I was fired a couple of years ago. It doesn’t matter if you call it fired, laid off, down sized, or asked to resign. It still feels like being fired. Recently most of my friends from my old job were laid off. Some were given a few months to finish out their jobs, others were escorted out of the building immediately. These next few articles are for them, and for me, and possibly for you. Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about some of the things I’ve learned through my experience. I’ve come out the other side. It wasn’t luck, it was a process. I’m pretty extroverted, so some of what I did might strike fear in your heart. Use what you can. I’m not you.
You Haven’t Lost Everything
When you’re fired, you lose a job. It’s not your occupation. It’s certainly not your career. But, you are going to miss things and people related to that job. You might miss the structure, the people you saw in the hall, the location. You will grieve these losses. Let yourself feel that loss. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, hopeless, set adrift, relieved, giddy, free, anxious, hopeful, tired, wired… I felt all of those at various points. I also slept a lot. It’s all part of it.
I worked as a support representative for a national company. It was stressful work helping stressed workers. Many of the same people called in regularly, so we all got to know who we were supporting. In fact, if I see a comment from a former client on Facebook, I hear their voice immediately. Before I left, my regular callers would get emotional on the phone. I heard a lot of them say, “So and So gave their notice today. They said they’re taking a month off before they start looking for another job. No, they don’t know if they can do it financially, but they’re so burned out. I’m about ready to walk out too.” It was obvious I needed time to collect myself, before I started my job search. If you have any means of doing that, give yourself some time.
Call It a Sabbatical
I had some money saved up. If you don’t already have money saved outside of retirement, I encourage you to start saving. It’s an investment in freedom. I did some math and decided I could afford to be unemployed for 3 months. I decided to call it a sabbatical. Since I had worked for nine years in a poured-concrete building, without windows, near a state penitentiary, I spent my first day of freedom outside. I made plans to picnic with three friends. That was an important step in my recovery.
My life was completely unstructured for a month and a half. I slept when I was tired. I ate when I was hungry. I got out in nature. I also spent a great deal of time in silence. That might have been a reaction to my phone-centric job. Honestly, I still have problems carrying on phone conversations, and I hate to answer the phone when it rings. It’s been two years. I don’t know if that will ever change.
The point is, I took time to let myself heal. A different friend was fired right before she was going to leave on a European vacation. It was important for her to take that trip. It made life feel less dark, more manageable. It’s so tempting to try to push through and do “the right thing.” There is no right way to do this. And if you’ve found yourself in a downward spiral of one bad job experience after another, it’s important for you to take a step back to gain perspective. Money is important, but so is your health.
Find a Guide
Before I lost my job, I started working with a transitional career counselor. She was a life saver. I’ll share some of what she taught me in future posts. Her greatest gift was restoring my faith in myself. A good counselor helps you evaluate your strengths, gives you perspective on your work history, and helps you develop strategies. I’ll leave you with one more thing. Your job is simply the work you do for pay. Your occupation is how you classify the work you are trained to do. Your career is basically the sum of your life experiences: your job history, education, volunteer activities, even your hobbies. Losing a job can be a blip on your life’s radar. It can also be an opportunity to explore and expand your career.