Rebuilding Your Career After Being Fired or Laid Off
It comes when you least expect it. It comes when you can least afford it. And it comes when you thought your “safe” job was forever. Usually the event takes place at about 3 PM on an ordinary work day when your boss calls you in for a “friendly” chat. It can happen anywhere: in an office setting, on a construction site, or in a retail store. Where and when it happens does not matter. The results are the same for every worker; a president, a retail clerk, an editor, a truck driver, a sales representative, or an IT director.
This event is being fired or laid off by your employer and it has many different names; fired, laid off, downsized, reorged out, rightsized, riffed, whacked, kicked out, canned or just plain “let go.” How often does it happen? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) 50,000 American workers lose their jobs each day of the year. That’s more than 18 million workers per year!
Rebuilding Your Career When You’ve Been Fired Or Laid Off
LOSING YOUR PERSONAL IDENTITY
The ramifications of job loss are staggering for all workers, entry level through senior level, but particularly for mid-career workers who have serious family and financial obligations like a home mortgage, car payments, insurance, healthcare, child care, and tuition bills for the kids.
When your boss says, “this is your last day on the job” your world seems to be coming apart at the seams. You are no longer Sarah Jones, Marketing Director for Adobe, or Kelly Smith, Sales Manager for Metlife Insurance; now you are just plain Sarah and Kelly. No longer do you have a job title or company name to define who you are. Adding to the angst, and panic, you no longer have a salary and benefits that enable you to be a self-sufficient human being. Where will the let go worker find money for food, shelter, clothing, insurance, healthcare, and other modern day necessities? Next to divorce or death of a loved one, being fired or laid off is the most traumatic event a worker can experience.
THE GRIEVING PROCESS
When you are escorted from the job site the grieving process starts and it is not pretty. It usually begins with humiliation, followed by anger, resentment, possibly depression and finally acceptance.
Humiliation affects workers in many different ways. To some it means losing face, degradation, confusion, and shame. To others it means indignity, disgrace and dishonor. Whatever it means personally, your ego is crushed like nothing else. Nothing is more humiliating that being escorted from the building by the company security guard in front of your coworkers.
Anger and Resentment
Anger and resentment are usually directed at the boss and/or the human resources director, but it could reach as far as the president or CEO. “How could ‘they’ do such a thing to me, an honest and dedicated worker?” To shortcut the anger stage, remember that your being let go was in all probability not personal. It was most likely the result of a general company initiative to save money.
Some workers enter a state of despondency after suffering a serious misfortune that has multiple ramifications, like losing a job along with a paycheck and benefits. You can alleviate these feelings helplessness by remaining positive about the future. You live in America, a country that employs 155,000 million workers so there is always something out there for those want to work and who follow the process for finding employment. If you find it difficult to remain positive seek professional counseling. A session with a professional career counselor at an organization like Career Girl Consulting (www.careergirlconsulting.com) could help you move forward.
After being out of work for a prolonged period you will meet other workers who suffered the same fate. This did not happen only to you. Remember, 50,000 workers are laid off or fired each day in the United States. And workers in America will change jobs six times during their working years. When you accept what happened, you will be ready to begin a new and exciting phase in your life where you will continue to grow and develop talents you never knew you had.
REDEFINING YOUR PERSONA AND IMPROVING YOUR CHARACTER
In America, jobs are always available for workers who know what they want and know how to implement a job hunting plan. In fact, many workers say that being let go was the best thing that could have happened. While traumatic, this event does have two specific benefits.
- It opens the door to examining and possibly reshaping your persona.
- It provides an opportunity to rebuild your character.
Redefining Your Persona
The word persona derives from the Latin where it originally meant a theatrical mask. In theatrical terms, it translates into an assumed personality. In today’s world it refers to that part of your personality exposed to the public. It is the apparent you that people see and it may be different from your character, the real you. It is you who created your persona, either consciously or subconsciously.
People in the public eye such as TV personalities, actors, and politicians frequently assume a certain persona that appeals to their target audience. Take politicians, for example. They want to be viewed by constituents as caring for their welfare and the needs of the country as a whole, but in reality, some politicians use public office for personal gain.
Persona in The Private Sector
Persona in the private sector is similar. Look at your own persona in the workplace. If you were in a leadership position, i.e. the boss, what was your persona? Was it in conflict with the real you? Did you portray yourself as the good, compassionate, helpful, caring boss dedicated to making the company great? However, did you assume this persona, this mask, to hide your real motivation; to oust your boss and move up in rank and compensation? Could it have been the reason why you were let go from your job as Regional Sales Manager in a staged “reorganization” while your friend Barbara, another Regional Sales Manager, was kept on the payroll? Only you can answer that after a private, honest meeting with yourself.
Before implementing your job hunting plan discover who you really are. Were you the one who used every chance to derail your boss while masquerading as Ms. Friendly? If your introspection reveals a difference between your persona and the real you, take measures to make these two competing entities one and the same. How do you begin? With honesty. If you have any doubts about how you are seen, ask your former boss and coworkers what they thought of you, no holds barred.
Rebuilding Your Character
We define character as the aggregate of traits and features that form and identify the real you. Your character is the set of values and ethics that you hold dear. They determine not only what you say, but also how you act.
This period of downtime provides an opportunity to learn who you really are. Looking back, you might find that the real you became lost in the corporate culture. In the course of your previous job, you may have forgotten what you truly believe or how you feel. It’s time for a homecoming with yourself to discover who you really are.
To begin the process of rebuilding character, you need a foundation upon which everything else rests. We like the foundation stones posited by Character Counts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to character education. One of their constructs is the Six Pillars of Character, which act as the foundation for building character. They are: trustworthiness, fairness, respect, caring, citizenship, and responsibility. You can review this material at: www.charactercounts.org.
The career rebuilding process may be filled with fear, doubts, maybes, should haves, would haves, and could haves. However, it is not these burdens that will drive you to distraction. Rather, it’s the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Learn from the past but do not accept the past as prologue. Get rid of the two demons, regret and fear, that will inhibit your growth. Move forward with confidence using your intelligence, energy, passion, your revised persona and character, and you will succeed. The world of work is yours for the taking!
For additional information about rebuilding your career after being fired of laid off, and for job hunting rubrics, please refer to my book, Moving Forward in Mid-Career: A Guide to Rebuilding Your Career after Being Fired or Laid Off, c2018, Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
Recent college grads will find a wealth of information and advice for landing that entry level job in my book titled, Welcome to the Real World: A Complete Guide to Job Hunting for the Recent College Grad, c2014, Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
Female veterans transitioning to the civilian world after separation from the military will find a wealth of career education and job hunting rules in my book which has been called the “bible of job hunting for military veterans.” The title is Operation Job Search: A Guide for Military
Veterans Transitioning to Civilian Careers. c2017, Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
All books are available in paperback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Independent Booksellers and Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
This guest post was authored by John Henry Weiss
John Henry Weiss is the owner and president of Weiss & Associates, an executive recruiting firm that conducts searches for companies in the education and communications industries. He is the author of two other books dealing with the workplace: Operation Job Search and Welcome to the Real World. Weiss lives in Stockton, New Jersey.