How Unemployed CIOs Can Survive the Dark Days

A long job hunt takes a personal and professional toll. CIOs have family and financial concerns while they reassess their careers and face a changing job market. But here's how CIOs can emerge stronger than ever.

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Jerry Hodge

Jerry Hodge says he probably experienced every emotion there is during his job hunt. He searched for a full-time position for three years after being laid off as senior director of information services at Hamilton Beach in 2010. At times angry or depressed, then sometimes sentimental and sanguine, Hodge says this period changed his life.

At first he confined his search to the area around Richmond, Va., where he lives. As the months passed, he expanded his range to the southeast coast, not wanting to be more than a half-day's drive from his two sons, who were in elementary and middle school then. He and his wife divorced during this time, compounding the stress.

Geek that he is, he says, he kept a spreadsheet of the more than 200 job inquiries he made and their results. It was one way to bring order to a situation that felt chaotic. "Unfortunately, unemployment is not like a project," he says. "You don't know when it's going to end."

He didn't miss a mortgage payment, but he had to dip into savings, he says. "But certainly not some of the desperate moves other people have had to do."

A close friend was let go from his company at about the same time. And a group of 10 CIOs around Richmond meets regularly to talk. "We had each other to lean on and ask the philosophical questions," he says. That includes grappling with issues of self-esteem and family relationships that arise when going through professional upsets. "I could call any one of the group and say, 'I'm struggling. I need someone to talk to,'" he says. "They've been there. Likewise, I'm there for them. There isn't anybody who is just a taker."

He landed as director of IT at Dynamic Brands last July, and in January they "parted ways." Hodge is again looking and hopeful to get a 9- or 12-month contract position through contacts still warm from his 2013 search. He's determined to stay positive. "That's the only attitude you can take," he says, adding that recruiters pick up on negative vibes. "This is just a temporary bump in the road."

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