Professional for Fire: 7 Lessons for the Chronically Unemployed Professional

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I’ve lost my job so many times, it should be listed in the Special Skills section of my resume. I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned some important lessons after getting laid off and let go.

  1. You job is not a static thing. Often, you will be hired for one role and the job will morph into another job entirely or in my case, the equivalent of two or three jobs. If the job you were hired for changed, that likely means the skill set changed, which means they need to replace you if you can’t adapt to the job’s new requirements.
  2. Sometimes, it really isn’t personal. I chose to start my career in finance in 2006, two years before the great subprime and credit crisis of 2008. I worked for a large bank who suffered major losses during that year. Once I saw two of the bankers I supported escorted down the long, dark hallway to HR, I knew it was only a matter of time before my number was up. This was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me, so it took me a whole year to accept that the only mistake I made was starting my career at a terrible time for the industry.
  3. Sometimes it is personal. I was once fired from a job because they felt like it wasn’t a good fit but a “nice person.” After pressing my staffing agency for a non-vague explanation, I learned that my youth and weird sense of humor was not welcomed in a quiet, humorless office with middle aged women. Every job has one person you don’t like working with, but when your whole team is a nightmare. It’s time to move on.
  4. Learning what your calling is not is just as important as learning what your calling is. Employers are a lot smarter and perceptive than we give them credit for. They know when you don’t care about your work. Once your apathy leads to careless mistakes. You’ll be shown the door and replaced with a competent, eager-to-please employee. One person’s shitty job is another person’s dream job. Your boss, regardless of your personal feelings toward him or her, deserves an employee who will actually do the job they are being paid for.
  5. Taking care of yourself and properly process your grief. Don’t listen anyone’s advice about how you should feel about losing your job (especially if they’ve been through the experience themselves). If you need a week to lay around in your pajamas, eat Ben & Jerry’s for breakfast and binge-watch Frasier, give yourself time to do just that. Your job search is best approached with a clear head and positive attitude. Interviewers will pick up on your desperation and low self-confidence if you try to jump back into the job search too soon. Once you start noticing yourself becoming a little less depressed each day, start setting simple goals (“today I will work on my resume” “today I will reach out to one potential contact”, etc.). A few small victories will turn into a big one.
  6. Congratulations, you are now an expert on getting fired. This bizarrely powerful and sacred knowledge bestowed upon you by the deities of downsizing means you can start working on getting a better job before you the axe. If you’ve been serially sacked, you are a pro at spotting the signs early: Boss stops giving you as much work, your once-friendly coworkers avoid you like Ebola, your presence is persona non grata in meetings, and increased scrutiny of your responsibilities. If you’re at a job and you notice at least three of these signs, it’s time to spruce up and send out the ole resume.
  7. Getting fired is your wakeup call to turn your dream job into your job reality. I’ve lost my job about six times now in 11 years and I’ve only just started to listen to universe telling me I’m need to put serious thought and work hours into finding my purpose.

I still don’t know what I want from my career, but I do know what I don’t want and that alone has gotten me closer to my calling. Another thing I’ve learned is research is only part of what goes into finding your purpose. Do not allow yourself to become paralyzed by analysis. Like it or not, the best way to find out what you want to do, is to jump in, make and learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes.

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