How to Survive and Thrive After a Job Loss When You’re 50+/- Years Old Part 1: Harsh Reality
Ken Sher is a Career & Life Coach and he can be contacted at SherCoaching.com.
(This is the first of a 4 part series)
I clearly remember the day. I can feel the initial angst, fear and panic I had as I was driving home. 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. I mean, my boss didn’t even have the decency to be there to tell me to my face. He was on the phone and some nameless HR person was telling me something about severance, insurance, blah, blah, blah…. I didn’t hear a word she said.
Like a Punch in the Gut
Even now, I look back and I’m proud of the great career I had with that company. I started off as a sales representative and was promoted or moved to positions with more responsibility 8 times. I feel good about the fact that I helped a lot of people get promotions and my work with Leadership Development improved the lives of company leaders, and the people who reported to them and their families as well.
But none of that seemed to matter. It wasn’t personal, it was business I was told, but the reality is that it was as if my parents had just told me they didn’t love me anymore and they didn’t want me around. It was an awful feeling! The drive home felt like the longest commute I’d ever had. I pulled over to the side of the road to gather myself. I certainly wasn’t in any rush to get home to face my family. Sure, rationally, I knew they would still love me and be supportive, but I was not in a very rational state of mind.
What Do You Say to Family and Friends?
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 – 1 out of college, 1 in college and 1 in high school – or maybe not thankfully. At that moment, I was thinking that I wish they were too young to understand what happened to their dad.
I hated the thought of having to tell them I lost my job. I hated to have to pretend to be strong and to tell them that everything was going to be alright because the truth is that I don’t know if even I believed that. I was embarrassed, I was hurt and I was scared…. As a man, as the “protector and provider” for the family, I found it tough to deal with these feelings and I had terrible thoughts of what others, including my family, would think of me. I sat in my car at the side of the road for about an hour. It was one of the loneliest and darkest times of my life.
You Just Have to Push Forward
I wish I could write that I figured it all out during the remaining part of my ride 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. It would be great to be one of those people who took an idea, long dormant in his brain, and turned it into a multi-million dollar product with infomercials, book tours and adoring fans. 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. You can’t be talking poorly of people or a company in one venue and then walk into a prospective employer and turn on the positive vibes… it doesn’t work… the negativity always comes through and who wants to hire someone like that? A friend of mine said to me:
“You know all that time you spend thinking poorly of your last employer and all the trash you talk about your former boss? Well, they’re not thinking about you at all so you’re just letting them get to you even more and you’re wasting your time.”
I had to admit he was right. I was wasting too much time and energy on the past and not looking towards the potential of the future… and I was probably attracting more negativity into my life as well. So I can honestly say that, for the most part and it wasn’t easy, I put it behind me and didn’t wish anybody any ill will moving forward. It was time to focus on me and what I was going to do next.
Who Can You TRUST?
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. I looked through all my contacts and the “condolence” emails I received. As a side note, it was interesting, and sometimes sad, to find that some of the people who I would have expected to be there for me weren’t really there and, surprisingly, some people who were on the fringes of my life really stepped up for me. The first benefit I got from these connections was some positive reinforcement which my psyche really needed. I must admit that the hit to my ego was pretty hard and the support I received was invaluable. 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. Did I want to continue what I was doing? Did I want to change careers? Did I want to try to get back into the company that just let me go? What would provide me with the income I needed while fulfilling my need to lead a more balanced and happy life? All good questions for any job seeker to consider.
My Mentors/Coaches helped me to formulate a plan for how I was going to rebuild my professional life and to aggressively begin my job search. I got great ideas from them and I even got some introductions to other people I could connect with in order to build my network and increase my odds for success.
Overall, my Mentors/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.
It’s True, Everything Happens for a Reason
I’ve had 2 other jobs since that fateful day when the “mother ship” let me go and I can honestly say that I am happier now than I’ve ever been. My 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. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might benefit from knowing that as bad as a job loss or feeling stuck in a career is, there is still realistic hope for an improved situation and a better life.
Ken Sher is a Career and Life Coach who focuses on the whole person when helping them with professional or personal issues they are trying to manage. If you would like to reach out to Ken, please call him at (215) 262-0528 or visit his web site at SherCoaching.com