I clearly remember the day. How could it have happened? I had been with this large, profitable fortune 100 company for nearly 25 years. I was 52 ½ years old. Then I got the call to go to HR and BAM! It was over. All I remember is some nameless HR person telling me something about severance, insurance, blah, blah, blah…. I didn’t hear a word she said.
Even now, I look back and I’m proud of the great career I had with that company… where I started and the level I was at before being let go, but none of that seemed to matter. It wasn’t personal, it was business I was told, but it was an awful feeling!
I could picture myself walking into the house and my wife looking surprised and concerned that I was home so early. Then, my thoughts turned to my children. Thankfully, my kids were a little older – -2 in college and 1 in high school – – or maybe not thankfully. At that moment, I was wishing they were too young to understand what happened to their dad.
I hated the thought of having to tell them I lost my job and having to pretend to be strong. I knew I had to tell them that everything was going to be alright, but the truth is that I don’t know if even I believed that. I found it tough to deal with these feelings and I had terrible thoughts of what others, including my family, would think of me. It was one of the loneliest and darkest times of my life.
I wish I could write that I figured it all out during my drive home. I would love to tell you that I woke up the next day with a brilliant idea of how I was going to turn things around.. But, the truth is, that was not my reality. Those first few weeks were very tough.
Let’s see, the first week was spent in self-pity, a bit of self loathing and a touch of depression as well…. not good! Then, after some soul searching, I decided it was time to change my outlook on things and for me to take a strategic approach to getting my life back in order.
First came the attitude change. It may be cliché, but nothing good ever comes from negative thoughts. You can’t turn negativism on and off…the negativity always comes through and who wants to hire someone like that?
The only thing negative thinking does is attract more negativity into your life. So, I can honestly say that for the most part, and it wasn’t easy, I put it behind me. It was time to focus on what I was going to do next.
The next thing I did was reach out to people who I trusted, who could mentor and coach me through the emotional roller coaster I was riding. The first benefit I got from these connections was some positive reinforcement which my psyche really needed. They helped me to think about my strengths and what I wanted to do with them and they caused me to focus on the future and not the past.
My coaches provided me with a sounding board for all things related to my job loss and my search. They gave me input on my resume, they helped me prepare for interviews and they gave me moral support throughout the process. Without them, it would have been a much more painful, drawn out process.
My post lay-off journey has taken me to what I believe is my true calling and I am more excited than ever about what the future holds for me. Yes, I believe I am proof positive that you can not only survive but thrive following a job loss regardless of your age.
Part 2 of this 4 part series is entitled: “Survive and thrive after a job loss when you’re 50+/- years old: Down but far from out” will be published shortly.