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After years at your present position, one day you hear the dreaded words from your boss, “come in here and close the door.” And bam! Without further ceremony or official notice you’re terminated. Down sized, job eliminated, company move, takeover—call it what you will, you have abruptly joined the ranks of the unemployed.
Continuing to toil in the fields of a spiritless job to feed the earn-spend mentality of our current culture can lead employees down a dead-end career path. More importantly, it could be a path littered with on-the-job stress, worry, insomnia, relationship blues and job-related abuse.
Now that you’ve been given the gift of termination your career path stretches out in front of you. You can meet this gift with one of two responses. You can see this turn of events as the worst time in your life. Or, you can remember that when one door closes another door opens.
In the aftermath of being terminated, don’t seek out family and friends in an effort to portray yourself as a victim. You are the victor. Don’t call an attorney to get revenge. You have been handed a gift, appreciate it. Much like the stages people go through in the grieving process, it might take some time to come to terms with everything you have experienced and to integrate all you will learn about yourself.
“Take a mental health break to de-compress from your old job. You have time to take stock of your life now and find out what you want to do,” said Lynne Richardson, Ph.D., professor of marketing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “What did you like about your former job. Look for opportunities that incorporate those values. You want to be able to say ‘I am doing something positive. I’m adding value to society, not just doing busy work.'”
According to Richardson workers today talk about careers in five-year increments. Years ago people used to take the first job offer straight out of high school or college and after 40 or 45 years of service the employee received a gold watch at their retirement dinner.
“I was one of three supervisors in the word processing department at a large insurance company,” said Tina L. Miller, a freelance writer in Wisconsin. “Another company bought us out. A year later nearly 1,000 people were downsized. Hard hit, my department staff positions were virtually eliminated and as a result, my position too. After the initial shock, I realized it was a blessing in disguise, an opportunity for me to pursue other goals in my life.”
On our career path, often fear of change can build up a barrier against reaching for that open door. Some of us toil for years in jobs that don’t fit, positions that grind down self-esteem, in the service of companies that don’t value or reward good people for good work.
“As a supervisor, stress is a part of the job. I had to make sure things went smoothly. If they didn’t I had to fix it,” said Miller. “When we were hit by cutbacks, my staff was nervous, uneasy and looked to me for reassurance that I couldn’t give them. It’s a horrible position to be in, very stressful.”
To find your true path you need to ferret out what makes you comfortable, inspires you and makes you happy. “If you have a degree from a university or college, most schools will provide career counseling for free,” said Richardson. “To be happy and successful, however you define that. You need to follow your heart. When you do what you love you are passionate about the activity and it shows.”
After Miller’s company downsized and eliminated her position, she planned to pursue a career as a full-time freelance writer. “I took advantage of the state programs available to dislocated workers to assess my skills and aptitudes. I learned that I was well suited to becoming a writer, which was a great affirmation of my plan. Being a writer is what I was meant to be,” said Miller. “I believe everything happens for a purpose-we may not know what that is at the time. We all have a divine guide.”
Miller continued with, “I didn’t have enough courage to do it on my own. I thought about the security, the insurance coverage for my family, the salary, and the paid vacations. On my own they were too hard to give up. I think this was one of the best things that could have happened to me. It gave me the ‘cosmic boot’ I needed to follow my dreams.”
Change is an opportunity to learn that you are stronger than you thought you were. “You will suffer in the short-term when you lose your job but in the long run you are better off. You have built character,” said Richardson.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” — Helen Keller