Friday, February 6, 2009

How I Got Over . . . A Layoff

This morning the country's job report came out and the news was the worst job loss since 1974. I felt deeply humbled by the news because it also happened to be the week I got an offer for a job. A couple of days ago, a friend of mine encouraged me to write about my experience. I already thought of doing so but wasn't sure how to approach the post (surprised huh!).

You see I was already unemployed for over a month (for the first time in my adult life) when I started this blog but I didn't want my blog to be about job loss (not my style) but things I found more fascinating - like the election season we were having. In less than two weeks, I'll start my new adventure with the company I've had as a dream to work for. Funny, that date (my start date) will be a day to almost a year (11 months to be exact) when I got the devastating news. Here are some tips I've learned along the way:

It's Not About You: One of the few things that makes me laugh is when I hear or read folks telling people "how to recession-proof your job." Seriously, I was one of the few being a finance geek who knew we were in a recession long before anyone will admit to saying the "r" word. And as we entered the year 2008, I tightened my budget and worked harder and longer than most people (to later a point of exhaustion as I found out later). But I got laid off anyway. Now if you were slacking; then it is "about you." But you could always learn from your mistakes. Either way (whether you did everything right or a bit wrong), you don't gain anything by blaming yourself.

Allow Yourself To Grieve: At the start of this year, a friend of mine commented how "at peace" I sounded and good to see my spirits up. Without missing a beat, I told her I've gone through my five stages of grief - which made her laughed so hard. She also said it was good I kept my sense of humor. But actually, I was serious and didn't mean the comment to sound funny. Yes, I went through denial (wouldn't you after working over 13 years and never being unemployed?), the anger, and finally the acceptance. I got to the point of saying "so what!" Now when I look back, I'm glad it happened. It will help you as you look for the next step - either getting another job or starting a new venture.

Embrace The Simple Life: America is such a country of excess. And I as one of her citizens have fallen a few times to the lavish temptation. No, I never kept up with the Joneses, but I know a rush of pleasure when I see a phat boots and I've bought a few things out of sheer impulse. This is NOT the time. This is the time to do what Henry David Thoreau said: "Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives." Or the Apostle Paul: I've learned to abound and when to abase. It's time to do the latter.

I didn't spend over 10 months with my bills current if some stuff didn't have to fall by the way side. We need food, shelter, clothing. The last one had to fall. I learned how to be the "recessionista." For those of you who are not hip to the lingo, it's still being a fashionista in the time of recession. I only bought one pair of shoes all last year and it wasn't from my money but a gift card from my birthday. I remembered some of the childhood words said to me when I couldn't get my way: "You'll live." The same should be said on how ruthless you should be when it comes to your budget and what to do away with - "you'll live."

Brace Yourself For the long haul: I thought I'll be back to the job of my dreams in two months tops. Ha! After going through all the checkups - dental, eye, and medical, I'll rest for a month (doctor's orders) then in a month, pound the pavement and voila, the job would appear. After all, I was highly educated and experienced (to the surprise of many when they see me). Boy, was I WAY OFF!

In October, I was at a network event and a lady who works as an executive in a major company told me before she got the job at her company, she was unemployed for 15 months and to keep myself motivated. Before that, I met an older guy volunteering who has been unemployed for 10 months. I thought to myself "I'm NOT waiting that long. . ." but to be honest, experts have said that the average amount of unemployment is six months (I read that after my seventh month; now I knew).

Network: If there was one thing I regretted after my layoff was being so busy at my job, I forgot about my contacts with my associations. I wasn't going to the meetings, and thus, I couldn't form new relationships. You need to network! Half of the jobs available are not advertised. That's a fact! They are passed along by word of mouth, referrals, or filled internally. The two places I worked for over a decade, I never applied for the position . . . that settles that point.

But Work At Finding a Job As Work: After not blaming yourself and giving yourself time to grieve, get to work - the job of finding a job. And I must tell you, it takes more effort than just working. Plan your day as if you're on the job: Applications (too many to count), interviews, career fairs, reading/training, network/volunteer. At one point it seemed as if I was busier unemployed. Figure that out.

Take Care of Yourself: I'm still a student with this part of my life. I think women need a constant lesson on putting ourselves first on the list - like put your own oxygen mask on first before helping somebody else. So even with the depressing news daily, get your butt off the couch to the gym and try to eat healthy. This is not the time to just let yourself go - you need to show yourself refreshed even if this is your thirtieth interview. For this position I got, I was interviewed five times plus an online assessment (with various scenarios). At one point, I was thinking I was running out of suits to wear so as not to repeat myself in the same venue :-)

Gotta Have Faith: It is no secret I'm a person of faith even with my analytical mind. I don't think I would have stayed motivated if I wasn't convinced that "this too shall pass." Yes there were times I couldn't believe after two months I was still unemployed but I grew more in my faith during these times than ever before. I got to see what I was really made of.

There were times I had to separate myself from negative people and thinking. A few of my loved ones have come to see that the crazier things become outside of me, the quieter (and more focused) I become. It got on some of their nerves since I didn't follow all kinds of their advice (one person I respected wrote me a few weeks ago to leave the U.S as if this wasn't a global crisis). Yes you may feel some stumbles - I was disappointed some months ago when it was down to two candidates (me and somebody else) after a couple of interviews, a certain company chose someone else. It was a kick to the guts. But then I got up, and reminded myself that this too shall pass.

Tags: Layoff, Job loss