Success Story: Karen’s Career Colonoscopy

Remember the old Monty Python movie “And Now For Something Completely Different?”

Well, that’s what I’ve got for you today.  An acquaintance of mine, Karen Vogel, recently landed a new opportunity (hooray!) here in the Seattle area — and offered to share some thoughts via my blog about her job search journey and the experiences she went through in lining up her new assignment.  Needless to say, she took a rather different and more creative approach to this exercise, as you’ll read below…

My Career Colonoscopy

Yes, working for decades in healthcare management and insurance has fostered a twisted perspective.

After 10 years in virtually the same role as an account manager, I was notified of my departure in November 2010 and given 10 weeks to transition (an atypically long phase).

I pursued international travel and outdoor interests — then went into aggressive job-hunting mode in April.  So, although it had chronologically been 6 months since I last worked, in my mind it took only 60 days to find a job that appears to be a great fit.  A former co-worker fostered a connection to the job I ultimately picked.

What worked well for my search and my sanity?  Here are my top 10 tips, in no particular order.

1)     Understanding the Stages

Thanks to outplacement services, I was handed a road map to expect the following: denial – anxiety – shock – fear – anger – frustration – confusion – stress – avoidance – creativity – skepticism – acceptance – impatience – hope – energy – and, finally, enthusiasm.  I journeyed all of these roads – with a major red light stop at impatience (what, no quick fix?)

2)     Networking

Here’s my plug to pay attention to Matt’s services and ideas, and a huge endorsement of  I also took advantage of DBM’s workshops and online resources, which were surprisingly good, such as social media techniques and personal branding.  I initially assumed my layoff would be a similar experience to what I had gone through a decade ago – it wasn’t.  The rules changed, the tools were different, and I was suddenly middle-aged with a big mortgage.

3)     Focus Your Search

Find the companies or entrepreneurial path you seek with targeted research.  I found that was the best web site for leads in my field.  I applied to 25 positions and interviewed in one way or another with 10 organizations.  Don’t blast your resume to any remotely possible opening.  Use to discover what employees really think.  Look at the firm’s financial history and the nature of any lawsuits as an alert for credibility issues.   Regarding salary expectations or relocation, be honest with recruiters and HR folks so that you don’t waste others’ (and your own) time.

4)     Blogging

I’ve been documenting my ups and downs via a personal blog for a select group of followers.  This has been a source of comfort and cheap therapy.  It kept my writing skills sharp.  I also monitored friend’s blogs and found some great career-related ones via Google searches.

5)     Home Repair

There’s nothing quite as effective as ripping stuff out to get some cathartic release (even though I sprained my ankle tripping on a drop cloth).

6)     Exercise

Maintain and enhance your physical activity.  It’s true, it is very helpful to keep moving and it’s also an old-fashioned form of social networking.  I swam and biked and walked, and even took dance lessons (and was not cured of my tendency to lead).

7)     Avoid Toxic People

Life is too short to get sucked into interchanges you don’t enjoy with people you don’t admire.  I found sources of support in unexpected places, and some assumptions about friendship were tested.

8)     Don’t Burn Bridges

No trashing of your former employer, colleagues, or clients, despite the temptation.  Things may not be as they appear — and karma will eventually take care of those who wronged you. There is no need to defend your unemployment, because most people can relate to it in some way, and few will actually ask for the background story.  Your resume speaks for itself.

9)     Find the Humor

Every life experience is full of comedy and nuggets for future conversations.  You can more effectively control your career when you come across as both confident and humble. 

10)  Be Kind to Yourself

Take the time to think about what makes you happy, and do it (within your budget).  You are under stress and need to acknowledge it.  Remember what toys and tools you played with as a child, and why.  My favorite was my red Etch-A-Sketch — I could shake things up and then fix them over and over again, which I still enjoy.

Work should not define you.   One of the cultural lessons I learned in New Zealand was not to ask people how they made their living.  It was perceived as American tackiness.   A more valued introduction in that country is one that focuses on travel, hobbies, and what drives your passion.

Compared to a customary colonoscopy, I went through this procedure fully awake.  As with most preventive care, I removed some damage from past neglect and had a successful outcome.  If anyone has questions (or would like access to my blog), send me a message at   And best of luck!

Karen Vogel — Seattle, WA


4 Responses to “Success Story: Karen’s Career Colonoscopy”

  1. Yes Matt, that is correct. My employer provided 30 days of outplacement serivces through DBM in Bellevue – I actually stretched it to 3 months. I was fortunate to get the services at no charge as a management perk.They have some individual follow-up, but are generally focused on group/employer business.

    Thanks for the feedback!
    – Karen

  2. Excellent insight and perspective, thank you for sharing!

  3. Laurine: DBM (Drake Beam Morin) is a global outplacement firm that provides career assistance to departing employees as part of a severance package. Unlike my organization, however, I don’t believe they also offer services to private individuals. At any rate, DBM is the firm that Karen was assigned to work with following her previous layoff, I believe…

  4. You mentioned “DBM’s workshops and online resources”. What is DBM?

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