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Starting a New Career

Updated on January 29, 2014


Survival Instincts

How to survive emotionally the layoffs and other indignities of the economic recession seems as though it should be useful information that unfortunately is still appropriate. I can not prescribe a method that would work for everyone, but I can tell my own story; maybe in it you can find something of value for themselves.

When I got laid off from a publishing company downtown after 19 years, I really did not mind much because I had so much optimism. This happened just before the official beginning of the Great Recession.

Later that same year, as I was having lunch with one of my coworkers at my new job, I showed him a news article that said the recession had ended. "Where have I been?" he replied.

The new job was half the pay and came with a lot more indignity and stress. It started as something intended to be temporary, just a few weeks temp work before I would start the big-time job I expected.

They say we should count our blessings instead of complaining because things always might get a lot worse. Well, they did.

About 6 months into the new job, sure enough they laid us off from that one too. It was a joke. The job wasn't even worth having. Now I was really getting giddy. I told everyone that we might as well enjoy ourselves somehow during this Catch-22. I told them I planned to get several part time jobs all over the place in different towns, buy a new car (on time, of course), get leather seats put in, and just drive from place to place all week with the windows down.

That is exactly what I ended up doing for the next 10 years. I would work a couple hours, drive, stop at a swimming pool, dry off, drive to the next town, work a couple more hours, and so on. I put 36,000 miles on my car each year.

One year I filed my low-income tax return, attaching 12 different W-2 forms from all the employers I had that year. The whole amount came to an adjusted gross income that had me just under the poverty level indicator.

Into my second year of this fiasco, I took out my pension from my old job prematurely, cutting my potential benefits in half. It was done partly out of desperation for a few more dollars to pay the bills, but also out of reckless abandon caused by a life of insane results that I never expected to happen.

It was my own fault, I told myself, for not knowing the right people and having the connections it would have taken to succeed. But that's me.

Now, after settling into many years of this craziness, I can say that I have been happy in a wild and unpredictable sort of way. There have been lay-offs after lay-offs, but with each lost job, there was something else fortuitously to take its place.

It has been an insecure time, but adventuresome, much more so than the simple, well-paying days when I worked downtown for a good company and steady direct deposits every payday.

It does not matter too much anymore who you work for, or how much you make, I tell myself now. As the years accumulate into the Great Recession experience, I become more convinced that the things that make sense in life, because they keep me happy, are children, with their playful ways, and physical exercise, with its mindless activity.

That's my story from this temporary adventure that evolved into permanence. I try to have a good day every day, rejoicing over small bits of luck that come my way.

Many other people have had to start new careers in order to survive. When it happens, it's best to read and learn everything you can about the new line of work you are in. If additional education is necessary to advance on your new type of job, then welcome the opportunity. At school, we meet new people who can help us in our work.

It is best always to try to get to know other people who have spent several years working in your new field. This will be an excellent education on what to expect realistically. Workshops, seminars, and joining organizations that others in that field of work belong to, all are excellent ways to help succeed.

Stick with the people on the new job who have the best attitudes. There will be those who are very negative about the work. This would not help you, so try to minimize association with them.

Make sure to communicate as openly as possible with your new supervisor so that he or she will know what you are working on. Don't be afraid to ask others for help. They will know you are new and will want to help you out.

If your supervisor gets to work at a certain time, try to be there already. At the end of the day, try to avoid leaving before your supervisor.

But don't be impatient about your progress in a new career. It usually takes a month to get your bearings. You will be learning about your new line of work each day. Then, you can start to develop your own style of working once you have become familiar with the new career.


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