Jeri Cartwright provides this guest post/reprint (learn more about Jeri at the end of this post).
I’ve been through a number of unemployment experiences. It hurts like hell. I call it "scorched ego." Your logical mind says, "it’s not personal." Your heart says it most definitely is…if you were that good, they would have found a way to keep you.
If you are in fear of losing your job during these queasy economic times, rest assured, there isn’t a single person I know who hasn’t said in retrospect, "that was the best thing that ever happened to me. Look where it led!"
As for me, I’ve been laid off and fired in my career. Allow me to share how I coped, and even thrived.
First, if humor is nothing but "tragedy plus time," some humorous personal background for your enjoyment:
I have suffered many times from "scorched ego." You see, once I worked in broadcast news…one of the most volatile industries in the 1980s.
In radio news: I was fired for not having talent. My boss accused me of deliberately going on the air and sounding bad to hurt ratings.
In TV news: Laid-off while doing regional cable news cut-ins (via KUTV) for the now defunct Satellite News Channel (SNC). Ted Turner, who then owned CNN, bought SNC because he didn’t like the competition. He then turned it off. On my last day of employment there was no exit interview. I stood in front of a TV and watched as SNC threw the switch, became non-existent and faded to black. I was fortunate that KUTV (CBS affiliate – Salt Lake City) hired me shortly thereafter to be a local news reporter. Yet somehow, TV and I never got along.
Thus, I decided to get into a less volatile industry, hence…
Politics/government: What was I thinking? After nearly three years, elections and new bosses told me it was time to voluntarily leave.
Another layoff: Prompted me to start my own PR firm – going strong since 1996. Soooo glad it happened!
This will be my fourth recession (unless it becomes a depression – then it’ll be my first – whoopee). I’ve been unemployed in two of them. Once for more than a year.
Ten Tips For Maintaining Sanity While Unemployed – Healing Your Scorched Ego
1. Join an inexpensive gym. Work out a lot. It helps prevent depression.
2. Have structured weekdays when you call your peers, check for jobs, and network for openings that haven’t even hit the radar yet.
3. Make a list of all the things you always wanted to do but didn’t have time. Try to do one every day. Several on my list: Chalk art (lasted one day), visits to neat food delis, visits to zoo and Aviary, people watching at parks.
4. Stay in close contact with friends. Don’t lean on them, just enjoy their company. No need to risk the friendship with constant talk about your problems. ENJOY the moments.
5. When the bank account grows lean and you haven’t shopped or treated yourself for awhile, stroll into a Big!Lots (or a similar drop-dead discount store). Have lots of swagger in your step as you tell yourself, "I can afford anything in the place!"
6. Stay healthy, eat well, don’t scrimp on what you spend for groceries, vitamins and health care. Cut other things first. You cannot afford a bout with bad health at this juncture.
7. Realize there is still work available – it just might not be a full-time job with benefits. Write down a list of all the important and powerful people you know. Begin setting brief appointments with them. Ask them for their advice as you ponder your next career step: "What are the trends, etc.?" DO NOT ask for a job or if there are current or future openings.
8. As you leave these appointments, always ask if your contact knows of any other people she/he would recommend you meet with. Take the names down and ask if you can drop the name of your current contact when setting up these future appointments.
9. After any appointment, and based on the information you gleaned during the meeting, redo your resume to reflect the talents (don’t make them up) that might actually one day land you a job with the company/contact you just visited. Send it with a thank you note and most importantly indicate: "I’d love to do some freelance or project work for you." This was a great strategy for me. I picked up all kinds of odd and exciting work. Each experience taught me an important lesson: Did I like or not like this type of work? Better to find out in a freelance situation than after accepting a full-time position.
10. My final advice… I don’t recall the author, but I’ll never forget a small essay I read while feeling terribly frightened about my life situation. It went something like this – and if the author is out there – please make yourself known so I can give you credit:
"We live our lives like a trapeze acrobat, constantly going from one swinging bar to the next. Yet there is a moment, a rare one, that takes place when the artist must let go of one bar, and reach for the other. It is a vulnerable and nervous second when the performer is literally suspended in mid-air. One bar flung behind them and an anxious hand stretched to grab the bar swinging toward. Most of us kick and scream during this transition and grab the first safe bar we can find. But why not take another approach?
Savor, relish, don’t dread the time in between the swinging bars. We have so little time as it is. Use these precious days, hours, minutes to reflect on your life, your achievements, where you want to go, and who you want to become. Be with those you cherish most and learn the art of solitude."
A word of warning: If you don’t enjoy your time between the trapeze bars, trust me, you’ll be pretty angry you didn’t once you are told "you’re hired" and must start work on Monday. No more sleeping in or long mornings sipping juice and reading the news.
Life is full of cycles. This too will pass. And who knows where it might lead you.
About the Author
Jeri Cartwright is President of Cartwright Communications, a media relations specialist, and a former broadcast journalist. She also writes a blog about media relations and PR.