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Job Loss--You CAN Survive IT!

Updated on September 8, 2014


As a professional City Manager for the last 15 years, I have gone through the multitude of job losses. I've been fired as I drank my morning coffee by the mayor. Quit during a meeting when a council member refused to stop harassing staff and community citizens. And laid off due to local government consolidations. All at the time killed my identity, self esteem and pocketbook.

The layoff came right at the time I was newly divorced and a single mother. The resignation after I secured over $3 million dollars for a badly needed housing that was about to materialize. And the firing two years after I had spent my relocation allowance to relocate to what became upon my arrival a hostile staff and council.

In all three I lost everything that mattered to me. I lost my pride as I applied at County agencies for Medicaid and at school for free lunches for my son. I lost the professional reputation I had worked so hard to secure and maintain when untrue media coverages surrounded me. And I lost my home which necessitated me selling all of my possessions to live with family.

But as much as I lost, I learned how to survive the eventual job loss one surely goes through at various points in their working lives. Which means now, when I am faced with a potential conflict in the work place that might lead to the dreaded furlough, I feel a sense of freedom knowing I have in place well honed survival skills to get me through until my next permanent position.

First, no matter how much I needed and wanted a new job I came to understand that I was too much of an emotional and mental wreck to get actually get one. It takes a focused mind to create a well thought out resume and cover letter. The one I carried after each job loss was scattered somewhere between anxiety on how I was going to pay the upcoming bills and the various ways to get vengeance on my former employer. Even if I could get it together enough to get the written part completed, my confidence had taken such a beating how would I interview?

So I went back to basics. The first being money. Had I reached an agreement with my former employer before I left stating they would not contest my unemployment benefits, give me a good reference, and admonish their staff from ruining my reputation? If not, I used $500 of my dwindling stash and hired an attorney. He in turn asked me under what circumstances I left my position, ascertained if I was still entitled to unemployment benefits, and then went ahead either way and asked my former employer to sign a written agreement for for all three. I've always received it. Getting these three things under my belt gave me a weekly check, opened up state and county insurance and assistance benefits when needed, and insured there will be no trouble when potential employers sought a reference in the future.

Next, I went through my monthly bills. Utilities, gasoline, and food were essentials. I made a budget and stuck with it. I then called all mortgage and credit cards companies and other monthly obligations, told them what had happened, and then inquired what their minimums would be to keep me current. For all my school loans I quickly applied for a forbearance, cancelled my cable television which kept me from sitting in my bathrobe all day watching it, but retained my health club membership which was around $100 a month and internet. The health club was my lifeline for maintaining badly needed endorphins and the internet for potential employment.

After somewhat stabilizing my finances, I next tried to set up a daily schedule like I did when I was working. Except this time I centered it around those kinds of things I put off or did not have time to do when I was working. Exercise? Eating healthy? Quit Smoking? Write the book I had been trying to complete? Meditate? And then divided them on a daily task list in half hour increments so I could check them off as they were accomplished. The list started from the time I planned to get up, and then worked them in between meals. The thought was that I would get a sense of accomplishment--which in turn hopefully would build back up my self esteem.

After finances and the "what I am going to do all day" being covered, the next thing that occurred for me was deep loneliness because I connected with the world through my job. So I forced myself to look in my local newspaper, leaflets, or online at what free activities were being offered during the day for adults. It might be through the local parks district, church, library, political committees, United Way, Meetups, whatever. But I was amazed as I attended some of these activities not only did I begin to feel better but actually found new interests.

And as I lifted myself out of feeling rejected and beaten step by step I found out that there is something even better than having a job--a newborn spirit.


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