No one likes to admit they’ve lost a job. It could be performance issues, personality issues, or even the company performing mass layoffs. Everyone loses a job now and then, but that doesn’t mean we like to admit it.
We’d rather quit in a blaze of glory that leaves upper management standing there, mouth agape, frightened at the prospect of facing the future without us. Or leaving them with the realization that they are awful, awful people who will spend night after night sobbing in front of the television, eating a can of cake frosting, with their seven cats.
Alas, I don’t think that has happened anywhere ever, except in our own minds.
In a recent LinkedIn article, Sallie Krawcheck, past president of Merrill Lynch, US Trust, and Smith Barney, wrote about some of the things she learned “When (She) Got Fired the First Time,” which inspired my own lessons learned from my own job losses (and firings).
1. If You Hate Your Job, Have Something You Love to Do
In a perfect world, you would love your job so much, you would hardly call it work. I’ve had two jobs like that. One was my first marketing job, when I got to travel around the country and to Western Europe. The other is the one I have now, owning my own business.
Not everyone is going to have a job they love that much. In fact, many people will have a job they can tolerate, while most will have a job — or boss, co-workers, or clients — they dread. That can’t be everything you have going for you. For your own peace of mind, you need to have a hobby or something you truly love to do to reclaim your humanity once you get home. It may be all that gets you through the day until you find something better.
2. Your Network Needs to Extend Beyond Your Co-Workers
I’ve talked to people who lost their job and said they were going to tap into their network to find their next job, only to discover said network consisted solely of their former co-workers. The only job opening they know about is the one the job seeker just created, so that’s no help. That’s when they realize their network sucks.
While you have a job, start looking for your next one. Network with people outside the company, build your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, and find work-related reasons to get to know those people. They’re going to be your lifeline when the axe falls again (and yes, it will fall again). Create trust and value within the network, and develop relationships with these people before you need anything.
3. Cut All Ties With the Old Company
Krawcheck mentioned this lesson in her article and it’s worth mentioning again. You’ll make yourself crazy staying in touch with the old company, trying to learn whether your boss has freaked out about your leaving (she didn’t), and how the place is falling apart without you (it isn’t).
Here’s the sad truth: no one notices you’re gone. They see your empty desk, and some of your friends may even silently seethe about how you were let go, but the fact that none of them have quit in solidarity tells you just how much — or little — you’re actually missed.
If they call you, don’t answer questions for them. Don’t tell them where files are located. Don’t call to make sure everything is running fine. If they needed any of that, they would have asked before you left. Anything they ask you to do after that is work, and they’re not paying you for it, so you don’t have to do it. (And if they do, charge them an hourly consulting fee that’s double what you originally made in an hour.)
4. Nothing Beats Owning Your Own Business
For one thing, you can’t be fired from it. For another, you set your own hours. For a third, you’re presumably doing the thing that you love the most. I’ve owned my own business for nearly four years, and while it’s been a struggle, I’ve never had to deal with a boss who didn’t know what he was doing. I’ve never had co-workers I secretly despised. And I’ve always been able to do what I want on my own terms.
Plus, I get to do what I love the most: write and speak in public. There are days it hardly seems like work, and I keep wondering if my happiness and complete lack of neckties is somehow against the rules of Corporate America.
If you find you’re out of a job and working to find your next one, start your own business in the meantime. Become a freelancer or a consultant. Working for yourself plugs up any gaps on your résumé, it helps you make money, it keeps your skills sharp, it lets you meet with decision makers who might hire you, and it may even turn out to be a success.
Losing your job for any reason is never easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. The only time you lose your job permanently is when they wheel you out feet first. Until then, stick it out, but have outside interests; work to find something better; grow your network of people who can help you with your next step; and, consider starting your own venture.
Just remember, you are not your job. You’re the sum of your network, the books you read, the people you associate with, and the interests you have. Keep that in perspective, and losing your job won’t be that painful.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing.