Filling the “hole” in the “whole”

March, 2014


Several years ago Twin Cities psychologist Bruce Roselle coined the phrase, “the hole in the whole” to describe what takes place after one leaves a job. The “whole” represents your total life situation, and pulling your job out creates a very large “hole” in that whole. Since voids tend to get filled up fairly quickly, in no time this hole can become engulfed by all that once surrounded it. Think domestic duties and projects, family time, volunteer activities, recreation, time alone and with friends.

Some of this hole filling can be a very good thing, and many of my clients tell me that the “sabbatical” period between jobs created great opportunities to attend to things that were routinely pushed aside while they were working. Others are so concerned about finding the next job that they spend most of their waking hours either working on their job campaign or worrying about their job campaign. In this blog I will offer three different strategies for filling the “hole” in the “whole” during a job transition.


Sometimes you are tired or burned out and need a sabbatical after leaving a job. For a period of time, maybe you just have to fill the hole with time to renew, catch up on non-work related things, and recharge your batteries. Everyone needs to put their best foot forward when starting a job campaign, so you might need this renewal time to make sure you are truly ready to move forward. If this sabbatical period doesn’t last too long (days or weeks, but be careful about many months), usually a prospective employer will accept the logic of taking some time off after ending a job, especially if the time just before your departure was intense and draining. For additional perspectives on this strategy, read last month’s blog on the three stages of transition.

Do it now

Sometimes you just need to hit it hard from the start. Get your self-assessments done, and your resume and LinkedIn information updated. Get your focus, your stories lined up, approach your network broadly and effectively. If you are truly ready to hit it hard from the start, then go for it. I always recommend preparing for networking (a critical element in 65-80% of job landings) by reading The 20-Minute Networking Meeting by Marcia Ballinger and Nathan Perez. If you are looking for work similar to your last job and industry, you may feel better just getting on with it, perhaps taking a break later in the process after your networking “flywheel” is fully in motion. Be careful not to just take the first thing that comes along, however, unless it matches well with your criteria. Take a look at my October 2013 blog about evaluating an opportunity when things get more serious with a prospective employer (and also to help clarity your focus at the beginning of your search).

Expand and explore your options

If you are thinking about a career transformation, a new path altogether, you may want to fill the hole by crafting experiments, shifting connections, and making sense of what you learn. In my November and December 2013 blogs I wrote about this strategy, which is described in detail and with many helpful case studies in the book Working Identity, Harvard Business Press, by Herminia Ibarra. You will want to try things on for size, learn from others who do what you are considering doing, and try to see beyond the basic assumptions and facades as you determine if it makes sense to pursue a whole new career direction.

Some final thoughts

How quickly you fill the “hole” in your “whole” after leaving a job will depend on how ready you are to dive back in (you may first need a brief sabbatical), and whether you are considering a career transition (faster start because it is more familiar) or a transformation (usually needs a lot more discovery and discernment time before committing). In this entry I have offered some perspectives, strategies and resources to help you move forward. Here’s to your success as you attempt to fill the open space in your life with fulfilling new work, discovered at whatever pace is right for you.