in today’s corporate environment.  Since layoffs are a common practice, we see many in management positions without the skills and experience needed to effectively manage, and those left to do the work are shouldering the burden from their jobs as well as those who have left the company.

Rustout is a different kind of career death, one that is not so widely discussed.  Just as your bicycle will start to rust if left outside and untended for too long, career rustout happens when you leave your career untended.   When you perform the same tasks, day after day, without any thought on how to improve yourself or your contributions towards some future goal, you rust away.  Your job no longer satisfies you, you lose motivation and spend your days dragging through the hours until you can leave.

Scrape the rust off of your career by focusing on these 2 things:

1) Learn something new.  Read newsletters pertaining to your industry, take a class or read a book.  Find a way to increase your knowledge and your skillset.

2) Set a career goal.  You’ve been in one place doing the same thing for too long and you’ve forgotten how to challenge yourself.  Find something that you can strive towards that excites you.  There are usually plenty of opportunities in your current job – you just need to seek them out.