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What to do when you lose your job

A Story I Thought I’d Never Tell

What to do when you lose your job. To be honest, I never thought I’d write an article on this topic.

I never thought I’d write about this but I just lost my job.

I just lost my job and the #ArchiTalks challenge this month was to write on the topic of “A Day In The Life.” My days are suddenly very different so it seemed to be an interesting fit.

Have you been following along with #ArchiTalks?

Here’s the format: every month someone (usually Bob Borson of Life of an Architect) throws out a topic and a dozen or more of us in the architectural profession wax poetic (more or less) on the subject.  You can find a complete list of everyone participating in this month’s #ArchiTalks challenge at the end of this article.

Did you miss last month’s articles? My contribution was “Architects can Improve their Marketing by Incorporating Storytelling.”

I guess the reason that I never thought I’d write about what to do when you lose your job is because I’m a bit of an anomaly in our profession. I graduated from college in the early ‘90’s; in the midst of a recession.

You can read my article titled “Three Lessons From The Streets” about the trials and tribulations of finding my first job in architecture on Mark R. LePage’s Entrepreneur Architect site.

Fast forward a little over 20 years and now we’re coming out of our second great recession in as many decades. Anyone in our profession that’s my age or older is painfully aware of that history.

Somehow over the course of all those years I never once lost my job. Through all the layoffs, and mergers and firms folding under the pressure of our failing economy many of our colleagues were out of work for some period of time. But I wasn’t … until now.

Have you ever been really sick; so sick that something happens in your ears to throw your equilibrium off? That’s what happened to me; my whole world started spinning.

Let me back up a week or two.

A couple Wednesdays earlier I, along with a couple colleagues attended the AIA Indiana / AIA Kentucky Convention. Over the course of three days we won an award for one of our projects, I gave a presentation on Architectural Storytelling and I worked … a lot.

We’ve all been there. We go to a convention or conference and spend as much time working as we do taking part in the convention. I even left the convention early to go back to the office to work some more. In fact, I drove 2 hours back to the office and worked until 10 o’clock on a Friday night because early the next morning I was supposed to board a plane with my family for a nice fall-break vacation.

It was a nice vacation; blue skies, blue water, white sand. Ahhhh …

The following Monday, like every other Monday morning I was in the office by 6:30 to wade through the 800 or so emails that landed in my Inbox while I was away. At 9:00 I was on a conference call with a Client and our firm’s Principal. We reviewed progress, covered a few design changes, agreed on the next round of deliverables and scheduled the next conference call. That’s a pretty typical Monday morning. Then I left the office for a couple site visits and a couple more meetings with contractors.

At 1:30 I was informed that my “position had been eliminated.”

Laid-off, fired, downsized, rightsized, I don’t care what you call it; the end result is the same … you are unemployed.

Suddenly, the day I returned from a nice vacation, the week after winning an award and speaking at our annual convention, I was just another guy wondering what you were supposed to do when you lose your job in Architecture.

My whole world was spinning.

What Are You Supposed To Do?

So what are you supposed to do when you lose your job? I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer that question but I’ve looked at my recently attained status as an opportunity to test and prove what I talk about all the time at Architect of the Internet … First ask ‘Why,’ formulate a plan, find a target, make online and offline connections and so on. It’s put up or shut up time; time to ‘prove it.’

For me, the ‘Why’ was rather obvious.

Drink Coffee!

what do you do when you lose your job hustle 02

I hatched a plan that was designed partially to engage my network of friends and colleagues and partially to preserve my own sanity. The plan was pretty simple; have one cup of coffee with one person every day. Sounds easy enough right?

Honestly it is easy. In fact, I’m grateful to all the friends and colleagues that have graciously indulged me in my quest. I’ve had coffee with more than 35 people so far.

I’ve talked to people I see almost every day and I’ve shared a cup with people I’d never met. I even sat down with someone I worked with 17 years ago but hadn’t seen since. That turned out to be one of the most interesting and influential conversations.

I’ve left myself at the mercy of other’s schedules and preferences. After all, they’re busier than I am right?

Before I realized it, on one day in particular I had scheduled 5 meetings. On that day I re-defined the known bounds and effects of caffeine tremors. Someone asked me why I didn’t just switch to decaf.

If you’d like to follow along, search the #CoffeeADay on Instagram or Twitter for my ‘1 + 1 = HUSTLE’ images.



“What can I get started for you today Jeff?”

“I’d like my usual 2 shot espresso macchiato. Please make it dry. Oh, and can you make that decaf?” Really?!

But I digress. This is supposed to be a day in the life so here goes:

4:00 AM Get up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and check email.

Yes, 4 AM. I do this every day. I did it when I was working and I’m doing it now when I’m not. For me, it’s important to maintain my structure. It helps me continue to be productive.

5:00 AM Check Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

I do this every day too. After all, I write and speak about Social Media Marketing uniquely for Architects. I couldn’t possibly start my day without communicating through all my Social channels.

6:20 AM Take my son to school for Academic Bowl practice.

Why do kids start school so early these days? If you’re not familiar with it, think of Academic Bowl as team Jeopardy. These kids are REALLY smart!

7:00 AM Vote

Yes, it’s THAT day and it’s your civic duty. Go vote.

what do you do when you lose your job hustle 01

8:00 AM Met Vanessa, my neighbor and Owner of a local PR firm for coffee at Starbucks.

I don’t know Vanessa all that well but we run in overlapping circles. She has a lot of connections in the tourism and development worlds. She’s also really good at connecting dots in ways that aren’t necessarily obvious to everyone else.

9:30 AM Jump in the car and rush off to my next coffee appointment.

10:00 AM Met Ryan, a Communications Consultant for coffee at The Foundry.

Ryan and I have helped each other on a few initiatives over the years. He’s a ‘solopreneur,’ a good sounding board when it comes to the topic of developing a business niche and a virtual librarian of resources for those times when you’re asking yourself ‘what do I want to be when I grow up?’

11:05 AM Jump back in the car and rush off to my next coffee appointment.

11:30 AM Met Nancy, the Director of Community Partnerships at a local CDC for coffee and lunch at Duo’s.

Anybody that holds the title of Director of Community Partnerships is well connected. Nancy and I have served on Boards together and our hearts and minds are usually in similar places. If you need help with anything, anywhere, Nancy is a great resource for figuring out how to get it done.

12:55 PM Jump back in the car and rush off to my next coffee appointment.

what do you do when you lose your job hustle 03

1:30 PM Met Paul, the President of a national logistics-related manufacturing company for coffee at Calvin Fletcher’s Coffeehouse.

This is a tough one. Paul is a mile-a-minute kind of guy; the very embodiment of Ricochet Rabbit. I’m not. He’s tough to get ahold of and tough to talk to, but he really knows business. He knows how to start one, how to run one and how to sell your product.

2:40 PM Jump back in the car and rush off to pick my kids up from school.

4:00 PM Write a Facebook post entitled “Fifty-eighth Day of School Report:”

Every day of this school year I’ve written a story about what happened in school as relayed to me by one or both of my kids. Maybe you’ve read them. Some are humorous, some are poignant and I like to think that most are entertaining on some level.

What?! We’re not Friends on Facebook? Follow this link and let’s connect.

5:30 PM Met Steven, my neighbor and Vice President of Marketing at a local Tech Company for a beer at Jockamo.

I know I said a coffee a day; this was beer but at least I ordered a coffee porter. That counts right? Steven has encouraged me in my writing and speaking for Architect of the Internet from the very beginning. He’s also a great mentor for growing Architect of the Internet into a full-fledged consultancy. Besides, after that much coffee you need the alcohol in the beer to bring your nerves back down to a near-normal state.

7:30 PM Go home and collapse after a hard day’s work.

So there you go; there’s a day in my life.

Is this the typical day for an Architect?


Is this the typical day for anyone?

Maybe; maybe not.

So what do you do when you lose your job in Architecture?

I’m still not sure I’m qualified to answer that question but I at least want to leave you with three takeaways from my Coffee A Day Initiative and my 5 meetings.

Work Hard

I never would have imagined that I would have been as busy (or busier) now than I was when I had a job. I’m writing, making connections, meeting new people, having conversations … and yes, having coffee. Am I getting paid for my work? Not yet. But I will … somehow … soon. Work hard at finding work.

Get Out

You’re not going to find a job sitting at home in your pajamas. Get out, talk to people meet with people. They’re not going to be wearing a sign that says ‘Now Hiring.’ Even if they’re not an obvious sentinel along the path to a job have a conversation. There’s a lot better chance that that conversation will lead to something before uploading a resume on a job search website will.

Seek Diverse Viewpoints

Are there similarities between Vanessa’s and Ryan’s and Nancy’s and Paul’s and Steven’s positions? Yes. Are their personalities, skillsets, backgrounds, even industries the same? No. Were any of those five conversations like any other? No. Don’t seek out people that will tell you what you want to hear. Seek out people who will tell you what you need to know. You don’t need cheerleaders, you need trusted advisors.

what do you do when you lose your job hustle 04

The Rest Of The Story

What’s the rest of the story; where do I go from here? The truth is, I don’t know. Right now I’m fighting off the panic of “how am I going to pay my mortgage” and “how am I going to buy Christmas presents for my kids.” I’m doing more and more consulting under the Architect of the Internet banner while I write the script for the next act of “This Is My Life.”

Before long, I’ll publish the next chapter and let you all know where I’m headed from here. Until then, please stay tuned.

And, if you’d like to grab a cup of coffee let me know.

In the meantime, here’s a list of the other professionals that are stepping up and pushing us forward. Let’s see what’s exciting them:

If you’re interested in joining in the #ArchiTalks fun for future posts leave a comment in the Speak Your Mind area below and I’ll make sure you’re including on the email chain going forward.

My goal is to start an open dialogue and let Architect of the Internet be a forum where we can all learn to have success in the business of architecture through Social Media.

About Jeff Echols

Jeff Echols is the creative Storyteller for Award-Winning architecture firms and the Social Media Campaign Manager for industry professionals. He is a graduate of Ball State University with over 20 years’ experience in the marketing departments of firms ranging from three to three thousand employees.

Jeff spends countless hours studying, developing and implementing strategies for insuring marketing success for Architects and other business owners in the online arena. He documents the good, the bad and the ugly in Social Media at Architect of the Internet and speaks about Conquering Social Media in venues ranging from the Board Room to the Convention Stage.


  1. Jeff, This is awesome! Well….no, losing your job is not at all awesome. But your attitude and mindset is! You’re motivating even when we’re the ones that need to be motivating you. Keep up the hard work! The next big thing for you will find you soon if you don’t buy it coffee first! Cheers!

  2. I don’t know how you collapsed at 7 at night after 10 shots of espresso…

    Keep at it Jeff. You’ve got the right outlook.

    • Lora, in the immortal words of Socrates: “Beware the caffeine crash!” Ok, well maybe it wasn’t Socrates that said it but you should still beware the caffeine crash. – Jeff

  3. Thank you for such an inspiring post, and reminding us to go out and talk to people. So many architects can relate to your story!

    • Thanks Elena! There’s a rule of thumb that’s been around our industry for ages: 80% of commissions come through references and repeat clients. We’ve got to keep talking to people even if we’re ‘just’ marketing ourselves. – Jeff

  4. Jeff,
    Wow. This is the most poignant of the ArchiTalks blog posts I’ve read so far.
    I think many of us are where you are now and each of us has a unique story of career restoration.

    Keep on with the networking – these something good ahead for you, I’m sure.

    P.S. My post is a good companion piece to this. In business now for sixteen months, I find myself in a season of fulltime marketing to take my firm to the next level. Stay strong. And let me know if I can help you in any way.

    • Thanks Collier! You’re right, your piece is the perfect companion. Since marketing is in my blood, I approached this time as an effort in marketing myself. I didn’t know what else to do. Keep doing what you’re doing. I’m sure as you go along you’re figuring out how to target the right people and the right meetings and begin to get more and more efficient with your efforts. But somedays, it’s just nice to have the conversations and camaraderie. – Jeff

  5. Sean J. Tobin says:

    Jeff, thanks for posting and sharing something so disruptive to your life. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your job, and just wanted to say that from what you shared, you’re doing all that you can. I’ve been there, right down to the work part of a day only to get laid off later. It sucks, to be blunt.

    And if my life has taught me anything, it is to take things as they come, and something will come along. It might not be ideal, or what I was hoping for, but it will be enough for the moment.


    • Thanks Sean! I know this is something that has happened to most of us but there’s just not that many people that want to talk about it. I couldn’t see writing ‘A Day in the Life’ post without being completely authentic and exposing what we go through. – Jeff

  6. Wow Jeff. That was truly inspiring. As someone who has been where you are, i can tell you are doing more than i did. Eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, i gave up and started my own practice. I am certainly glad i did. But i can learn a lesson or two from your initiative. Getting out to meet people is something i think we could all probably do a bit better. I know i can. Thanks for such a great post.

    • Thanks Matthew! First, I wouldn’t consider starting your own practice giving up. Congratulations on that leap and I’m glad you’re making it work. Second, I owe this to my very first little league coach. The only thing I remember about him is his yelling at the top of his lungs: “Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!” So this is for Coach Willie. – Jeff

  7. Awesome…it felt like a caffeine rush…brilliant. Man…the whole lemons, lemonade thing happening. All the best on the search.

    • Thanks Lee! Here’s a little update: Last Friday, due to the number of meetings I set up and a mistake by a barista in training, I had eight shots of espresso in two hours. I actually thought I might be having a stroke! But, one of the conversations that morning was one of the best I’ve had in the past two months. – Jeff

  8. Jeff, thank you, thank you, thank you. I was also laid off, two years ago. I also graduated into the recession of the early ’90s. So much of what you said sounds very familiar – oh yes, been there, done that. I have no doubt that you’ll come out of this in a much better place. I was really angry when it happened to me. My last day on the job was very similar to yours (client meeting with my boss in the morning, no idea what was coming, and in my car on my way home by lunchtime). You are doing all of the right things. I wish you great success in finding whatever the next chapter will be.

    • Ahhh Roxanne, a true comrade! I cannot say that I haven’t had moments of anger (at myself, at my situation, at others) but there’s nothing productive in dwelling on that. Thanks for your encouragement; good things are ahead! – Jeff

  9. Andrew Hawkins says:

    Interesting post for certain Jeff. I was sorry to hear about your situation, but it seems you are doing everything you can and even more! I think your approach is great and it will pay off. And I will definitely buy you a coffee or beer next time. Well I will buy both! I don’t expect you to stay unemployed for long. Some smart company will pick you up! Thanks for sharing what I can only imagine is a rough situation.

  10. Hi Jeff,

    Excellent post. I am amazed by your resilience after what would have knocked me off my game for a good few weeks. I’m more like Roxanne in that when I was laid off in Nov 2008, I was very angry, too. And, like Collier and Matthew, I (re)opened my own firm. It’s a tough field, no doubt! I applaud your fortitude. From what I’ve seen from you, any company will benefit from your many talents. All the best in whatever endeavors you choose to pursue.

    And, yes, please add me to the above-mentioned email list. I enjoy blogging on architecture and would love to chime in sometime.


    • Thanks Tara! I think I understand exactly the thought process you and Collier and Matthew went through. Although I’m having very good conversations, launching Architect of the Internet into a full-blown consultancy is still on the table. I’ll try to make sure you get on the #ArchiTalks distribution list right away. – Jeff

  11. Living and learning! Jeff, this is an extraordinary example of how it is not what happens along the way in one’d life, it is HOW THEY DEAL. Hustle! I look forward to having a virtual coffe with you…

    AAAAAnd, for the sake of conversation, I have had way more jobs than I care to admit…I do not conform easily and accept full responsibility for each transitions with the exception of the economic ones. When I lost my job(s), I framed spec homes, surveyed interstate expansion projects, built the concrete foudation for 5 story hospitals, built additions to churches, built high end custom millwork and made sure free time was expanding horizons too…60 mile bike rides, exercises with retired and off duty National Guardsmen, learning to fly fish, refreshing connections in stamp collecting, etc. It is another approach that was based in keeping a steady income, as I was young and not wise enough to have saved enough. The last job I “lost” happened after I had already incorporated Modus Operandi Design.

    If I had to pick a key word in your post, it would be plan and hustle as the 1 and 1…because those two will make it HAPPEN! See how well I conformed there?

    • I appreciate our virtual coffees Jes! “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln Keep it up Jess. – Jeff

  12. There’s hustling and there’s HUSTLING. You are doing the latter for sure. It reminds me of a couple of books by Gary Vaynerchuk on how to maximize opportunity in social media but it can apply to anything. I get the same feeling from reading your post as I did reading his books – inspiring. I hope you land somewhere even better than you are imagining. I know you’ll make some great opportunities happen.

  13. Did you find a job?


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  8. […] Did you miss last month’s articles? My contribution was “What To Do When You Lose Your Job In Architecture: A Day In The Life” […]

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