In my experience, unemployment can come as a big surprise, but it can turn out to be one of the biggest adventures you'll ever take.
"The rainstorm is not personal and yet we get personally wet." -- Werner Erhard
I came across this quote a few days after losing my job due to a reorganization. I felt like it had been written especially for me. I was personally wet -- in fact, drenched. I'd been assured that the elimination of my job was in no way a reflection of my performance. Nothing against you personally, it's just that this impersonal, downsizing rainstorm happens to be blowing in your direction.
To be honest, I didn't even feel the moisture right away. I was numb, disjointed and exiled. No real emotion, just questions.
Who was I without my job, my title and my office? What would I do with my time? Where would I go when I got up in the morning? Who would I report to?
I didn't feel angry, I just felt lost.
A loss of identity
At age 51, starting over is the last thing I planned on doing. I had been at my job for 22 years, most of the time managing my company's Customer Financial Services department. The job was a quick-paced, high-stress type of "fun" for the chronic workaholic -- me. The truth was that I loved what I did and couldn't imagine my life without it.
Initially, I didn't know what to do with myself and began to lose self-esteem. Thankfully, my company provided career-coaching services. My coach quickly taught me the three R's needed to land the next big job: referrals, recommendations and references. So, I made a profile on LinkedIn and networked, networked, networked. I signed up on several job-search engines and received daily job postings.
But after four months, I've had only a few bites and two interviews. I've sent out more resumes than I can count and made countless connections and calls, but "The Job" I need is still eluding me.
A great adventure
Oddly enough, what isn't eluding me is peace. What I thought would be the most stressful period of my life has actually turned out to be a great adventure. I made the choice at the beginning of my unemployment to rely on my faith instead of myself to get through this period of my life.
I also decided to look at all possibilities out there and not worry about the starting salary. I know from experience that, once employed, doing the best job possible does more than anything to ensure promotions and raises.
Several friends have recommended that I look into consulting. My first response was, "I couldn't possibly be a consultant, I don't have those skill sets." But I've reconsidered this avenue and am currently exploring some very real possibilities.
When you lose your job, you can sometimes lose your self-esteem. But that, like everything else, is a choice. I've chosen to have a "can-do" attitude. As unbelievable as it is to me, I've also come to realize that I really enjoy being at home and have started to look into some work-from-home career paths, too.
One option I'm considering is becoming a medical transcriber. Although it will require some schooling, it will offer me the ability to work from anywhere.
A newfound outlook
While off from work, I've been taking advantage of my free schedule by doing some things I've always wanted to do, but never had the time for. I began by volunteering at an animal rescue center. I love animals and it's a much better way to spend my time than wallowing in self-pity. These dogs and cats absorb any love offered to them like a sponge and give it back 100-fold.
I also reconnected with a lifelong passion -- writing. My dream has always been to write a book. You'll never write a book if you don't put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, so that's exactly what I did. Happily, I just completed a children's book and am in the process of working with an editor to ensure that it's ready for publication. This would have never happened if I were still employed. By the time I got home from work, I was too exhausted to do anything but decide where to call for food delivery.
If given the choice, would I make the one that has been handed to me?
After a lot of thought and consideration, I believe the answer is yes. I was in a rut but didn't know how to get out of it. I had a good job, with great pay, so I chose to ignore all the signals that it was no longer right for me.
Now I can see all of the opportunities out there and they really are endless. Unemployment isn't easy and money can be tight, but you don't get the chance to reinvent yourself very often.
I'm choosing to take unemployment as a gift instead of a curse and make the most out of it. I know that's the right choice for me, and I will succeed.
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