Thoughts from the Bart station!
By Rebecca Martin
Founder, dear jane…a career services company…
As I drove into the Bart station this past Tuesday morning I was amazed at how crowded the parking lot was. I was pleasantly surprised. In my world, people are either on the verge of losing their jobs or have recently lost their jobs. As I locked up my car, I felt the hurried and frenetic pace of people running and racing to catch the 7:30 am Bart train. Thank goodness I didn’t have to be one of those people that day. I was on my way to San Francisco to deliver career transition services packages to two individuals who were being notified that they were going to lose their jobs that day. (aka – getting their pink slips).
They were being notified at 9:30 am and I only had to visit with two of them which was a relief. I wondered to myself what it was going to be like and having witnessed and been engaged in these situations before for the past five years, I thought to myself, will they cry? Get angry? Or have the deer in the headlight look? I have seen it so many times over the past 5 years since I have been a career coach. Sometimes I see terror, fear, shame, guilt, and embarrassment in their eyes. Their faces become flush and they become very quiet and detached. It’s awful and rarely do I see someone who is happy and when I do it’s a relief.
I don’t know how people survive days like this. Especially when it comes as a complete and total shock. I think they are numb for the first 48 hours and maybe even a week. What I know today, is the panic and fear is more than just losing their job, it’s about CHANGE, about PRIDE, what their family and friends will think of them, what their spouses or children will think of them, what their grandparents and parents will think of them, especially if the individuals are from different cultures, they take it the hardest and feel the most shame.
It is so sad because they now have to worry about feeding their families, a lack of income, property, prestige, and it’s about feeling that they did something wrong, that they failed their companies, themselves and most of all their loved ones. How do people get through these tough times?
I wonder how they feel when they have to tell their loved ones, spouses, kids, parents, neighbors? Do some people even tell their loved ones? Some don’t. If you haven’t seen the movie the Full Monty you should rent it. J It really chronicles the life of several men who get laid off and how they all deal with it on an individual basis and at a group level.
Most clients I work with and people that I know always worry that it’s their fault, that they did something wrong to cause themselves to be laid off.
I know from experience, since I have been a career coach that I can’t fix their problems and relieve their anxiety, but I can help ease their fear and share with them that they are not alone and that they have a lot of options when it comes to getting a new job. I can show true compassion and kindness instead of treating them like they are pariahs.
For me it’s about BASIC NEEDS, Food, Water and Shelter. My approach to coaching is all about helping the individual identify what their needs are in terms of salary, time frame, etc. People need to do what’s best for them and their families and they need to start taking care of themselves first.
People have so much shame and embarrassment around losing their jobs which is normal. Even in this market when everything around them is crumbling and everyone around them is getting laid off, they still take it personal. Well it’s so hard not to, but I am here to tell you that it might have been the best thing that could of ever happened to you. Most of us won’t make a change even if we are unhappy or even miserable. Change is so scary.
I was pushed out of my last corporate job because I didn’t fit the corporate culture. The manager inherited me because his company purchased the start up I was working for and I happened to be the Top Sales Producer at the start up during the acquisition. After six months from the sale of the company, and after my six figure guarantee ran out, I was kicked to the curb. My manager went cold and treated me like he didn’t know me or like me. It was so bizarre. He stripped me of my sales territory and at the time I was 41 years old. I had to train my 27 year old replacement. It was so tough and basically hideous.
At that time I was so tired and ended up quitting. I would have never started my company if that didn’t happen to me. So thank you to the old company. They did me a huge favor but at the time I didn’t see it that way. J So good things do come from being laid off, well ok sometimes.
One of the hardest parts of my job is helping people process unusual behavior right before they get laid off. For example, when I talk to clients and they tell me that there manager had just promoted them and given them a $10-20K raise one month before they were going to be laid off. Or when their managers told them “not to worry,” they wouldn’t be on the targeted list of people losing their jobs and then the next day or week they get laid off. It’s so confusing and it feels like a betrayal. I do know after talking to a lot of executives and managers that sometimes their direct managers really didn’t know.
Another hard situation to help people with is when they get laid off right after they increased revenues for their company which affected the top line growth and they still get laid off and sent packing! That always boggles people’s minds.
It’s never about anything personal. “Yeah that’s what they all say.” And what do we always hear, it’s business and the company had to RIFF people to remain profitable and to please wall street. Well I don’t agree necessarily, IT IS PERSONAL to the person losing their job. It may not be personal to the company or the management team and it’s easy for people to say these kinds of things but it is personal. So don’t feel bad about taking it personal. I just don’t want you to take it so personal that you go into a deep depression or isolate and stop focusing on your strengths and everything that is unique and great about you! Remember there are thousands of jobs and hiring managers that are just waiting for your resume to pop up in their inbox. So send your resumes and start cold calling into companies!
I survived 7 RIFF’s at my last company and the only reason I survived was because the executive management team trusted me, my work ethic and my ability to deliver. They liked me because I was low maintenance and I also got lucky!
So what it boils down to is that change is inevitable and half of us and maybe more didn’t even like our jobs or some of the people we worked with. We really wanted to change but didn’t know how to make CHANGE happen.
Please buy the book “Who Moved My Cheese.” It’s a great book and also while you are buying that book, I want you to buy the book “Brag, The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn.” You will love both of these books.
Let’s start working on the FEAR of Changing and Change in general when it comes to your job search and your career. I know, I know, this isn’t the best market to make changes in but REMEMBER THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF JOBS WAITING FOR EACH ONE OF YOU READING THIS BLOG ENTRY. JJ
So take some time to reflect on what CHANGE represents to you? Or what losing your job and getting laid off represents to you and makes you feel. Is it a lack of control, power, security, “You” decide. Work through this and make sure you feel the feelings and process the feelings.
Join a therapy group or a job search support group; start conducting informational interviews to find out about your next career move; join linkedin.com and start networking with people from your past or present.
Don’t isolate and think you are the only one feeling the way you do. Trust me, I talked to hundreds of people per month that feel the same way you do!! YOU ARE NOT ALONE.