How to Get Fired: Part 4

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.

Time to Quit?

In my own story, I stayed too long. I had enough money and reasonable benefits, so I felt I had something to lose by leaving. What was happening to me, however, was boiled frog syndrome. The company I worked for gradually became less of a family business and more of a salt mine. Much of this happened after the company became publicly traded. At that point there was an incentive to please the stock holders and consistently increase profits. One of my training classes was centered around the concept of EBITDA. Interestingly enough, I found this Forbes article on EBITDA while I was looking for a link. I remember thinking during this class, that the easiest way to meet EBITDA was to reduce the cost of staffing. When I mentioned that, my instructor became noticeably distressed. She left the company within a few months of that class. Looking back, I think she had a perspective I didn’t at the time.

So many of these things happened gradually, but here is a list (there were so many to choose from) of warnings:

  • Every employee was brought into a meeting and given a copy of Who Moved my Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.
  • Often and with very little warning, the manager would reconfigure the desk assignments of employees.
  • The company no longer matched 401K contributions.
  • The company no longer covered any cost associated with education outside of the company.
  • The company no longer offered bonuses.
  • Raises were nominal.
  • The company filed bankruptcy.
  • Employees were called into mandatory, after-hours meetings with the CEO, and given a list of questions that were not allowed to ask.
  • One manager, clearly demoted into her new position, was removed from her office. She was placed in a cubical which looked onto her former office. That office stood empty for months.
  • Employees were frequently given more duties without financial compensation.
  • Training changed from formal classes to notes written by programmers.
  • When the company emerged from bankruptcy, work conditions and pay did not improve.

Leave Before you Feel Trapped

If your intuition is telling you things are going to get worse at work, they probably are. While profits keep a company in business, good employees keep a company moving forward. If you beat the oarsmen enough, they won’t be physically able to row, and your ship will drift with the currents. Keep your oarsmen fed and rested, and they will help move your ship across an ocean.

Unfortunately, low workplace morale doesn’t just damage employee productivity, it damages people. It’s easy to lose sight of your worth in hostile work environments. This can send workers into downward spirals of one bad job experience after another. A good career counselor can help you recognize your strengths, and restore your faith in yourself. Don’t let yourself get boiled. Jump out, while there’s still time.


References:
Boiled frog syndrome
Career and Life Options
EBITDA definition
Forbes article on EBITDA
Who Moved my Cheese?, by Spencer Johnson.

How to Get Fired: Part 3

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.

The Personal Reboot

I needed a personal reboot when I shed my old job. I had taken on so many “survival skills,” I had lost sight of my own worth. I hold a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance, not a traditionally lucrative degree program. Many of my classmates wondered how I became such a tech. It was survival, pure and simple. Learning some of these skills gave me a sense of accomplishment while others felt a little like punishment. My former job was stressful, fast-paced, and heavy on triage training (learning what you have to learn while you’re troubleshooting an issue). That “do or die” environment forced me to develop very good troubleshooting skills. It also caused me to burn out.

My reboot involved critically looking at my skill set and job experience. I treated them as an occupational buffet. I had worked a lot of jobs out of necessity, and a few because they sounded interesting. Those work experiences yielded a varied list of skills. I ended up with three separate resumes, all with completely different skill sets — technology, writing-marketing, and music. I had very little to lose, so I picked the resume that appealed the most to me, and started networking.

One Step Back, Three Steps Forward

I ended up with a marketing job at a small company. If I look at it in terms of salary, it was a step back. If I look at it in every other way, it was leaps forward. I have honed my marketing skills. I have created content, built a social media campaign, created print ads for international publications, and done video editing. I was able to delve deeply into aspects of marketing that wouldn’t have been available to me in a larger company. Plus, I work with some of the kindest people I know. Win!

I know my path might not be the one for you, but consider it. Burn out can kill your spirit and weaken your body. My burn-out lifestyle was much more expensive than the way I’m living now. If you need a personal reboot, take one before you develop a serious illness, before your relationships fall apart, before you just can’t get out of bed anymore. Take it, because you don’t have to be shackled by your survival skills.

Set Your Own Buffet

Now, sit down with your list of skills and work experiences. Divide them into three groups:

  1. I LOVE using these!
  2. I feel comfortable using these.
  3. The thought of using these makes me physically ill.

Concentrate on the first two groups. What kind of a living could you make from those skills and experiences? Does using these skills mean you need to work for an unconventional company? Do you need to be an entrepreneur? Sit with these ideas for a while. Write them down. Talk through them with a transitional career counselor, your family, your friends. Your next job might simply act as a bridge to your new life. Let yourself take the step.


References:
Career and Life Options

How to Get Fired: Part 2

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.

Who Are You?

As strange as it sounds, if you are unemployed, you are now in the marketing field. Your primary job is to market yourself to potential employers. The first step is to find your brand, your identity. This is where the introverts shout, “But I just want a job!” Let’s start painlessly with what you can do.

You have skills you don’t recognize as “skills.” If you are in a tech field, list all the operating systems you can use and your skill levels. Do you work primarily on a Windows platform? Do you use it simply to get into software, or do you troubleshoot and configure hardware, software, and network settings? It doesn’t matter if you were paid to do this, or if you have a Linux box in your basement. List the skills. Then list your software, even if it’s old software, especially if it’s obscure. List all your programming languages, even if they’re not the hot ones. List everything and get it on LinkedIn. Put the stuff you enjoy doing most at the top of your list (you can drag and drop skills). Get them on your resume.

Once you see your skills in front of you, look at the list in terms of what you enjoy doing. If you can setup a printer remotely, but it fills you with dread, shift your identity, your brand, away from that skill. We have all picked up what I like to call “survival skills.” These are things you do, because you have to. It’s okay to leave these skills behind, or to use them in a different context.

Where do You Want to Be?

When I worked with Cindy Kaliff at Career and Life Options, she asked me to make a list of companies I thought would be good places to work. Do that now. You’ve already heard things through the grapevine or in the news. Use your intuition. If you’ve always wanted to work for Google, put Google on your list. If you’ve heard good things about TalentPlus, put that company on your list. Think big. Think small. Just think anything is possible. And remember companies like Apple have a number of remote employees. Dreaming big doesn’t always mean selling your house and moving to a different part of the world.

Once you have your list, start paying attention to the people in your personal network. You might be surprised to see you have some sort of connection to a company. If you do, start up a conversation. Ask them what they like and dislike about being there. Ask if they have any jobs opening up. If a door seems to close, you will probably find you either didn’t want to be there, or the opportunity will come later. Sometimes you have to go through the healing process of letting go of your old job, before the perfect opportunity presents itself.

Find Your Tribe

No one is in this alone. If you are one of many who were laid off at the same time, this is the time to work together to find new work. You will all benefit from meeting on a regular basis, looking at each other’s skill sets, resumes, brands. You might be competing for similar jobs, but a group can make you feel accountable for your job search.

If you’re going this alone, start exploring some professional groups in your area. Get to know people in your field. Chat them up. Where do they work? Do they like it there? Get in there and mingle. Get yourself known in a good way. People find the best jobs through networking. Look at these gatherings as fun. Never get drunk, if there’s alcohol. Don’t bad mouth your former employer. But let yourself enjoy the company of other professionals.


References:
Apple
Career and Life Options
Google
LinkedIn
No, Your Brand isn’t just your Logo
TalentPlus

How to Get Fired: Part 1

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.


References:
Career and Life Options
Future Focus: Postsecondary Pathways