Ok – you lost your job. Now what?

As I was listening to NPR the other day I heard a story that impacted me in a way that really surprised me. I was listening to a woman who had attempted suicide, because she didn’t know what to do after losing her job. She was a single mom making $55,000 as a supervisor in a small office. She was let go one day with no notice at all. She has since tried applying at Walmart, Target, McDonalds and other retail outlets – with no luck. She hid her situation from her teenage kids, not wanting them to worry. She wondered how she was going to get them the things they wanted, and had a argument with them over something they wanted at the store. In desperation, she finally decided to try to take her own life by overdosing on something… but luckily just woke up the next morning… feeling terrible but still alive. Of course she felt even worse then, because of the guilt she now carried for her suicide attempt.

What this made me realize is that many Americans who have lost their jobs are totally lost. I was stunned. How can this be? Worse yet – how do we help them get over this. So here are some thoughts that I hope you find helpful and can pass on to others you know in this situation.

  1. Remember – you have value beyond your income. I just saw a little clip on YouTube from the movie Glengary Glen Ross. I haven’t seen the movie, but am going to rent it. Before you read the rest of this, go look at the clip (fyi – there is language in the clip that some of you may find offensive – not appropriate for young kids!). I understand the perspective that Blake was giving to the others. He was trying to motivate/intimidate the salesmen into action. If you work for a company, they have the right to expect you to be productive. However, this attitude – that either you sell – or are inadequate – is the start of the brainwashing that Americans have undergone about their value. Yes, we need to work hard. However, our value cannot be measured in money.

    It is only within the last 80 years or so that the American standard of living has risen to the point that most of us can be considered wealthy. Did you know that in general, Americans live in the top 5% of the worlds population as far as wealth and quality of life? Try telling a child that works in a factory in Bangladesh, making a few dollars a week… that since you lost your job, your life sucks. You have been brainwashed into thinking that just because you can’t buy a McMansion, XBox 360, Wii, Playstation 3, IPOD, I Phone, Flat screen TV, Boat, RV, Motorcycle, vacation to Hawaii, Surround Sound, new car, movies every week, dining out once a week, a pizza to be delivered – that you suck. You don’t suck. You’ve been brainwashed. You’ve been brainwashed by people like Blake into thinking that financial success = wealth. Wealth comes from knowing who you are. I will have to agree with Blake though – we should all stop making excuses for inaction.

    It was only a few generations ago (people in their 70s and older will remember – go ask them!) that people were valued for just putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. It was only a few generations ago when an estimated 400,000 AMERICAN men, women and children lost their lives in WWII. That people were valued for the sacrifices they made for our freedom and that life wasn’t measured by what they owned. That there were rations for all sorts of things that we take for granted now. During these tough times, it was great to be financially rich, but most people just got by. AND… they were ok with it. They knew that value can be measured in their willingness to do hard work, not just the fact that they were actually working. During the great depression, there were people who stood in soup lines and work lines, some of who had little self worth, but others who held their head high. Why? Because these people knew they had worth.

  2. No one is going to take care of you. You have to take care of yourself. Our country was founded on the basic dream that you can make a life for yourself, if you are willing to work hard. You can complain all you want, but the bottom line is that YOU must take care of yourself. Not your boss, not your co-workers, not your union, not your spouse, not even your country. YOU must take action. YOU are responsible for doing something.

    You can complain about how and why you got in this situation, but that is not going to put food on the table. I’m a great listener, and if I heard your story, I would probably empathize with you. I might even shed a few tears. But… then I am going to say… what next? I don’t want to hear your story again. I don’t think you should be telling it to a lot of people. Tell your story ONCE to someone who cares. Then, move on. If you find yourself hanging out with other people in your situation, and everyone just keeps complaining about how they got there… STOP. Get away from the group. They are going to bring you down and prevent you from doing what you have to do now… which is get up, dust yourself off, and go do something!

  3. Here’s the next question… what to do? First…. if you have lost a job.. get out of denial. Cut back as much as you possibly can. I had an interesting conversation with someone at a recent seminar of mine about what was really necessary in life. I relayed a story that I think I told in a previous blog, about a woman who wouldn’t give up her cable TV to get some money from a church. I thought this woman was foolish for not giving it up. However, this other woman at my seminar said that perhaps this was the only thing that allowed this other woman to keep her sanity. That she had given up everything else but needed some escape from reality to keep her sanity. Perhaps she is right. I don’t know. My point is, give up as much as you can.

    The next thing you need to do is to get into a routine. Do NOT sleep in. In fact, get up early. You also need to start exercising and to eat right. For those of you that have been brainwashed (again!) into thinking you need to go the gym or use some kind of machine like a stairmaster or stationary bike… don’t forget that you can just go running – or, you can do sit ups, push ups, etc. at home!! No cost!!

    Yes, you must also start to eat right for two reasons. The first is that your grocery bill will go down. It’s amazing what soda (no, this is not part of a staple diet), chips, brownies, candy, ice cream etc… can cost. Now, don’t avoid all treats… but start eating better. You’ll feel better and have more energy.

  4. The next thing you need to do is to make some money. Notice I didn’t necessarily say go get a job. There are lots of ways to make money. Again – many of us have been brainwashed into thinking that a j-o-b is the only way to make money. Not. There are a ton of ways to make money. Perhaps not enough to live on, but still enough to help stretch whatever savings you have into lasting until you get your next job… which you will! How can you make money? There is babysitting, dog walking, creating websites, helping people get organized, running errands for people, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, cooking dinner, cleaning someones house.

    There are more sophisticated ways such as selling on ebay, day trading (if you dare take the plunge – not for the novice, but if you came out of the financial industry… perhaps this is something you could try… but… be careful), selling things on consignment, helping people pour concrete or work around their house. Perhaps you can bake pies or cakes and sell them in your neighborhood (check out local healthcare safety codes).

    There are a TON of ways to make some extra cash while you try to get a job. I’m not going to go into job hunting here… there are tons of experts at that already. But… I will say this… you have to… have to… have to… keep trying to find a job. You cannot quit. You cannot do it for an hour a day. You have to be committed to getting a new job.

  5. You should not be ashamed for the situation that you are in. It happens. It has happened to me before. More than once. I know what you are going through. If there are people in your life who are putting you down, go get some new friends. Now – I also know that this can create a tremendous amount of stress on a relationship. Perhaps that is material for another blog. My only comment for the moment, is to be gracious if your partner is the one who has lost a job. It is very hard. They need your support. If you are having trouble with your partner and are the one out of work – email me, or wait for a future blog about this. So – don’t be ashamed. In fact, don’t be afraid to ask people you know for leads or help. God put people on this earth to help us. You don’t have to do this alone.

This was a lengthy blog. But here is what you have to know in summary. 1) YOU have worth! 2) YOU have to do something! 3) YOU have to create a budget, eat well and exercise. 4) YOU have to go out and make some money.

I will close with this, if you reset your expectations and don’t give up, you WILL be ok. You WILL find another job. Just put one foot in front of the other… and keep going.

All the best,
All the time,
JT