Job Loss Grief Stages

October 25th, 2018

When you lose your job, you lose….¬†stuff.

13 years ago I lost 100% of my income. I vowed that wouldn’t ever happen again (that one person could pull a lever and 100% of my ability to pay my bills would evaporate).

I also lost my identity, because no long was I the general manager at a software firm. I didn’t know how to describe my guy, but after a couple of months I felt like the “neighborhood project.” That wasn’t good for my ego.

I lost friends… the people I spent hours with each day, who I had inside jokes with, who I trusted with personal information and aspirations. When you aren’t at the company anymore the relationship changes. I missed the old relationships.

In a way, I lost myself, and my dignity, and other stuff. But I don’t want to talk about what I lost. I want to talk about the weird-to-me stages of grief, and the emotions, that I went through.

If you look at the stages of grief (do a google images search) you’ll see things like: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

I was not expecting to go through various emotions. I seemed to cycle through them by the minute or hour. It’s no fun to be in denial (“did that really happen? After all I’ve done? Is this the twilight zone??”).

It’s no fun to be angry at people who just a week ago you were collaborating with, dreaming with, on the same page with.

But these emotions, these stages, happen. It can be confusing. It can throw you off your game. It can make you wonder if you are broken.

You are not broken. You are normal.

What you need to do is feel unbroken, and get back to functional.

When I cycle through the stages, and my emotions flip-flop around, I have a hard time concentrating. It’s hard to focus on networking, or interview prep, or job search strategy. I need to get back to functional.

I’m not trained in psychology, but here are my two recommendations:

  1. Allow yourself to go through the stages. Don’t get upset with yourself if you need to break down, veg, or whatever during one of the stages. Of course, don’t do anything harmful to yourself or anyone else… but give yourself a break and let these stages run their course.
  2. Do things to be out of the stages. Eventually, with time, you won’t hurt so much. You won’t be so confused. You will feel healed. You will be able to move on. I encourage you to do whatever work you need to do to get closer to that feeling of healing. Don’t be yourself up for the feelings in #1, but what can you do to feel more in control?

I remember in my last job search (January of 2018) I was pretty sure I was going to land The Big One. But I had been there before, years earlier, and I was sure I’d land a different Big One. When I didn’t land it, I was devastated. So this last time, instead of slowing down in my job search, I sped up. I networked more, I did more job search stuff… so that if they came back with a “we’re sorry, but we chose someone else” then I could be like “it’s okay, I have other stuff in the hopper.”

What I’m saying is: keep busy. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch… and do whatever you can so that if one thing doesn’t work out, they aren’t the only game in town. If you have other stuff going on, you’ll spread the risk and the dependency on one thing.

Stay busy, allow the emotions, and move forward. All of that is good advice. But I totally validate the feelings and confusion that you are going through.


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Career Plan A, Plan B, Plan C… Plan Z

October 24th, 2018

My dad and father-in-law had careers where they had pretty much one job for decades. After they retired they both got another job. They were young, and why not work for another 10 years?

My career has been quite different. I’ve had a host of jobs, and have owned my own business for almost 13 years now. Jobs have come and gone in a way that they couldn’t have imagined back in their day. While many things about my career have been fun and exciting, it’s been frustrating not knowing that I’d continue to have a certain job for the next few weeks, or months, or years… much less until the end of my career.

The stress of not knowing, and worrying about, and spending time actively pursuing career management, is not one of my favorite things about the careers of today.

But I’ve had to have Plan B, and Plan C, and Plan D, and when those don’t work out, Plan E, F, G, H, etc.

I refuse to sit by and think that my Plan A is my employer’s Plan A, because when they pull the plug I’m left with no income but I still have all of my bills. It is on me to make sure that I’m financially ready and able for changes to my income and my main job.

That is why I’m so big on “multiple streams of revenue.” When I got laid off back in January of 2006 my boss and the board of directors effectively took away 100% of my income. When I started JibberJobber I hoped that I could generate maybe $100 a month so that when I had a job again, and got laid off, the person who did it could not take away 100% of my income.

That was almost thirteen years ago. Right now I have multiple streams of income. My job is one of them. I also have JibberJobber, my Pluralsight royalties, and two rental units. It has taken a lot of work to get to this point. It has taken serious investment, strategy, and luck and risk. But here we are… multiple streams of income. This is my Plan B, Plan C, etc.

Life, and careers, is not easy. But we must be strategic about it.

Here’s an idea for those of you who are not ready for, or haven’t figured out, multiple streams of income: consider one of your income streams your career management efforts. That is, if you can’t figure out a side hustle, or a business, or rentals or investments or whatever, then spend time networking. Not once a month, but more often. Network strategically. Network on purpose. Network for real.

Your network should help you get solid in your revenue streams. Maybe that means that for the rest of your career, you’ll have a strong network that will keep your unemployment times down. Maybe “getting solid” means that your network will introduce revenue streams and opportunities. My message is that I want you to not worry about creating a revenue stream if that seems impossible right now… in place of that, ramp up your networking! It might be the most important thing you do for your career management.

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