The phone rang as I walked through the door. It was work and when I answered, I heard the nervous voice of my boss. “We are terminating your employment,” she had said. I always imagined losing your job would be a panic-inducing event, yet as I quietly listened to her, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief. I had been miserable; hating every second I spent in that dirty office building and internally venting about the company’s archaic and oppressive rules. But it didn’t take long for reality to hit and an overwhelming wave of dread and anxiety to wash over me. In short, the job had been a lemon, culminating in a sudden layoff that left me in a sour mood with a bitter outlook towards my future.
I knew the job wasn’t great. My interview had been riddled with red flags. No one had asked me any questions. My attempts to highlight my qualifications were ignored and any mention of my professional certifications was dismissed as irrelevant. The office tour indicated signs of harassment and hostile work environment. When I was offered the job, my request for time to consider it was interpreted as a sign that I wasn’t committed. Nevertheless, I accepted the position the following afternoon.
In hindsight, I’m horrified at my own judgment. How could I ever accept such a job? I based my decision on several factors, though none of them seem justified now. First, I was tired of being overlooked in my then dead-end job. Second, this position offered a significant increase in salary and at the time, I equated more money with increased happiness. And third, I was young and naively thought that I could fix the problems I saw in the company. How wrong I was!
I am now able to look back on this time in my life with perspective. I’ve realized that life doesn’t throw us things for no reason. There is always a lesson to be learned and a change to be made. Losing your job is hard but there are a few things that I believe are important to keep in mind.
Never sacrifice your happiness for a job
I knew almost immediately that I had made a terrible career decision and gave myself a deadline of one year. Get through one year and get out. As time went on, that one-year deadline became nine months, then six months. I was let go after three months.
No job is worth sacrificing your happiness. My fear of having a short stint on my resume ultimately led to a six-month gap. Don’t feel pressured to make something work. Remember, recruiters are human, too. Be honest and explain that your current job isn’t a good fit and you’re looking for something more aligned to your values. No one should fault you for that.
It is tempting to stay home in your pajamas and wallow, but that’s not going to get you anywhere. I spent too many days bumming around the house feeling like a lost, hopeless, unemployable loser. I finally realized that the negative energy I was emitting wasn’t going to land me a job. Neither was skimming LinkedIn and Indeed on my phone at three o’clock in the morning. Job searching can be stressful, so make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising regularly and taking breaks to relax and have fun.
Pause to reflect
There are very few times in your adult life where you will have time to just be. Time to pause and think about the trajectory of your life. If there is an upside to losing your job, this is it. I was ashamed to admit that I had been living on autopilot, going through the motions and climbing the career ladder like I thought I was supposed to. I never took a moment to ask myself the important questions: Am I happy? What is the goal? Do I even want it? Instead, I was applying to jobs that I didn’t want and couldn’t envision myself doing.
Now I realize the importance of regular assessments. I’m no longer afraid to change paths. Course correcting isn’t failure. It takes courage to follow your dreams.
Find your balance
I have a confession. I am a chronic workaholic. I placed my job at the top of my priority pyramid. No surprise, then, that I experienced an all-encompassing identity crisis when I lost my job. Without work, who was I?
I drove around aimlessly the first few weeks, not sure what to do with all this newfound time. I quickly became bored of the same routes and couldn’t afford to keep filling my gas tank. At home, I scanned my bookshelves and discovered books I had once bought and never read. I reconnected with my love of writing and sharpened my cooking skills, managing to master a few go-to recipes. Don’t get me wrong. I am still a workaholic, though I’m more protective of my time outside of work. You are not your job. Work hard, yes, but don’t forget to live.