Turn Fear into Action, Part 2: My Story of Losing a Job and Changing Careers

In the first post of Turn Fear into Action, I wrote about a possible scenario where job security evoked fear and how to handle it proactively. This time I will share a personal story of turning fear into action. Can you pinpoint the elements from part one in this story?

My Story of Turning Fear into Action

In early 2008, one of my biggest customers sent word to me that they would be ending a sales and service contract by the end of the year. This customer accounted for 60 to 70 percent of my self-employment income. A significant chunk of revenue. From the moment I heard the news, my stomach began turning, and my head began hurting.

I dreaded the loss of income and what it meant for my family. As each day passed, I worried more and more about our future.

Regardless of my disappointment, I still had to provide top quality service. All contact with my customer’s representatives were handled professionally. No need to endanger future opportunities with a short temper or a bad attitude.

Brainstorming New Ideas

Brainstorming new opportunities and career goals happened accidentally. I had to keep track of the thoughts somehow. The fear forced me to think critically and to take notes about my ideas. I typed out the best and worst case scenarios, emphasizing the worst case since it was inevitable.

My notes reflected my strengths as a writer, a speaker, and in the field of business. Next, I evaluated potential opportunities based on my strengths. Would I do well in a new line of business or working for a new company?

It took about three months before an opportunity presented itself.

Utilizing My Social Network

I was a little over a year into serving on the board of a local nonprofit organization. Its mission focused on helping the blind and visually impaired live independently. As a portion of my volunteer hours, I accepted several speaking engagements on their behalf.

By this time, I had developed relationships with several other board members including the executive director, Mr. Tuttle. On one particular presentation, Mr. Tuttle asked me about my business.

I opened up about my situation. Discussed how losing that one customer jeopardized my entire business and lamented that I was in the process of figuring out my next endeavor. He asked me if I had considered nonprofit management and/or grant writing as a career option.

That suggestion blew me away. It never crossed my mind. Mr. Tuttle’s suggestion set the stage for a significant transition in my career.

Refining My Action Plan

I got back to work on my action plan. Nonprofit management and grant writing became two topics of interest. I researched online sources for more information and discovered educational programs through local universities and other agencies.

Before I knew it, I registered for a nonprofit management program. Talk about fear. I felt all alone among the 70 to 80 people attending the monthly workshops. My faithful guide dog kept me company though. Honestly, her presence encouraged me to persevere through the adversity. She became a topic of conversation among the workshop attendees. People wanted to know more about her and how she helped me.

Best of all, I was networking with new contacts and building my knowledge for a new career. I earned a certificate in nonprofit management and leadership when the program ended nine months later.

After completing the program, I registered for several six-week online courses in various aspects of grant writing and nonprofit/business management nicely complementing my existing skills and knowledge.

By the time my biggest customer had terminated their contract, I was grant writing for a fee.

Nearly ten years later, I am still grant writing on a fee basis. I continue seeking learning opportunities through books, workshops, webinars, and peers. My career is still going strong with lots of possibilities ahead.

My story may sound easy and stress-free, but it was quite challenging. Of course, my failing vision compounded the situation. Despite the setbacks, challenges, and the beliefs held by others, I persevered through all of it. Ultimately, by turning fear into action, I successfully overcame the challenges to my career.

You can too!

Moving into a New Career As a Visually Impaired Job Seeker

Explore Careers for Job Seekers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Conducting a Successful Job Search

Connecting with Mentors Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Turn Fear into Action, Part 1: Dealing with Job Insecurity As a Visually Impaired Employee