The Upside Of Hitting A New Low

Over the last couple of days, I have had no less than 3 people tell me that they have never been so down in their lives before. These new lows are hitting them hard and the emotions that are surfacing and coming out aren’t the way they want to be or ever imagined they could be.

In all three situations the most current event, the one thing that connects all these individual stories, is the loss of a job and the resulting loss of income and the pressure and stress of needing to shore things up immediately. So it may be well and good to pause today and rather than blog about another matter I had in mind, to address some of the issues surrounding the job loss phenomenon.

When those words come to you that you’ve been fired, it hits like a brick in the face. The shock and immediate mental terror that has you in disbelief can’t really be effectively dealt with at this initial stage; you are in shock after all. Something unwanted has just slammed into your life and things are changing too fast to find anything you can really cling to. What to do? One suggestion might be to remove yourself as soon as possible from the source of the shock and in whatever space you call your home, take stock of things. Stabilize your situation mentally and go over what just happened.

In the short-term, apply for any financial benefits such as Employment Insurance and do it the same day you lose your position if you can. Get all the necessary paperwork later, like your Record of Employment. Any benefits you are entitled to will go back to the day you applied, not the day you lost your job. If there is a penalty of some kind for being terminated with cause, write out your take on the situation and in some cases this might get you reduced benefits instead of none at all. You’re going to need this income shortly and it takes time to process your claim.

For some people, curling up in a fetal position behind drawn shades for days on end and hiding from the world and the people in it is going to be tempting. Don’t do this please. This is the very time you need to sit down and update that resume. You’ll find it more useful too if you can identify your strengths, beliefs, values, skills and positive attributes. You have a lot to offer to an employer, you just need the right fit. While it would probably be wrong to beg for your job back, it might be useful to re-connect with your former employer and at least sort out what kind of reference they might be willing to provide. If you tell them that you are moving forward and would appreciate at bare minimum that they just confirm your employment dates with any perspective reference check, you might be in luck. The employer might breathe a sigh of relief that you aren’t going to sue for wrongful dismissal or cause a verbal scene and they’ll be happy to do this for you just to get you on to some other job so you are out of their life.

At the worst, if they say they’ll tell employers looking for a reference on you the truth about your termination, you can use this information to mitigate damage at the end of future interviews. When asked for references after a good interview, you may choose to share what the former employer may say, and the new employer will appreciate your honesty, especially if you can demonstrate you’ve learned something through the experience and it won’t be repeated.

You’re going to be angry; angry with that stupid boss, those idiot co-workers, and maybe, ye maybe yourself for doing or saying something that got you the sack. Don’t beat yourself up over it because that’s just wasted energy and you haven’t got a lot to spare at this stage in the process. Anger is raw emotion that if unleashed could just multiply your short-term unemployment through some poorly thought-out decisions you make now. Short-term satisfaction and long-term regret….like pouring sugar in the gas tank of your bosses car and being videotaped doing it.

While you consider getting your next career move going, consider at least the option of getting a short-term job outside of your chosen career field. This short-term job might be one that gives you some immediate cash, builds up your self-esteem a little, and is one you can then quit without damaging your reputation when you land the right long-term job you really want. This is a Band-Aid solution remember, not a long-term strategy.

Get connected with contacts and tell EVERYBODY you are looking for work and tell them what you are looking for. Don’t just say, “Let me know if you hear of anything.” What is it you want? Be clear. Go to some networking events, get involved in discussion groups, dress each day with pride and focus on your positive qualities. The sting you feel from that bad experience is just waiting for a crack in your self-confidence to remind you how dumb you are, how bad off you are, how in trouble you are. You’re smart enough to know that’s just a dark place you should avoid because there’s nothing healthy to be found there. That wallowing pool of self-remorse, that pool of pity is best left for someone else to drown in. You’ve got no time for that.

Get yourself in to an Employment Counsellor and get your resume looked at and for sure come up with an answer to the question, “So why did you leave your last job?” You’re going to need to deliver an answer without visibly falling apart or having your face betray your anger and resentment. When you find a strong answer that you can use and feel good about, you’re going to feel like you can flick that demon off your shoulder. 

This new low point in your life does have an upside. While it isn’t apparent now, you will find that in the future when you look back, you’ll have a better appreciation for your current situation and your new employer. You’ll hopefully have grown and learned from what went wrong and maybe even realize that surprise, surprise, losing that job actually moved you forward in a direction you would not otherwise have taken on your own. If you are at a new low, doesn’t that mean you probably have a future that’s better than the present? Probably.

You might need or want to speak with your bank and creditor’s, explain your situation and get them off your back. Consolidating debt can stop phone calls from collection agencies, and please remember that most people – yes most people – are themselves people who have changed careers, been laid-off at some point, possibly fired, quit etc. in their past. The stigma of being sacked isn’t quite as bad as it once was. That’s little comfort right now, I know.

You will move forward, things will improve, and it’s a question of time. It may be a short time, but probably longer than you’d like if you need a job immediately. Target your resume and cover letters; circulate, get applying for jobs and back in the game. You deserve an opportunity and perhaps an employer who is willing to give you a shot with a dose of support and understanding thrown in.

All the best in dealing with the immediate stuff. It’s a lot perhaps to deal with, but I suspect you’re strong enough to ride it out and emerge employed, empowered, and better.   


3 thoughts on “The Upside Of Hitting A New Low

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