Frozen in Time
How people from our past think of us may be frozen in time. We all have colleagues from the early years of our career who do not think of us in today’s terms. They remember us how we were back then.
Their memories of us are frozen in time.
I learned about this concept from Carol Fishman Cohen, co-founder of iRelaunch. iRelaunch’s about page states:
As the pioneering company in the career re-entry space, iRelaunch is the leader in career re-entry programming of all kinds. iRelaunch works directly with over 40 blue-chip companies in a range of roles, to develop, pilot, source for, present in and publicize their re-entry internship programs, or similarly support their efforts to hire relaunchers directly into open roles without internships.
Carol often talks about how her relaunchers are approached by colleagues, classmates, and bosses from years before their career break. They remember them how they were previously and not how they are today.
This is especially important for those of you who have been unemployed for a long time and your confidence is waning. Many people remember the old you with confidence and vigor. They do not know the person who is worried about whether they will ever get a job again.
Note: This post was originally published in September of 2018 and updated in August of 2020.
High School Reunion
I remember going to my 25th high school reunion back in 1999. I had never been to a previous reunion and I went on to live the next 25 years in the Chicago area and in Austin, Texas. My perception of high school classmates had not changed as I had not seen them in the ensuing 25 years.
After I arrived at the reunion, I discovered some really smart people were real screwups and others who you thought were real losers turned out quite successful in business and life. Until I arrived at the reunion, their reputation was frozen in time.
Think about those who you have lost track of from your childhood. Has your perception of them changed or has their reputation been frozen in time?
Think of the people who you worked with early in your career. I worked with some really smart people in my early years at IBM. Those first few development efforts related to very early word processing products including a spell checker. It was an exciting time to be in technology.
I moved on from those projects and pivoted my career in a very different direction. My memories of many of my colleagues have been frozen in time. If I would run into them again, my thoughts about them had not changed over the last 40 years.
I want you to think about the people you knew early in your career. I am sure that some you have lost contact with over the years. Has their reputation been frozen in time?
Let me give you some frozen in time examples.
Frozen in Time Example #1
Brenda had a long career in the non-profit association world, but after 25-30 years, she was burned out. She went to work for an exciting tech startup that burned out when the main co-founder passed away. Working in the tech startup world energized her and therefore, she decided to ramp up her technical skills and become a programmer. She quickly learned after completing multiple coding boot camps that no one will hire a 55+-year-old female with no experience.
While all of this was happening, she was caring for both of her aging parents.
Brenda was pretty demoralized and directionless. That was until she was approached by someone she had worked with 10-15 years earlier to do some business analysis work for them. They remembered her as the bright, energetic, focused, and really sharp business person, and not the demoralized and directionless person she had become.
It was a short-term project where Brenda went into the organization and reviewed their processes. She then gave recommendations on how to improve the flow of work through the organization.
Brenda was amazed that their view of her was frozen in time, but this project gave her the opportunity to get some of her mojo back.
Frozen in Time Example #2
Back in 2016, I wrote “Introverted Sales Guy Job Search – Case Study” blog post. This was the story about Steve who had worked for the same company as an account manager for over 20 years.
Steve had been unemployed for a considerable amount of time and was quite demoralized. Steve thought everybody would think he was a real loser. He did not want to reach out to his network and ask for help. Sound familiar?
I pushed and prodded him to reach out to people he had worked with over the last 20 years. What he discovered was people remembered him as a really nice guy who put his customer’s needs and requirements first. His reputation was frozen in time.
Please read the case study to understand the process I put Steve through.
Frozen in Time Example #3
This is my story.
I planned my exit from high tech after a near-fatal bicycle accident back in 2002. I had worked in high tech for over 25 years and was burned out. Then came a couple of years of teaching high school math and a year of non-profit work. I was glad I took a chance, but neither turned out the way I thought they would.
Financially, everything was okay but I needed to go back to work.
I had been away from high tech for over 4 years, which is an eon in high tech. Much to my surprise, I was immediately approached by 3 companies with opportunities.
The first opportunity was to work with someone who I had worked with at IBM years ago on an interesting startup idea.
The second opportunity was to do some contract work for the team I left after the bicycle accident.
The third opportunity was with a tech startup where one of my colleagues at my previous startup was working. She recommended me for the job and I started a few weeks later.
They did not see me as someone who felt they failed at their two previous jobs. They remembered me as the incredibly innovative high tech trainer and instructional designer, which was not how I saw myself at the time.
Their memories were frozen in time.
How Do People Remember You
This is why it is so critical that when you get demoralized from a long drawn out job search not to isolate yourself. I formed the Career Pivot Community website, so that people in the 2nd half of life can find a community to seek help. You do not have to feel so alone.
Seek out others who remember you in better times, allow them into your lives and let them help you.
It is very likely that their view of you has been frozen in time.Marc Miller
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Carol Fishman Cohen says
Hi Marc – I love this piece. Thank you for such vivid illustrations of frozen in time. My own story – when I was in year 10 of my 11 year career break, I went to my 15 year business school reunion. It was in 2000. There I met one of my classmates who had become a headhunter. I told her how I had been home with the kids for the last 10 years and was getting ready to return to work. I had no idea how I was going to do it – remember this was before there were any back to work programs . There was no media focus on the topic and in fact, I did not know a single other person who had gone back to work after years at home. But wouldn’t you know, 9 months after seeing my classmate at the reunion, someone I hadn’t seen for at least 10 years, she contacted me with “an opportunity that was a perfect match with my skillset.” And what skillset was she referring to? The one back in 1983 when we were sitting next to each other as first years in business school! That’s when “frozen in time” first occurred to me. Since then I have seen numerous compelling examples of it. Thank you for highlighting a very helpful way to build confidence- getting in touch with people from the past who have a frozen in time view of you!
Marc Miller says
Thanks that is a great example.
I hope others see this and add their example as a comment.
Marc crucial to cultivate positive relationships everywhere you are employed nice to be remembered by past colleagues -frozen in time-who can put in good word for you that could refresh recharge your career and put you into a new career orbit.