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The Grief, Joy of Job Loss

Guest author, Ann Sudekum, MA, is a marketing and communications professional who offers her experience with job loss and how to find ways to get through the process in positive and meaningful ways. When she is not writing posts for Dr. KayTrotter’s Blog, she freelances as a MarCom consultant with her company, Sudekum Solutions, and serves as webmaster for Dr. Trotter’s website, www.kaytrotter.com

I knew it could happen. The signs were all there. I held out hope that it wouldn’t happen. But it did.

I lost my job. Again.

Of course, this is not rare. It is happening to people everyday. You see it on the news. You read about it online. But, you never think it could happen to you!

Years ago, the first time I lost a job, I was devastated. I felt worthless. I felt betrayed. I was sad. But, after the initial shock wore off, I realized it was actually an opportunity.

For years I had wondered what it would be like to be my own boss and this job loss gave me the chance to find out. I had lots of experience under my belt, I had lots of contacts and my severance package would tied me over for nearly a year.

So, I did it. I started my own business and it was successful. I was able to work from home and set my own hours. It was great. And, I enjoyed it for five years.

Then a new opportunity crossed my path and I jumped at it. Yes, it would mean going back into an office with set hours and a daily grind. But, it was a learning experience I wanted and it was a steady paycheck with great benefits (I would no longer have to pay for my health insurance!). So, I accepted the position and stayed for two years.

But, then it happened again: I lost that job too! And, I was propelled right back into all those feelings of anger and disbelief and sadness. But, this time, I knew these feelings were coming and I knew that I should embrace them or I would not be able to move on.

The denial. The anger. The bargaining. The depression. The acceptance. The five stages of grief are not just feelings you get when someone dies. They are feelings you get anytime you lose something. And, losing your job feels like a death.

One thing that kept me from complete despair was that I knew I was not alone because, unfortunately, we live in a time where being downsized is not an exclusive club. So, I knew that I should not succumb to the feelings of shame because I had nothing for which to be ashamed. In fact, their loss was my gain! I am a good person with many talents. I have a great family and lots of wonderful friends. I could get through this.

However, navigating unemployment is not easy. Every day is a struggle. Sleepless nights are not uncommon. And, I knew I could not survive on my own. Now was the time to lean on my family and friends. Find things that made me happy and do them. Enjoy the freedom of having the time to do what I wanted when I wanted. Anything positive made me feel better and gave me the strength to move on.

The interesting thing was, with this second job loss, I found myself treading water. I still had active clients from my freelance business, so there was some money coming in, but, after a few weeks of reading job listings, I discovered nothing sounded interesting or exciting. There were plenty of positions that I could do, but I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do any of them.

Then, one day, I was out to lunch with a friend and she asked, “What kind of job are you looking for?” and I didn’t know how to answer that question!

I instead heard myself say, “I’ve been in marketing and communications for more than 20 years. It’s been fun and I’m good at it. But, maybe I should reassess my career? Maybe this time I should not do a traditional job hunt? Maybe I should instead focus on me: my agenda, my wishes and my dreams?”

So, after lunch, I went to a bookstore, purchased the time-honored tome “What Color Is Your Parachute?”* and spent an entire weekend diligently reading and doing the workbook exercises. At first, I felt kind of silly and wondered if it could really work? But, then I did The Flower Exercise and I started to see themes and patterns emerge.

With The Flower Exercise, you take one question, “Who am I?” and answer it in 10 different ways. After that, you look at each of your answers and write why you said that and what turns you on about that answer. Then, you go back and arrange them in order of priority, (e.g., which identity is most important to you?).

After doing this, I found my top three identities: I’m a writer. I’m a designer. I’m a cook/foodie.

While all three of these answers were not surprising to me or anyone who knows me, I did realize something: my entire career had focused on the first two, so what if I shifted gears and focused on the third one?

Just the thought of making this shift got me excited! I immediately had ideas about how I could translate this into a job . . .

  • I could write a food blog
  • I could become a caterer
  • I could become a food magazine editor
  • I could become a personal chef

Even though for years my friends have told me that I should cook for a living, this truly was a head-smack moment for me!

It’s been a little over a week since my epiphany and, while I have no idea where my newfound purpose is going to take me, things are already happening: I have a catering job lined up for a bachelorette dinner and I found an informative website for the American Personal & Private Chef Association that includes home-study training programs. I also have scheduled another lunch with a friend: one who is a trained chef.

So, while losing your job can cause a lot of grief and pain, it can also bring a lot of joy and hope. The key is to not give in to the despair and instead open your mind to new ideas. You might just find they are not really new, just different – and exciting!

Ann can be reached at Ann@SudekumSolutions.com

Ann’s web page is www.SudekumSolutions.com

*What Color Is Your Parachute? 2011: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Nelson Bolles ISBN: 978-1-58008-270-9

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