A few weeks after departing the company I was talking to another friend who’d been out of work for five months. I was telling her that when I mentioned to people I’d been laid off the reaction ran from “Oh, I’m so sorry” (with sad puppy eyes) to “You don’t seem too broken up about that.” The fact was, I felt a freedom that I’d never experienced before and had a permanent grin on my face. I’m still wearing it.
I asked my friend what she says when asked where she works. “I say I’m in transition,” she replied. “It’s what people are saying now.” I couldn’t imagine saying that to anyone. I think I’d burst out laughing. It sounds like you’re in the middle of gender reassignment surgery.
What’s so wrong with just saying you’ve been laid off? Since the Great Recession I feel like it doesn’t have the same societal stigma it once had. Most people will be laid off at least once in their lifetime. After I say I’ve been laid off, I usually follow it up with “and it was a good thing.” I add that so the other person doesn’t feel awkward. Some people treat you like you’ve just experienced a death in the family. For me, the job did not define me. Work was just work and not my identity.
My experience was and is far different than most. When you Google the impact of being laid off, the search engine spits out anger, helplessness, overwhelming stress, etc. Again, I had been preparing for this event for several years, so my feelings were and still are positive. I’m a true believer that change happens for a reason and that a few years from now I’ll look back and know that the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
One reason why I was prepared for unemployment were observations I’d seen while at the company. A former boss who had been working for 20 years was laid off when he was 47. I was 42 at the time and began seeing a pattern. Many people who had been working at the company for a long time and were in their late 40s/early 50s were being laid off each year. It’s basic math…they were now making a lot of money and the company couldn’t afford them any longer. Experience didn’t matter, it was all about cost. That’s when my massive savings plan started. I socked away money each month and also my yearly bonuses. Look around and see what’s happening in your company. If you’ve been lucky enough to make it through a layoff or two, think ahead and plan for what could happen next year.
As you transition from the job you’ve held for a long time, think about the tools you’ll need to help you get to your next career. I found that when I met people I realized I didn’t have anything to give them so I made business cards for myself. They are simply name, email and cell phone number all on a cute card with an old fashioned telephone on the back that I created through http://www.minted.com. They have great templates to help you design a look that’s right for you.
Next, make sure your resume and LinkedIn profile are up to date. I found that the resume I’d had for twenty years was well out of style. It was one page and apparently the kids today have two or three pages…and they just graduated from college! Who knew? So I asked a few friends, one in HR and the other an executive recruiter to take a look at my CV. They both gave me extremely good points and helped me update my brand for a career in the 21st Century.
If you don’t know anyone that can revise and breathe new life into your resume, there are resources online that you can easily Google. Also ask friends and former colleagues to show you their resumes. You can cherry pick the best ideas and action words to boost your CV.
Merge & Purge
After packing up my office, the company sent the boxes to my home and suddenly half my guest room was filled. It made me itchy. I couldn’t stand the clutter! Why had I accumulated so much CRAP in my office that I thought I should move it home? Over the course of several weeks I tackled three closets and ten boxes. I had the four piles of KEEP, DONATE, SELL and TRASH. It was a bit worrisome that KEEP was always in the lead, but soon DONATE and TRASH sprinted to the finish relegating KEEP to a distant third place. SELL was always small and never going to be a strong horse in this race.
I kept a few items that reminded me of what I had accomplished in my previous job. I donated old business attire, small appliances and shoes to a thrift shop that itemizes your donations and mails you the receipt for your taxes. There were a few items in my closets — designer shoes and cashmere sweaters that I brought to a consignment shop. Every few weeks I get a check sent to me after the shop takes their cut. What’s not sold can either be donated to a charity or picked up. I also placed a few big ticket items on Ebay and Craig’s List. It feels good to purge and release (P&R).
After P&R, it’s also important to keep busy and active. The more you do the less likely you’ll want to plan your own private Pity Party. The Unemployed Pity Party (UPP) is the worst because if you start that on a Tuesday at 11AM, all your friends are at work so you’re stuck by yourself and then it could spiral out of control and suddenly you wake up and it’s Friday. This is when Trader Joe’s comes to the rescue. Tuesday’s at 11AM is the best time to shop there — easy parking, no dodging shopping carts in those small aisles and the rugrats are still in school. Their employees are great and the food samples and coffee are delicious. Who doesn’t leave Trader Joe’s in a good mood? Except of course if you make the mistake and go there on a Saturday at 3PM…that’s just a disaster.
A UPP can turn quickly into a hygiene problem when you stop taking regular showers Remember Campbell Scott in SINGLES when he lost his job? His apartment had pizza boxes and Chinese food containers strewn everywhere and a once white t-shirt he wore turned to a brownish grey. Keep your home and body clean. I can’t stress this enough. The Grunge Look is passe. Get your haircut and colored regularly, manicure your nails (men & women) and for God’s sake, brush the fur off your teeth!
You never know where or when your next job prospect will pop up, so you want to look good and feel good. After I purged my closets I went to the mall and picked up some new clothing (using gift cards, of course!). Out with the old and in with the new. Remember — Don’t look back, there’s nothing there for you.
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