No matter how much experience or education you have, no matter how early you arrive or how late you stay at work, no matter how many years you’ve invested, your position can be eliminated at any time without warning. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of March, 8.6 million were unemployed. The number of those jobless for 27 weeks or more was 2.6 million, accounting for 29.8 percent of the unemployed. If you or someone you know factors into these figures, you can empathize with the feelings of fright for financial reasons when that check isn’t rolling in weekly, bi-weekly or monthly like clockwork.
We are creatures of habit and bouncing back from life-altering situations require an abundance of patience. Having faith means trusting that everything is working in our favor and in divine order. You might not see it now, but the way the universe works, in due time all things shall be revealed. I spoke with several people and listened to countless stories about how they survived a layoff and how this moment pressed them to redirect their life’s focus. I even know people who walked away from jobs, because they were miserable and had other dreams yet untapped. Their steps, like yours, are being ordered. A few defining moments you might encounter in the meantime could include any one of the following:
Stages Of Grief--Losing a job is a dizzying blow. It is a type of transformative learning that triggers something called a disorienting dilemma, which is a change in life that forces a person to rethink beliefs, values and even identity. Job elimination is like getting a divorce, and the longer you’ve been in that work "relationship," the more complicated it becomes to sever emotional and mental ties. A part of you can even feel like something has died. Never underestimate or ignore your feelings because they are authentic and valuable. Chances are you will eventually experience a tidal wave of emotions most associated with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I often heard people say this, but I never knew it to be true until I was in that situation.
What The Heck Should I Do Next?--I had teaching assignments lined up after I lost my job, but most people don’t have a game plan and are not as fortunate. I heard stories about people being at the same job for 20, 30 or even 40 years. Suddenly they must figure out their next career move after getting sucker punched by a pink slip. Those who are no longer a spring chicken understand that change is not always welcomed. I listened to people mention valid concerns about whether they would land a job because of their age. Others discussed something more basic like not knowing how to start over or where to begin when a former occupation or skill set point to the only things they know. When former NBA star Allen Iverson left the sport, I read a story about how The Answer didn’t have a clue about life after and was so broke he couldn’t even afford a cheeseburger. I heard and read responses like, "He made millions and blew it, so I don’t feel sorry for him. Get a job like everyone else." That's easier said than done. Fear can be crippling and paralyze a person from knowing where to turn. If you’ve grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle, it can be tough trying to dig deeper and figure out how to reinvent yourself whether you are the average Joe but especially if you are a person “touched by celebrity,” as I refer to it. I sincerely applaud people like Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal, who always planned for life beyond the NBA while still playing in the league. They figured it out early and realized nothing lasts forever. On the flip side, losing a job is devastating but, believe it or not, sometimes it is not always bad. Quite a few people ended up finding their true calling and purpose in life after getting up in the aired. Sometimes the push out one door will PUSH you into another door that leads to your true purpose.
How Low Can You Go?--I do not think anyone is anxious to find out. When your money is kind of funny, it is not the easiest thing to keep hope alive. Often there's sadness and much depression, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and desperation. The one good thing about having things spiral downward is that there is no place left to go but up. Nothing lasts forever. Things will eventually get better. Just think about the story in the Bible about Job, who had the best of everything, lost it all but kept his faith. For that reason, Job was rewarded, everything was restored and he received more than before. A close friend of mine lost his job on the day we attended the informational session for our doctoral program. You could hear a collective sigh in the room when he introduced himself and told everyone he just lost his job. I will never forget that moment. Since that time, he told me he had to make a choice that day. It was either go home and give up or move forward. He chose the latter and earned a doctorate three years later. Now this man works at the University of Chicago, one of the top institutions in the country.
Fake It Until You Make It--Having confidence and believing in yourself are important, because these qualities will impact your ability to go the distance. Studies have shown that self efficacy, believing in your ability to do well in a situation, can influence your outcome. So, on those days when you aren’t feeling your best, make the most of it and press on!
Share With Others--I can’t tell you how many people I know got a job based on someone they knew at a company. Sometimes we don’t like to tell our story, but you never know who is listening and sincerely willing to help. In fact, a 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of New York study found that folks with referrals were twice as likely to get interviews and 40% more likely to be hired than others. I know a person who went straight old school and handed his neighbor the resume over the back yard fence. This person was employed the following week and is now working full-time at the neighbor’s company. Personal referrals are the No. 1 way to get hired today. Just make sure your referral truly has your best interest at heart, knows your work ethic, and will have something positive to say about you.
You Still Haven't Found A Job?--Some people just do not get it. A great majority of people aren’t working not because they don’t want a job; they can not find a job! Look, these days people are up against 300 or more hopefuls for one position. The longer a person remains unemployed, the more difficult it becomes to get hired. It is always easier to find work when you already have a position. And understand that your high-profile status or income level doesn’t exempt you from hardships, either. There are hundreds of unemployed doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, journalists…you name it. One person summed it up best, "When your s*** is on and poppin', you don't have time to think about people you believe don't have their stuff in order." This is the mindset of some people on the other side of unemployment. I know because I used to think this way. I now have compassion whenever I hear about someone losing his/her job. In fact, I know people who made it through a job elimination, landed a new gig, but ended up face-to-face with another layoff a few years later. Folks, please refrain from comments like, "You still haven't found a job?" Or, "With all of that education and experience, you can't find nothing?" Time is the key here.
Finding A Job Is A Full-Time Job--Something people don't reveal is that looking for a job IS like working nine to five. Certain applications take close to two hours to complete because tests might be involved. Be mindful that non-stop rejections or no responses at all can take its toll on a person’s emotions, beliefs, identity, self esteem and confidence. You start to wonder if there is something wrong with you. Nothing is wrong with you. The economy is tight and everyone is trying to vie for employment. Once you get an interview, that’s only the beginning. The Journal of Business and Psychology reports the more nervous a person is, the more likely he will speak slowly, which is a true sign of being nervous. Having anxiety or appearing too nervous during an interview, no matter how well qualified you are, can cost you the job, according to a study at Canada’s University of Guelph. Employers want to see how well you can handle pressure. If you can’t even deal with an interview, they might assume you won’t be able to withstand a demanding, fast-paced environment. People also fail to share how there once was a time when you could get a job within weeks or at best even a month, depending upon the profession. Don't be surprised if it now takes you a year or more to get full-time employment. I know a Harvard-educated woman who didn’t work for 2.5 years. Of course, it was not by choice. People cast judgment on her because she was one of the best in her profession, winning accolades for outstanding endeavors. Eventually, this person received a job at a major company.
Friends Rise, Phonies Flee--No truer words were spoken when TLC sang, “What About Your Friends” or Whodini rapped, "Friends. How many of us have them?" People who mean you well, have your best interest at heart and genuinely care about you will reveal themselves. They will help you through this process even when they are dealing with their own issues. Everyone enjoys being around a person during good times and sunny days, but like New Edition once said, "Can you stand the rain?" Dark seasons in life come from out of nowhere and only fair weather friends will flee when they do. One person admitted to abandoning a few friends because of survivor’s guilt. “We worked together,” she explained. “They lost their jobs and I didn’t. I felt bad but didn’t know what to say so I just stayed away.”
A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Lose--Your friends and family may be wonderful, but they can only do but so much. You will have to do the rest. Sometimes this means seeking professional counseling or life coaching. There are places where you reside that possibly offer free counseling services, but you will have to do some research to locate them. If you have a church home, speaking with someone there could be a step in the right direction. A mind is a terrible thing to lose. Love yourself enough to take care of yourself, mind and soul.
DocM.A.C. signing off here. Keep the faith and always trust the process. #OnwardUpward