It was four o’clock on a Friday afternoon in 1994. My boss called me into his office and fired me. It doesn’t really matter why I was fired - corporate Human Resource people like to talk about downsizing, restructuring and reallocating resources. All I knew was that I was fired, devastated, embarrassed and scared. I couldn’t believe that I was actually fired. I was scared because years earlier my husband lost his job and was unemployed for more than a year. Those were the most stressful months of my life; our credit was destroyed, our marriage was stressed, and the bill collectors never stopped calling. Thank God we both had lots of love for each other, college degrees, a healthy baby and a supportive family! I worked as a Training Manager at Macy’s at the time but my salary couldn’t cover our expenses. Eventually my husband decided to join the NYPD. His logic was that he could never be fired and the benefits were good. When you have a baby, insurance coverage is a priority. It’s hard to believe that thirty years have passed since my husband joined the NYPD. We both work to put food on the table, gas in the cars, pay our outrageous New York taxes, and provide for our family. It took us years to reestablish our credit but eventually we did, we worked hard, saved our pennies and bought a house.
Losing a job is devastating. It’s demoralizing, scary, and paralyzing. When it happens, it’s hard to believe that it is actually happening to you.The quicker you can get over it and move on the better. Here are some tips for picking up the pieces and moving forward.
Face the facts It may not be fair but who said life is fair. You might have been a fabulous employee. Perhaps you were working 60-80 hours a week. Perhaps you just received a promotion (I did ten days before I got fired!) It doesn’t matter anymore. Right now, you are unemployed NOT unemployable just unemployed. You need to put your time, energy and your focus into moving forward. Allow yourself some time, a very short period of time, to grieve but then get yourself going. You have a lot of work to do.
Assess your skills Make a list of all of the things that you are really good at. Be honest with yourself. If there are skills that you need to develop, now is the time. Community Colleges offer lots of reasonably priced continuing education programs focusing on skill development and career enhancement.
Make a list of your certifications and credentials These certifications might lead you to another job. In 1991, I was certified by Development Dimensions International to teach their management classes. When I was fired, I applied for a position with Development Dimensions International. It helped that I was already certified. I did get a job offer from them and I turned it down. It was a great job but at the time it required two weeks of travel a month. It took me a few months to make the decision to start my own training consulting business.
Take advantage of available resources If you are offered out placement counseling, accept it! The more people that you can connect with, the better off you will be. Outplacement counselors can help you with a variety of things; updating your resume, polishing your interviewing skills, and getting your career search focused.
Build your network It’s not what you know; it’s who you know that counts. Let’s face it; there are hundreds of people looking for jobs. Now is not the time to be bashful. Get on the phone and call people. Call friends, relatives, college buddies, co-workers from years ago, and anyone else that you can think of. Everybody knows somebody. Join a few social networking sites that are business related such as Linked In or Plaxo. Go to the local Chamber of Commerce meeting. Dress professionally and introduce yourself to others. Find out when the next industry association meeting or conference is, attend the meeting or better yet offer to speak to the group for free. You must have some experience that is worth sharing. Tap into the alumni association at your college. Volunteer in your community. It will give you access to new people. You never know where a new job is going to come from.
Get online This isn’t your father’s job search. Everything is happening online. Make sure you are listed with a variety of websites. Here are a few - www.jobing.com, www.careerbuilders.com, www.hotjobs.com. www.monster.com, www.theladders.com. If you decide on a specific employer, check out their website weekly. Always follow up with a phone call. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Spend smart Now is not the time to book a Caribbean cruise. It is a tough job market and it might take time to find a new job. Be realistic with your spending. Try to stretch your severance check and/or unemployment check as far as possible. Get rid of luxury spending. You can probably live without lawn service, manicures, car washes, Broadway Show tickets, and eating out right now. You might even need to turn down social events that cost too much money although social events are good places to build your network.
Communicate with your family If you have kids, they might be worried for you or they might not have a clue. Be honest with your kids; let them know that now is not the best time to ask for an increase in their allowance. Ask your kids to chip in. If they are teenagers, they can absolutely be expected to get a part time job and pay for their own expenses. When I was fired years ago I was too embarrassed to tell people that I was fired. I thought only poor performers and jerks were fired. Boy was I wrong!
Do an ego check Yesterday, you were a big wig with a fat compensation package and a company car; today you are unemployed. You might not find your dream job again, be prepared to settle for a good job even if it’s not a great job. My husband did not have his heart set on being a police officer but at the time it was a decent job with benefits and a pension plan.
Count your blessings It’s easy to get down in the dumps after losing a job but you need to put things in proper perspective. If you are reading this article, you have good eyesight. What a blessing! Do you have your health? What a blessing! Do you have a healthy, loving, supportive spouse and great kids? What a blessing! Do you have your faith? What a blessing! Are you a United States citizen? Do you have skills, an education and valuable experience that an employer will appreciate? You get the idea, be thankful for what you have. You will get through this.
Take a mental health break Looking for a new job can be overwhelming and exhausting. Take time to recharge your batteries. Spend time doing something that you love. If you always wanted to run a marathon but could never find the time to train, now is the time. If you always wanted to volunteer more at your child’s school but couldn’t find the time, now you have it. An unemployed friend of mine with four children recently told me that he was enjoying going to lunch with his wife on Wednesday afternoons, her day off.
Losing a job might be the best thing that ever happened to you. It might be the push you needed to start your own business or to go back to school or to start a family or to relocate. Even though it doesn’t feel like it right now, you will survive and you will be fine. You might even thrive after this job loss. When I lost my job, I was angry, very angry at my employer. Looking back, I can honestly say that it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I started my own speaking and training business years ago and somehow, I’m still paying my bills. Good luck!