When an unexpected job loss strikes…

March 25, 2016

If you’re just starting in your career, midway through it or even in the waning years, there’s good advice in this guest post from someone who knows what she’s talking about. There’s good advice in this post for anyone who is still working. Because losing your job could happen to anyone.

When I saw that one of my closest sister-friends had written this inspirational piece and posted it on LinkedIn, I knew I wanted it posted here, too. Joanne Sullivan works in–and excels in–the field of development, otherwise known as professional fundraising for non-profits.

It’s a job that seems easy, until you have to do it. Imagine having to ask for money. Large sums of money. Every year. Over and over. Not for the faint of heart.

Building relationships, keeping one’s word, remaining ethical–these are some of the hallmarks of a good development executive and she brings that and so much more to any job she’s had in the 20 years I’ve known her. So when an organization she worked for re-organized her out of a job, it was no surprise that she used the network she’s built and solidified over decades to find herself a new job. 

Preparing for the Unexpected

By Joanne Bucci Sullivan
Tampa, Fla.


Joanne Bucci Sullivan

I did not realize it, but I have been preparing to be unemployed for over twenty years.

Good fortune allowed me to live in the same community for several decades. Wonderful career opportunities provided me with the chance to meet and know extraordinary people. Love of my community propelled me into volunteer service with marvelous organizations. Without realizing it, I built a powerful network of business and personal relationships; people who knew me as a professional with high standards of integrity and a deep commitment to ethical performance; people who respected me.

When the unexpected happened, when a position I had truly enjoyed and flourished in was suddenly eliminated, although I did not comprehend it at the time, I was ready. I admit I didn’t feel ready the morning my boss and the HR Director met with me to tell me my job no longer existed due to a departmental reorganization. I felt disbelief, distress and disappointment. It took me all of 24 hours to begin activate my powerful network, not as a source of referrals or business development opportunities; this time on my own behalf.

A job search at any juncture is not for the faint-hearted, but approaching it from the other side of sixty could have been daunting. However, armed with a virtual Rolodex that would be the envy of many in my town, I set to work, calling, texting, emailing.

With the counsel of a wise friend I characterized my separation from my former employer as the kind of thing that frequently happened when a new leader arrived in an organization, disappointing of course, but forward looking and positive. I set up an Excel spreadsheet to manage information, deliverables and follow up. I got up every morning with purpose and intent. Coffee meetings, lunch meetings, breakfast meetings – I was out looking smart and sassy. I fairly bristled with optimism.

It was more than gratifying to be able to secure meetings with those who were in a position to be supportive, helpful and encouraging at a time when the way forward did not seem clear. To sit down with a valued former colleague or a past contributor to discuss possibilities was invaluable. To receive messages with offers of assistance was reassuring. To have my phone calls and emails returned raised my spirits immeasurably. My network was stellar in keeping in touch just to check in and see how I was. I was buoyed by good wishes and caring messages. I was assured of sterling references and enthusiastic endorsements.

No surprise that my next career move came about through a strong and well developed professional relationship. Unknowingly, I had set the wheels in motion long ago to create a successful outcome to my unexpected search for a new position. The time to build a strong network of powerful relationships is long before you need it. If you wait until you do, it may be too late.

Joanne Bucci Sullivan, CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive), has provided fundraising support to a diverse group of nonprofit organizations in Tampa, Florida. She is now Director of Community Relations for USF Health at the University of South Florida.

The National Association of Fundraising Professionals – Suncoast Chapter, recognized her in December, 2015 with the prestigious Lloyd Horton Lifetime Achievement Award. She was chosen as FSU Alumna of the Month in January, 2015 by the Tampa Bay Seminole Club. In 2012 she was selected as a finalist for the Business Women of the Year Award sponsored by Tampa Bay Business Journal.

27 comments on “When an unexpected job loss strikes…
  1. Nancy Silverfield says:

    Great information and so very true. Thanks for putting it in black and white.

    • Joanne Sullivan says:

      Thank you , Nancy. You just never know. I was very fortunate to have the support I had at the time I needed it.

  2. ryder ziebarth says:

    My sister-in-law has devoted much of her working life sending this very important message out to woman; that no matter what, we must all be prepared for what ever life throws at us financially. And that we must find a form of work that fits our life. http://9livesforwomen.com. Her first ever corporately sponsored large event will be help in Stamford, Connecticut on May 9th, but her web site and blog posts all full of great tips and advice, much like the post you have up today, is a must read. So glad you posted this story, Carol.

  3. Love it! Connections and relationships. They really do have the power to save the day – on many levels!

  4. Kate Mayer says:

    This gives me great hope! Congratulations, and thanks for sharing this success story!

  5. Being “old” does have a silver lining. If you haven’t been an a$$hole, you’ve been around long enough to know a lot of nice, supportive people and what goes around, really does come around—-eventually.

  6. I love your point of view, and your determination and method!
    This post is inspirational!
    The people we’ve been in relation to others: our reputation, our integrity, our professionalism, should count for lots, if we only have the courage to believe absolutely in ourselves!

  7. Andrea says:

    Sadly, information wasn’t like this was not around was when layoffs happened to me and so many others back in 2003…

    • It’s interesting. In 1996 I used this technique myself to network across thousands of miles. I think relationships have always been the key to recovering after a job loss. But it does take time and effort to develop and cultivate them.

  8. Much like parenting and pretty much everything else in life, the better connected we are, the better prepared we are for the surprises headed our way.

  9. Oh my goodness better start on my network now just in case I may need it in future
    Thank you for sharing with#zainspiredlifesyle

  10. Developing strong relationships is truly one of the keys to a life that works. Having that network to turn to when you have a need is irreplaceable!

    • Yes, so true. You don’t have to stay in the same community, either. I networked successfully across thousands of miles because one person knows another who knows another and so on.

  11. Betsy Wuebker says:

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever received when I first embarked on my career (back in the Stone Age) was to be mindful of burning bridges. You just never know who will show up again and when. Even more importantly, you learn that letting certain kinds of people go in favor of those whose positivity encourages your own progress is one of the best moves you can make on a personal and a professional level.

  12. she certainly had the right connections after working in the same field and area for so many years. Glad it worked out…there are so many our age who cannot find another job.

  13. Carolann says:

    Love this post. It’s so important to keep connections alive in business. That’s why I really like LinkedIn. You never know when you will need to reach out to those folks.

  14. Glenda says:

    Very inspiring, and I can fully relate to be let go unexpectingly. However with me, I considered the termination as the best thing that ever happened to me. I was set free.

  15. Very nice post. It can be a lot harder when you haven’t lived in the same area for years but it can be done by reaching out to your contacts across the nation. I’ve had things come from networking nationwide.

  16. Leanne says:

    Really interesting – after changing jobs in my mid 50’s it is great to know that you can do the same in your mid 60’s with the right attitude and contacts.

  17. Silly Mummy says:

    Positive & inspirational & excellent advice too.

  18. Jacqui Odell says:

    We had to deal with this a few year ago and it was really hard. It was a shock and we didn’t know what to do.

  19. Alana says:

    I’ve tried to teach my son not to burn bridges (after he burned a couple) – I am not the best at networking, as I am introverted and tend to be shy. The Internet has been heaven-sent for me. This post has so much good advice. Sharing!

  20. Diane says:

    As someone who needs a complete overhaul on her networking skills, this post really resonated with me. Thanks for sharing! 😀

  21. RaNesha says:

    Your very inspirational and I commend your strength. Congratulations on a better opprotunity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.