From Layoff to Dream Job: A MBA@UNC Student’s Journey Through Unemployment

Raleigh-Durham International Airport’s Terminal 2 — that’s where I got the news that my 11-year journey with my employer had ended. I was on my way to the June 2013 MBA@UNC Chicago Immersion when I got a call informing me that my entire department would be joining the ranks of the unemployed within 30 days. What followed was five months that challenged me on every level — as a father, a husband, a friend, an MBA candidate and a person. My goal in writing this blog post is to provide a “traveler’s guide” for the rocky ride known as unemployment.

Delayed Again?!

Patience. If I had to summarize the one trait someone needs to exhibit during this process, it would be patience. You quickly find out that you are not on your time line but on someone else’s. A “quick turnaround” turns into a two-month waiting period with some companies, as roles are redefined and openings are reconsidered. One simply has to roll with the punches and keep pressing on.

Get to the Head of the Line

Grit, effort or persistence — whatever you call it, it’s the one thing that you can control on this journey. Simply don’t accept a non-response for an answer. Keep plugging away and trying your hardest to network, meet new people and get your name and resume to the top of the pile. I can’t tell you how many times someone reached back out to me or followed up weeks later because of my persistence weeks before. It’s the one characteristic that can separate success from failure. Don’t limit yourself to online job boards, but instead work hard to get your story heard and your application seen.

Don’t Fly Solo

As I already mentioned, this journey is going to be a hard one, so don’t do it alone. Lean on your support system — your family, friends, neighbors or whoever else can be in your corner along the way. Hopefully, you are blessed enough to have a family, both immediate and extended, that can keep you feeling supported and loved. If not, don’t forget you have another family you can lean on too — your MBA@UNC family. I’ve made some amazing friends during my two years in this program, and I’ll never be able to repay them for their kindness, their support and their valuable time along the way. I just hope one day I can be in a position to do the same for someone else. This “family” doesn’t just end with your classmates though; it also extends to the MBA@UNC staff. We are fortunate to have a great career director, Shawnice Meador, who is always willing to listen to our needs and concerns. She was the greatest of listeners but also a willing contributor on my journey to make sure I saw all options in front of me. As MBA@UNC students, you have tons of great resources at your disposal, so make sure to use them!

Stay Grounded

While an MBA is a wonderful thing and something to be proud of achieving, it’s not a silver bullet. Six-figure salary job offers won’t come magically raining down from the heavens because of those three letters after your name. Instead, what an MBA gives you is the confidence and the foundation to take on new challenges. During interviews with companies, I was able to lean on aspects from all of my MBA courses, from business communications to analytical tools, to help differentiate myself from other candidates. Therefore, treat your MBA as a tool and not the solution. It’s there to open the door, and it’s up to you to walk through it and make the most of the opportunities you are given.

Get Going! Don’t Miss Your Connection

Every person considers getting an MBA for his or her own reasons. Maybe you’re trying to accelerate your career path with your current employer, or you’re like me and want to make a career change. Whatever your reasoning, don’t put it off any longer. My unemployment journey would have been a whole lot harder if I hadn’t armed myself with all the tools my MBA has provided over these past two years. Instead of being complacent and spending my time regretting I hadn’t acted sooner, I was able to land a great job that was everything I was looking for in a new role. My MBA and my initiative to improve myself were my two biggest assets in finding a new job.

Arrive at Your Final Destination

While I know it’s hard, try to enjoy the journey. You’ll meet some wonderful people along the way and get to see yourself in a whole new light as well. Just keep remembering that things will eventually work out, so keep your head up and keep pressing forward. It took me five months to find my new job, and in the end, it was the best outcome I could have hoped for. Ultimately, while I hope I never have to repeat this journey, I’m now a stronger person having gone through it.

Finally, stay positive, keep calm, and I promise you’ll land safely. Safe travels, everyone

  About the author: George Yanez is from North Carolina and now works as an associate product manager at ReverbNation (a fast-growing tech startup that provides online tools to music industry professionals). Yanez earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech and spent 11 years working as a hardware engineer. He completed the MBA@UNC program in December 2013 and now spends his newfound free time playing with his three children and continuously thanking his wife for her awesome support during his two years as an MBA student.