Before I go any further, I need you to know that I intend for this series to be as informative as possible. My last two months of unemployment, and my resulting new job, have provided me with plenty of advice to give you. I can tell you what worked for me, how I followed up, how I marketed myself. I can instruct you on how to update your resume. I can tell you how to work your way up. I can tell you what to say at your interviews.
For the next six weeks, I’m going to share with you how I turned my life around during my unemployment. How within two months, I built up my confidence, actually improved my finances, pursued my dreams of becoming a freelance writer, and landed my first full-time, permanent job in three years.
But my heart just isn’t there right now. Before I get into all the practical stuff, before I offer you any advice… all I have to offer you encouragement.
It begins with this: it happened to me. For the first time in my life, I was fired. Fired. For just cause? Maybe. I don’t remember the reasons the human resources lady gave me, exactly. I just remember my boss, whom I liked very much, holding back tears as she offered me some last bits of professional advice in the parking lot of my former office. I remember my son Cameron’s teachers praying with me outside of his school that same evening, after I told them I “lost” my job. And I remember my mother, always at her best when circumstances are at their worst, holding me upright over the phone, asking: “When you moved into your cottage, and you signed up Cameron for school, and you decided to venture out on your own… what plan did you have in case this happened?”
While employed, we may forget that there is always the possibility of termination. At my former position, I was a temp, which is always a fidgety position. But after six months of steady employment and two renewal contracts, I felt comfortable enough to start looking to move out of my parents’ house and place my son in a new private school. A month after I placed a deposit on a modest but adorable cottage and started packing up my things, I moved in. A month and a half after that… well, we went over that already.
Let’s pause here. Let’s say, never mind the worry, the anxiety, the fear of the financial unknown: surprisingly, I wasn’t thinking about how I would pay my rent or whether I would be approved for unemployment. I knew I was capable of doing what I had to do. I knew I would make ends meet, and that I’d be able to get by without fiercely burning through my savings.
I knew the real damage wouldn’t be to my bank account. What I feared was the impairment to my spirit.
I was doing alright being on my own, but I wondered if, without my job, I’d be able to do anything at all. When I lost my job, I felt like I lost my power. I knew that I would be well-taken care of by supportive family and friends, that too many people loved us to let us go hungry, but there were days where I honestly felt like I would no longer amount to what I had once hoped for. Being fired is serious means of rejection. I wondered how I’d ever “get back on the horse”after one employer had already categorized me as unfit and plain “not good enough.” On my lowest days, I was convinced no respectable employer would want me.
It was so ironic, really: I was out of a job, but the real work was just beginning. Not just in finding means of an income, searching for another job, or making life-changing decisions: but in healing myself. Believing in myself again. Fighting, fighting, fighting to stay out of depression. I had to recognize that I was grieving; and grieving is exhausting, and cyclical, and making a daily decision that everything will be okay is hard.
So I decided that losing my job would be the best thing to ever happen to me and my son. I decided to stay open. I decided it was actually a time to be unafraid, to explore; to remember all those things I had been saying I wish I could do, if I only had the time. That it wasn’t time to be practical, but creative. Not cautious, but brave.
First of all, you have to view unemployment like any other opportunity: make the most of it. Secondly, as with any other loss, stay focused on what you still have. Most importantly, remember that any chance of improvement starts with a decision. Decide to use this time as when you will set the best example for your children. I’m sure that, as a Solo Mom, you’ve already “survived” so much. This is not a time for mere survival. You have been blessed with an extravagant gift of time, one which most single moms ache for: so make it a time when your children look back and recognize that you really shined.
Now. I hope you’re feeling a little better. This is where you start looking for answers: not in the Classifieds, but the parts of you where you know your best, your extraordinary, your against-the-odds still exists. Don’t just sustain the life you know, but improve the life you have.
Next week, we’ll start with how to maintain – even improve! — your routine and organization while “in limbo.” But for now, I’m assuming you don’t have to wake up early to sit in traffic during your daily commute (oh, the things we take for granted!)… so in the meantime, the only advice I have for you is to get some rest. Because you can. Because you’re going to need it. And more than ever, because you deserve it.