No, it’s really not just like riding a bike…

by Rich DeMatteo on August 4, 2010 · 10 comments

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I used to ride my bike everywhere.  To the hobby shop, through the park, to my friends houses, and on the dirt track where I did “tricks”.  When I discovered roller blades and roller hockey, my bike was put away in the shed and never used again.  For the next 15 years or more, I avoided my bike, and up until a couple weeks ago, I’ve been bike free.

My family recently rented a place down at the Jersey Shore for the week, and my pops decided he wanted a bike down there with him.  When I was scoping out the place, I stumbled on his bike and decided to try it out.  Ok…so like you, I’ve heard the “It’s just like riding a bike” phrase many times, so I figured it might as well be true.  Well, to my amazement, re-learning how to ride a bike isn’t all that simple.  Whoever has used that awful phrase should write out “asshole” on their fore head.  Seriously… when you haven’t rode a bike in a long time, it’s just not that easy…

The point I’m trying to make here is that nothing is “just like riding a bike.”  When your skills lay dormant, you will certainly lose a step.  There will always be at least a little bit of rust to work off before your skills reach their previous level.

When it comes to long term unemployment, keep your skills fine tuned.  Stay as knowledgeable as possible by reading blogs and books, attending seminars/conferences and workshops, talking to folks in your industry at networking events, bringing your skills home (if applicable), or whatever else may keep you current.  This not only helps in the interview process, but saves precious “ramp-up” time when re-entering the work force.

Even simple things like waking up consistently at 6AM (or whatever time you would normally get up for work) helps.  The more you do to stay in your professional habit, the easier the transition will be back into your professional life, and less likely you are to crash when you hop back on the bike.

What do you do to stay current?

Can you ride a bike?  Seriously?  Can you?

No, really, can you?

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10 comments
Erinn
Erinn

Great post! I love the analogy and couldn't agree with you more! Like you said, there are so many resources to keep you informed- events, podcasts, blogs, books, etc., so paying to enroll in additional schooling is not your only option. I'm a big fan of Google Reader for organizing my favorite blogs/websites. Determine who the experts are in your field and stay up to date with the latest developments and industry news. That way, when you do land an interview, you'll be able to speak intelligently and add value to the conversation. Taking on free gigs is another great way to keep your skills fine-tuned, learn additional skills, spruce up your resume and make new connections. The job market is especially difficult for recent college grads who have little to no experience, so pair your pre-grad job with a free gig in your field to keep your skills in practice. Keep your day structured and self-impose deadlines so that you'll have a smooth transition when you do land a job.

Royce
Royce

PS - that's a very nice pink shirt you're wearing in the above picture ;)

Royce
Royce

This is great advice about keeping your job skills and habits honed, Rich. You know what they say about greatness... it's defined by repeating good habits, not by one-off acts of brilliance (paraphrasing). By the way, job hunting sucks haha

Eleanor Farmer
Eleanor Farmer

I agree with both Rich and Jonathan. Most people become comfortable in a position and don't do anything towards continuous education. Learning and growing in your field is key to staying employed or landing that next position. You should never rest on your laurels because you never know when the next opportunity is coming or from where. If you are out of the workforce for a while, use that time to study and hone your skills. Read, talk to others, take workshops. Do everything you can to stay current. Since I never learned to ride a bike (although I tried several times), I can certainly attest to the fact that it is not that easy.

Jonathan
Jonathan

I agree. I've both started riding a bike again after about 20 years off and doing "real" work after about 6 months off. Both weren't easy. But, if you take it slow and wear a helmet (not to work, just on a bike), you'll be fine. Contracting is a great way to shake off the rust and "remember how to ride the bike." It sharpens your skills, reminds you how to wake up at 6 am, how to dress professionally, and how to relate with others, but it's not a "full-time" job - though, if you're lucky, it can lead to one. Contracting gets you back to your fighting weight, so that when the "real" job comes along, you'll be ready to jump in and win the Tour de France. Good post, Rich.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Erinn - you really do provide all the tools an unemployed person can use to better themselves. Great comment/mini-post! Thanks!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Royce - How's the job hunt going? Doesn't sound like it's going well. Let's chat on g-chat and maybe see if we can tweak it up.

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Eleanor - Thanks for the comment - Really? Never learned to ride? Maybe we can change that! Go out there and try!

Rich DeMatteo
Rich DeMatteo

Hey Jonathan - Always wear a helmet! :o) Contracting does help and it surely does help you gain your legs back. Great comment!