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Friday, March 09, 2007
When worklife becomes unstable
How to recover when your work stability slips out from beneath you
By Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation weblog
I just got a message last night from a friend who has been employed in a job that he really dislikes for at least the last 10 years. He has been busily working on an entrepreneurial project on the side, and has been trying to figure out how to make the transition to full-time entrepreneurship in a way that won't cause financial hardship to his family.
Yesterday, he unexpectedly lost his job.
I can feel sensation that must have gone through his body upon receiving the news. As much as he had been dreaming about starting a new venture, he was not "there yet" in terms of feeling totally prepared.
So how do you recover from something like this without dissolving into a bundle of nerves?
Allow yourself to freak out. You don't have to do it in front of friends, family or co-workers (in fact, I would not advise that!), but you DO need to let out the huge amount of fear and sadness that you feel. You may want to drive to a remote spot and sob and scream in your car. Or take a hike in a secluded area and cry your guts out to a sympathetic tree or rock. Or, if you live alone or can send the family away for a day or two, stock up on comfort food and sit curled in a fetal position on your couch watching sad movies or bad television. Whatever it takes to let the heat of the emotions out of your body.
Think short term. One of the most common things that happens when you lose your financial stability is to fill your mind with all the horrible things that will happen in the future as the result of your lack of funds. Like your kids will not be able to go to college. And you will have to move out of your comfortable neighborhood and into a shack down by the railroad tracks. These thoughts will do nothing but torment you. Focus on what you need to get done in the very short term - as in the next four days.
Cut back all non-essentials immediately. Except for a treat or two. Now is the time to squeeze out all of the excess from your budget, since you will need funds to float to the next stage of secure cash flow. But don't get so extreme that you go from 2 lattes a day to water only. You may rebel against such austerity and feel deprived. Treat yourself to something special every once in awhile to keep your spirits up and momentum going.
Surround yourself with supportive, pragmatic and accessible friends. You need people around you who will help you face your fears and keep moving in a positive direction. Be very discriminating about who you share your anxiety with, as you are in a fragile state and don't need anyone around who will add fuel to your fears. We all have a "Negative Nelly" friend or two in our circle who will remind you of how dour the job market is, of the friend they had who didn't find work for 3 years, or of her shock that you didn't have 6 years of income saved up in case something like this happened. Steer clear of these folks and call the ones who will hold your hand and walk you through your transition step by step.
Write down what you want to happen in the affirmative. Say things like "I will find good work to pay my bills." "I will meet people that will open new doors for my emerging business." "I will stay positive and healthy and not let my fears control me." "I will end up in a better place than I am in now as a result of all the good work I do to get through this challenge." Regardless of how you feel about the hoopla surrounding The Secret and The Law of Attraction these days, it never hurts to think positively. In my own experience with a recent scare in my husband's construction business when he lost a contract, I am convinced that our positive thinking got us back on track much more quickly than if we would have stewed in panic. (As a matter of fact, since it happened last year, our # of employees and business has doubled - go figure!)
Define your short-term financial needs very concretely. Get very clear how much you need to bring in per week or month. Then ask yourself "How can I generate this income?" You may find that you can do a short-term contract, sell valuable knick-knacks on eBay, tap into a non-essential savings account or collect on a long-owed debt by a family member or friend.
When you are done mourning your loss, look on the bright side! In my friend's case, he has known for a long time that he hated his job and wanted to do something different. Life has a funny way of giving you what you ask for, even if it doesn't come at the time you think you want it. He might have stayed at a life-sucking job for 5 more years, holding back on moving full-force into his business idea. Your success will depend 100% on the way in which you interpret your twist of fate. Look at it is a good thing, and it most likely will be. That's how I now see the pain I suffered when a boyfriend dumped me. If he hadn't, I wouldn't have met my fabulous husband! So all coins have two sides.
As scary as it can be, losing financial footing can help you take a great leap in the direction you have been meaning to go, but were too busy to begin.