Mid-life Job Loss a Soul Adventure
Not me! ... Yes me!
When my father was a boy his mother used to tell him to: "Go out every day with adventure in your soul."
My six months in employment transition have been a cross between a soul adventure and something akin to Alice in Wonderland. Allow me to share a few things I've learned:
- It’s possible to be surprised ... even at 56. *(Ed. I acknowledge that 56 is only mid-life if I live to 112, but I do come from good stock.) Six months ago I was invited to a meeting at work. Although I felt a little anxious going in I never dreamed I’d be leaving unemployed. Perhaps foolishly I’d believed that 12 years seniority, hard work, and dedication meant job security. Much like a teenager surprised to find herself pregnant, I was shocked to find myself unemployed. "Not me," I thought. "This kind of thing only happens to others." Here's what I learned: "Yes me." If your company is restructuring and you’re the puzzle piece that doesn’t fit, it doesn’t matter if you're a really great piece. Your piece won’t be invited into the new puzzle box.
A Range of Emotions
2. In the beginning I felt a range of conflicting emotions. First came shock, then sadness, followed by anger. Next came exhilaration at the freedom and possibilities. Then fear raised its spectre. I couldn’t sleep the first couple of nights. When I was out in public I had a “deer in the headlights” look. A few days afterward I was fortunate to meet a woman who’d been through something similar. She told me two things:
1) There is ageism in the workforce
2) Being let go, no matter the circumstances, is tough on the ego.
Recognizing that my hurt feelings were symptoms of a bruised ego helped me to separate feelings from fact, and that realization helped me take my first wobbly step towards change.
3. The first step involved keeping busy – very busy. I had a lot of energy and used it to exercise six times a week. In addition to regular classes, I joined a six-week Boot Camp where I pushed my body further than I had before. As the oldest member of the group, frequently unable to keep up, I gave it all I had. Imagine my delight when I lost the most fat and greatest number of inches!.
Victories and Setbacks
4. Employment Transition Land (ETL) isn't always about victory. There will be setbacks. In my case, I decided to focus on my lifelong dream: writing. I entered contests, submitted articles, poems -- even a book! I was sure I would win them all. I didn’t. That was a disappointment . A month into ETL I took what I thought would be a restorative trip away with my two young adult daughters. It ended up being so rife with stress that when I got home, a travel bug came with me. I was weak physically and mentally for weeks afterwards. Shortly after my return I got a four-day job. The work was mentally exhausting, yet it felt good to be using my skills. The bonus: I travelled to and from the location with a couple of people I knew, and during breaks I could network with others in employment in transition.
The New Normal
5. Around the half-way point I hit “the new normal.” There was a pattern to my day and it was this: less and less was getting accomplished. You’d think my house would be clean and tidy. It wasn’t. I spent/spend a lot of time in front of my computer. Procrastination can disguise itself as making oneself aware of current events, networking and applying for jobs, when often it’s just a bunch of clicking. The fourth month marked my final month with employment consultants. I'm grateful to them for helping me to craft a resume and cover letters, and assisting with interview preparation. I also learned valuable facts, notably: the majority of jobs come through networking; employers want people who are good communicators and lifelong learners; older people may be older, but we come with wisdom.
Nevertheless, although I sent out several resumes, I didn’t get invited to any interviews at the four-month mark. The good news was that I had time to join a book club and commit more energy and focus to some meaningful volunteer pursuits.
My First Interview
6. At the five month mark I had my first interview. I prepared a lot, thought I did well, but didn’t get the job. I told myself it simply wasn’t “my” job, and briefly wondered if age was a factor. Whatever the case, I was disappointed. It hurt being rejected. It was a first for me. Despite my advanced years, this was the first time I didn't get a job that I both wanted and interviewed for. At first I shoved my feelings aside. Then I realized that I had to stare rejection in the face, feel the hurt and learn from it. After I did so I felt peace and gratitude for the experience.
A Soul Adventure
7. Some final reflections: Being in ETL has brought out my inner philosopher. I believe that I am a steward of resources which ought not to be squandered, ones like:
- life and work experience
- gifts and skills
- passion for certain causes
- relationships with people I care about ... and society as a whole
- energy, health, money and time.
I don’t know how long I’ll be in Employment Transition Land, but I'm looking at it as a gift -- one that gives me time to look inwards and outwards, learn/try new things, have fun, read a lot, write regularly, and do like my Grandmother used to say: to go out every day with adventure in my soul.”
I’d say Employment Transition Land qualifies as a soul adventure, wouldn’t you?
Epilogue: I'm approaching the eight month mark and had two interviews this week. Who knows? Maybe soon ...