As I wrap up my Jobs & Careers theme for the month of November, I want to share just a bit of raw encouragement.
Too often we hear job statistics and our anxiety rises beyond proportion to the unemployment rate raising. Unemployment is currently above 10%. If there are 300 Million Americans in jobs or looking for jobs, that means 30 Million are out of work (I’m doing quickie math here and don’t want to get into arguments over the % of the population that has given up on finding work). If it worsens by 1%, another 3 Million will lose their jobs. Yet statistics show that upwards of 60% of people are worried about losing their jobs. That’s 180 Million people worrying, and a whopping 177 Million have nothing to worry about!
Now don’t misunderstand me. For those who have lost jobs or are under threat of losing their job, it’s a legitimately scary time. My focus here is on the hysteria surrounding unemployment statistics…and other statistics for that matter.
I worked for a company that went bankrupt this year. A lot of people I used to work with are still looking for work. It’s not as easy out there as it once was. Me? I was unemployed for a total of three whole days! And that was just the transition between jobs.
Was there uncertainty in the process? Yes. Was there worry? Not really.
Because I had already changed my perspective on work and because I’d already plotted out several moves in advance.
My Perspective on Work
I used to think that if I worked hard enough and long enough, the big corporation would notice me and realize how valuable I am, therefore granting me job security. The truth is that when I work for only one company, my job is automatically more insecure than that of the hot dog vendor on the busiest street corner downtown. He has hundreds of clients…I have one. He can lose a bunch…I can’t lose any!
When you start to think of yourself as working for yourself and not for someone else, even if you really do work for someone else, something inside of you changes. You work differently. You appreciate things differently. And eventually, you get to the point that you really don’t want to work for someone else at all!
Thus began my pursuit of self-employment and entrepreneurship.
In my last job, the signs of bankruptcy were everywhere. Management constantly told us that we didn’t have $1 Billion in debt…it was actually only $990 Million! Notes were coming due. Changes were happening at the top. Company loyalists were hoping for the best…a restructuring without the burden of our debt. After all, we had great people and great products…how could we cease to exist?
Several months after declaring bankruptcy, the company was sold off in bits and pieces. My project couldn’t be sold to the primary buyer due to conflicts of interest. All I could do was wait it out, hoping for a smaller buyer to suck us up. Well, not really.
I started looking. I looked at other companies. I looked at becoming an independent contractor. I looked at anything I could do to affect the change instead of being a victim of it.
And while some of my friends were left without options, I created my own. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t as smooth or as perfect as I would have liked, but with a plan I landed on my feet.
Not everyone can have that experience. Sometimes there are no (visible) warning signs. Sometimes you show up for work and get a punch in the gut that takes your breath away.
You feel like a statistic. Like a random number on some report somewhere at a company headquarters or government agency.
Refuse to be that statistic!
You have a name. You have a family. You are a unique creation of the Ultimate Creator! You have a mission and a purpose, even if it hasn’t been revealed to you yet!
You are not a number!
So don’t think of yourself that way. It’s time to get to work getting to work. Don’t start getting up late and watching Oprah in your pajamas!
Invest some time learning. Remember all of the value that you created over the years…all of the accomplishments. Those are real.
Realize that starting over today isn’t the same as starting out back when you really started. You have experience and knowledge. You are a known quantity (and hopefully a good one).
Take the job loss as the opportunity to change paths. What is something you always wanted to do but just didn’t? Could now be the perfect time to go do it?
Your job is now to find a job. Spend the same 40 hours per week in pursuit of the next job (studying, researching, learning, interviewing, asking, networking…all of that counts!).
For the Employeed
Mark down the names of the people you know who have lost their jobs recently. Encourage them as you’d like to be encouraged. Help them if you can. But at a minimum I want you to check back with them again in 12-18 months. Ask them what they’ve been up to. Those who have put themselves to work finding new work (with a company or by starting their own) will invariably say that losing their job was the best thing that ever happened to them.
They didn’t know it at the time. Neither will you.
March into the unknown realizing that you are not a statistic. You are a success. You can be knocked down, but you know how to get up. And you’re going to keep getting up, time and time again…always.
And most of all…never treat yourself like a number. Never!