Professionals typically fear the future, especially when it becomes possible that they are going to lose their jobs. This article provides insights on how to approach losing one’s job and explains how one can use information they learn at conferences to help with their anxieties and next steps.
The best place to learn the ‘ropes’ of research and business is by going to conferences. These were not conferences filled with scientists presenting their latest discoveries or cadres of young graduate students clucking over well known professors. Rather, these were a different kind of conference: trade conferences with talks but also exhibitors and lots of ‘stuff’ (swag) to bring home. If one wanted to have a lifetime supply of combs, pencils, or key chains, here was the place, as long as the one wasn’t particular about the fact that the swag had the company’s name printed all over it.
The most important lessons from those conferences were the topics of the talks, which were about the practicalities of being in business. There was no pussyfooting around or political correctness where the topic was disguised in a socially acceptable manner. At least, that’s what it seemed. And so, some of the lessons about losing one’s job first came out of those conferences. In fact, in those days, there weren’t many self-help books: you couldn’t go to the nearest Barnes and Noble and become absorbed by a wall of self-help books, to help you through the times that you lost your job. But these conferences dealt with those issues.
NOLF – No one lives forever
One of the most important lessons I learned about losing one’s job came from a presentation by Jeff Milam, former brand manager at a health and beauty aids company. Jeff’s point in his very well-attended presentation at the Cosmo Expo show in 1977 was NOLF: no one lives forever.
The key point of his presentation was that it’s okay to lose one’s job. It’s not the worst thing in the world. It’s not a measure of one’s lack of worth. In fact, it’s perfectly normal. In a world of creation and destruction, it’s natural that a job will come and go. It’s natural for a person to occupy the job, while the job is vital, and then lose it.
The real key, according to Milam, is what you do with that opportunity while you have it. Jeff’s point in 1977 still holds true a third of a century later. It is to ‘what you will do’ that we now turn.
What losing your job means for your next step
It’s perfectly natural to lose your job. The real question is what do you do next? Of course, there are a lot of alternative paths. Some people feel that they need to sit down, relax, check out all of their ‘options’ and, of course, select the next opportunity which presents itself. Others, with the same qualifications, feel that the world has betrayed them, and that they must tell all of their friends. In this way, they release their feelings to reduce their anxiety.
So what should you do? What is the best approach?
For this author, the best thing to do when he lost his job was to find another job. Or, to develop another job or business. That is, although it was tempting to take time off and try to find out what one really and profoundly wanted to do, the reality of the situation was that it was not the most productive route. We don’t learn a lot by introspection. Most of us are better served by doing something than by thinking interminably about the slice of reality that we feel we rightfully occupy.
Oh, and one more thing. It’s likely that everyone you meet, yes, virtually everyone, has at one time or another been rejected by his employer. This may not mean losing one’s job, getting fired, or ‘de-hired’, or any of the other words that are used today, such as downsized, and so forth. It may be that the next person you meet is working at a lower salary, is a consultant, is between engagements, and so forth. The truth is that everyone’s been there.