I Just Lost My Job…. What Do I Do Now?
Steve Green tells his story and helps connect with those going through the same issues.
I talk to people all day every day and quite a few reach out to me because they have recently been laid off, had their position eliminated, got caught in restructuring, been a victim of downsizing or been replaced by a youngster who is technologically much more advanced than they were. Many are upset and angry, some are overly embarrassed because they have never had this happen before and are looking for what they did wrong, other’s are an emotional wreck and in a panic, while others might be relieved or even happy that it happened. I can relate to all those people, feelings and emotions because I was one of those people. I have always prided myself on my work ethic, ability to creatively resolve problems, difficult problems at that, my follow through and ability to get the job done when no one else can. I heard the famous words that get used way too often in the corporate world “the company is changing directions and we don’t feel that you will be a fit for where we are headed.”
I was 50 years old when a new kid, who was a Vice President of Operations, walked into my office, one that I had occupied and faithfully executed for over 15 years and told me the company was moving in another direction and I just didn't fit that direction. What does that mean, I thought, and what sort of direction are they going? Why wouldn’t I fit something that I didn’t have any idea what it was? Of course I was like everyone else and just couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I was with the company for over 20 years. I started at the bottom and worked my way up through a great deal of hard work, focus and attention to detail. I learned everything that I possibly could along the way from anyone that I could and soaked it all up like a sponge. I took the good people had to offer and applied it. I took in the bad and avoided it. Some of my best mentors were very poor supervisors and managers and I made sure I wasn’t one of those. But let’s go back to the situation and the fact that I had never lost a job and every job that I had quit was because there was a better one waiting for me that I had secured. I had been one of the most loyal, faithful and dependable employees this company had. I spent countless hours, expended a great deal of energy, missed out on my children’s activities and much of their growing up, and spent a significant amount of time away from home putting out fires in the company’s numerous other locations. Over the course of my adult life I had worked for 4 different companies.
I do not claim to be a religious man but I do have a very strong and steadfast faith. My job had gotten to be very stressful and the stress was taking its toll. I couldn’t eat a lot of different foods, especially at night because of the heart burn that I was experiencing, I ended up having to go on medication for blood pressure issues, I had the occasional twinge in my chest with radiating pain in my left arm and had a lot of problems sleeping. I am not bringing this up to try and lure the sympathetic into feeling bad for me and buying into some of the pity I experienced but rather want to paint a picture of what was going on. I prayed every night and asked God to do what he needed to do to remove my stress. I kept promising my wife I would slow down, take it easy and have some frank conversations with my doctor. I knew I needed to move on but couldn’t because of the baby boomer attitude I had so willingly adopted that you don’t just quit a job.
God answered my prayers, he has a very strange of sense humor. I initially was angry, then hurt and then the realization of being rid of the stress, some of the unethical practices I had been questioning and battling and the overall bad environment that I had been working in the past few years was gone. That evening a friend of mine called and asked what I was going to do and my response was that I had no idea but would figure it out. He then told me his brother, who had his own business wanted to talk with me and I should call him. The next morning at nearly the same time I was let go the day before, I called him and we had a discussion about what I was going to do. We both made a commitment on both our parts to continue our conversation. Of course it took a bit of time for him to get some things in order and to bring me on board so I was without a job for nearly 3 months. That was a long 3 months but I made it through it. I get asked a lot by people, especially my age or older, how did I do it and how did I make it through it? When I think about it I put together a list of things that I did to keep me focused on the future and deal with the emotional roller coaster ride that I was on for awhile.
1. I looked for reasons to be grateful every day. I reflected on those things at night and made sure it became a habit. Some days it was just simply that I was still alive and had the ability to work.
2. I looked for the things I was doing right. The honey do list got shortened immensely and that made me feel good because I had neglected my home and wife for several years. This also came into play when I would get to questioning what I had done wrong to get fired in the first place. I took the time to make a list of my accomplishments, the things that I had done for the company and the location that I was responsible for. That list is still in my desk drawer and if I have a bad day I get it out and it keeps me motivated because I done a lot of things right.
3. I forgave my boss, the CEO and the SR VP of the company. That was a difficult one. When I started asking God to forgive me for the ill feelings that I had towards them and asked for the ability to forgive them I was able to start moving beyond the anger and hurt that the termination had caused.
4. I stayed busy. I found things to do around the house, helped friends, helped my parents and kept myself and mind busy. I didn’t allow myself any downtime that would allow me to start feeling bad about my situation or question what I had done wrong. I did more physical work during that time than I was used to and it made me tired. In turn, that helped me get rested up.
5. I stayed away from the naysayers, unfriended former employees and coworkers on Facebook that were a bad influence, and tried my best to avoid hearing the conversations that were taking place about me losing my job. When you live for over 20 years in the same community and there are only 800 people in that community and you supervised as many as 90 people at any given time then everyone gets to know you and what you are about. You make enemies at work and within the community. You might be a community leader in the eyes of some but many of the community leaders don’t want anything to do with you when you get put in my position. The gossip, speculation and overall talk can be an issue and really wear on you. I did my best to stay away from that.
6. I made sure that I kept myself surrounded with good people or made sure there were good people within reach when I needed to talk. I maintained relationships with positive people. When the word got out that I had let go there were 3 people that came to my house. Two of which I didn’t know that well but they stopped by to make sure I was ok and I gained 2 new friends. The other was a “city dad” who was only concerned about the business that I had been managing and tried to figure out what the company was doing. I had always considered this gentleman a friend but I was wrong as he was more concerned about possible fall out for the community then what I was experiencing. I also got more involved with my church and that allowed me to make some new friends that had positive attitudes and outlooks. I was always fairly active in civic activities and community service but started becoming more involved with organizations that were more focused on the positives that you could see rather than just going through the motions like some that I was involved in. When I needed to talk or started to feel bad I made sure that I talked with someone that was going to listen and help me get past any bad feelings.
7. I avoided bad mouthing the company, my old boss, former employees that were gossiping about me and what was going on within that business. When those sorts of conversations started I walked away if I could not get the subject changed.
8. Finally, I kept the faith. Faith in God, my fellow man, my new boss and his company and myself. I kept reminding myself that I had done nothing wrong, basically people were good and I had to continue to look for that in people and rely on my religious upbringing and faith in God. The fact that I started working for a company with a total different mindset didn’t hurt either. When I started to be treated like a real asset and discovered that other employees were genuinely concerned for one another, encouraged one another and celebrated in each other’s successes I was a little overwhelmed. I hadn’t had that for a very long time.
The best advice that I can provide anyone in this position is to maintain a positive attitude, keep your chin up, look at your positives and avoid getting caught up in the negatives. When interviewing you will be asked what happened at your last job. That can be very slippery slope. I encourage honest responses but brief responses. I also recommend that a candidate never bad mouths his former boss or the company that he had worked for. The bitterness that comes along with that will be communicated loud and clear during an interview and will have an adverse effect on the outcome. Keep reminding yourself that life is an adventure, today is just a small leg of that trip, and you need to enjoy the ride!!!!