Life in the Transition Lane

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I fell in love with this job on a rainy April day in 1986. It was opening day at Yankee Stadium. I put on my Burns Security guard uniform for the first time, and as I was exiting the guard’s locker room, I was called into the security office, “Loox, you’re working Steinbrenner’s box today. Get upstairs now, don’t f*** up, and don’t get too excited and p*** all over yourself.” My first post orders.

I never pictured myself doing anything else. For almost forty years, I contributed to some of the most iconic global brands and traveled around the world doing interesting security things. I still love this job. Despite my love for this work, there were two times in my career where I felt lost and scared, humiliated, worthless—and worse, I didn’t know what would come next.

The words are supposed to be soft, but they hit like a ton of bricks, “You have been ‘impacted,’” “Sorry, there is a reduction in force.” Words hurt. I was angry, and, in both instances, my first thought was, “I’m done; I want to do something different.” The thoughts in my head went a little like a Seinfeld episode:

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George: I like sports. I could do something in sports.

Jerry: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. In what capacity?

George: You know, like the general manager of a baseball team or something.

Jerry: Yeah. Well, that—that could be tough to get.

George: Well, it doesn’t even have to be the general manager. Maybe I could be like, an announcer. Like a color man. You know how I always make those interesting comments during the game?

Jerry: Yeah. Yeah. You make good comments.

George: What about that?

Jerry: Well, they tend to give those jobs to ex-ballplayers and people that are, you know, in broadcasting.

George: Well, that’s really not fair.

Not everyone can be a general manager for the Yankees. George’s dream may seem a little far‑fetched because most of us couldn’t or wouldn’t drop everything and start all over. You might find work in another industry, but why leave the career you love? Whether you want it or not, you have been granted an opportunity to explore, plan, and reset. I have been laid off twice in my career. The stress was compounded by both events happening within the last seven years and searching for work as a 50-plus‑year-old, having grade school-age children, a new mortgage, and helping support my stubborn father who refuses to leave Brooklyn and whose only social life is going to the VA hospital three times weekly for dialysis. Time for some magical thinking.

“I was sure that working my extensive network would yield a job within a month.”

Mistake # 1. For most of us, it will take more than one month to land a new job. Do not set unrealistic timelines. For senior managers and above, finding the right job could take six months or more. I was out of work for seven months in 2017-2018 and four months in 2023.

Mistake # 2. Relying solely on your network to find a job is not the best strategy. I have 2,000‑plus connections on LinkedIn and have worked in the industry for a long time. Many people will be supportive and offer words of encouragement but only a few will champion your cause. You have an inner circle of trusted friends in the industry—lean on them. They will be there for you, even just to talk. In one instance, a good friend in my LinkedIn network assisted greatly in getting me an audience with L Brands, and more recently, I survived the application process. Time for some more magical thinking.

“I have a great résumé. I will have no problem getting a new job or at least several interviews to get started.”

Mistake # 3. Refresh your résumé. No matter how extensive your career is, no matter how many accomplishments you can list, and no matter how many letters or acronyms you have after your name, you must update your résumé. It’s a very small investment for a big payback.

Mistake #4. The harsh reality is you will not get several interviews as soon as you start applying. The résumé review process, in many instances, is being outsourced as HR departments cannot handle the volume—for example, 500 résumés for one security manager opening. I journaled my “Out of Work” experiences and applied for over 120 jobs which I knew I was qualified for. This yielded fewer than twenty first interviews and fewer than ten second interviews. Don’t get discouraged. In one instance, I received an autoreply within forty-eight hours stating I was not qualified. I received a call from their recruiter the next day and landed the job.

Mistake #5. The interview process is longer than you expect. The days of the first interview and being hired in a week are long gone. Even in situations where you are the top candidate, the interview process has taken on a new life, with layers of interviews. Understand that your timeline for wanting to be back to work is much shorter than those companies looking at hiring you.

Mistake #6. Do not spend eight hours a day scouring the internet. It is exhausting and discouraging. Keep to your workday morning routine and spend no more than two hours searching, checking email, and following up on calls. Catch up on projects, read the book you have been wanting to read, take a class you did not have the time for, buy your son that hot dog, and don’t worry about spending the extra dollar. Try to enjoy the time you have been given. I am telling you, when you go back to work, which you will, you will regret and lament the time lost when you were stressed about not working.

As a final suggestion to all those who may be thinking they can do it all on their own—don’t be embarrassed to apply for all available benefits. You have paid into the system your entire career. It is your money. It can be a humbling experience the first time you apply for unemployment. However, it paid my mortgage in 2017 and kept my family in our first house.

If I finally retire and get a moment to reflect on my career (while anxiously awaiting the call from the NRF Ring of Excellence selection committee), what I will remember most is not the brands, the exotic travel, the high profile cases, or the interesting things I have done; it will be how I managed through two of the darkest moments of my professional life. Learning to do it better the second time around—hopefully, for all of you, there is never a first—is one of my proudest moments. If you are impacted, just remember, you will work again. Go ahead and buy your kid that hot dog.

Michael Loox

Michael Loox, CFI has served in various leadership roles in the restaurant and retail asset protection, safety, and security industry for over thirty‑five years. He has led the AP and security functions for The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Prada, Z Gallerie, BLD Brands, and is currently at Sheetz. He also held senior security management roles for the New York Yankees, UCLA Bruins, Gucci, Victoria’s Secret, and Chipotle along the way. Loox earned his BS and MA degrees in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and is a CFI Legacy member and cofounder of the IAI West Coast Chapter. Loox also served on the Board of Directors for the Restaurant Loss Prevention and Security Association. Loox is married and lives in Delaware, Ohio, has four children—two grade-schoolers and two older daughters living their own dreams in Philadelphia and Baltimore.

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