When We Lose Our Jobs

Courtney just told me that another dear friend lost his job. This is getting to be a regular occurrence. Few things are more stressful and personally hurtful (even though we all know it’s “not personal — only business”). This economy is claiming a lot of victims, both institutional and individual (my own company has had its head on the bankers’ chopping block for months, and hundreds of people have lost or are going to lose their jobs — maybe mine included!). No one is truly “safe” (as I tell Courtney almost nightly). What are we to do, for ouselves and for our friends? Seems to me (from my for-now employed perspective) that the important things to remember are (please say all this back to me when appropriate):

First, it’s NOT “personal.” This is the way of the world these days, and the world (especially the business world) is not fair or kind or even sensible. It isn’t an evaluation of our worth as employees, much less as human beings. Hard to internalize, but true. Too many of us have our sense of self-worth tied up in our work, and we all need to remember that our real worth lies elsewhere. We are loved and maybe even admired by probably more people than we realize. Besides, apart from the paycheck, there are, let’s face it, 86 things about our old/current jobs that are a real pain in the ass. Don’t forget those now.

Second, remember how deeply talented and capable you are. In all likelihood, though you may think you’re a fraud, you’re actually a desirable “commodity,” and someone or some company will recognize that. That’s also the way of the world, and the upside of “market forces”.

Third, forced interruptions in “normal life” like this are usually opportunities. If nothing else, it represents the gift of time. We tend to be carried along by inertia so much that it often takes a major upheaval like this to force us to ask what we really want to be doing, what we’re really best at, how we want to spend the precious time we call our daily lives. There may be ideas we’ve had in the back of our minds for years that now could be tried out in real life, or dreams that have been deferred too long due to the constant press of the working world that now could be brought into reality. This is the chance to follow those unexplored avenues.

Still and all, let’s not belittle it. Losing a job is awful, and a lot like a death. You want to deny it, rage at it, bargain your way out of it. Let those feelings take their course. Acceptance and, hopefully, better things wait on the other side. Avoid, if you can, the panicky desire to replace the old job with the first new one that comes along. Panic communicates easily — it’s not a good interviewing technique. If we hold out for passion, and fun, and excitement, it makes us feel (and be) more desirable and increases the likelihood that we’ll get what we’re really looking for.


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