As I sat in the conference room beside my esteemed colleagues, I knew it was over. Thankfully, I had just returned from a week in a Bahamian ashram where my program consisted of meditation, yoga, no wine, and no coffee. I was as relaxed as I had ever been. Despite what I felt for my colleagues who had to break the news, I felt peaceful, “elevated” from my yogic experience. I was ok. Teary but “elevated” nonetheless. All was good. For now.
Lesson #1: Grieve
4 days after I lost my employment of 8 years, I was engaging in my first job interview. It was raining but I was smiling, happy I landed an interview in such short delay. During the interview, however, I drew a blank. I remembered nothing of the coveted position. I was confused. I wanted to go home. As if it wasn’t disturbing enough, the lady said: “Oh, it must be difficult to lose a position with such a great organisation’’.
I still felt at peace and I tried to convince her I was fine. She didn’t believe me. I started feeling like a failure: my job was abolished and I couldn’t deliver a proper interview. Tough blow for an HR girl! I should definitely know better! Heck, I should be a pro at this! On my way home, I said to myself: “You’re not ready for this, my dear. You have to prepare properly. But first, you must grieve before you get back in the ring”.
Lesson #2: Your network is your support system. Build it well.
Large groups somewhat intimidate me. I rarely do cocktails and other schmoozing gatherings, so I was amazed to discover I had quite a solid and deep network. People who genuinely cared for me took me out for lunch, recommended me, wrote and texted me regularly to see how things were going. They were hugely encouraging and amazingly healing! These brilliant people had faith in me! I was overwhelmed but thankful I had managed to surround myself with such quality people.
Whether you admit it or not, losing your job – especially in your late 40’s – delivers a serious blow to your self-confidence. Even if you are in HR, have fired excellent people before, and should probably know better. Fact is, you don’t know better. At least, I didn’t.
Lesson #3: Harness the learning experiences
Interviews are a great opportunity to learn about yourself. They also inform on the organisations you hear of or read about everyday. Every unsettling interview moments – question I couldn’t answer, information I ignored – has taught me something valuable about myself. For instance, THAT question! You know, the one, the interview killer… “You like strategic work but this role is 50% operational. How will you survive?”
These questions are quite revealing! I’ve learned to listen carefully to my answers and reflect upon them afterwards. It took numerous “trial and error” before I figured out what I wanted to do, and be honest about what would make me happy.
Lesson #4: Take a break. It’s OK.
Months trickled by and then came the Holidays with family gatherings, travels and new encounters. All of which provide opportunities for referrals and inquiries about potential jobs. Looking for work is a full time job. Some may think you’re enjoying “time off” but the stress of uncertainty, the constant pressure of “selling” yourself, and the interview merry-go-round are draining! It’s ok to take a break.
Taking a break, travelling and self-caring is paramount before diving back in the job hunting. It refuels your intellect and your energy. It also provides time to take in everything you might have missed. It’s a wonderful time for creative endeavours as your mind is free to wander. Besides, nowadays, you don’t need to be home to search the net for opportunities. So why not explore the job sites while enjoying time with friends in the country or overseas!
Lesson #5: If at 1st you don’t succeed, try again
End of January, I was reviewing my LinkedIn contacts and I came across the next lesson. I noted I had a good professional relationship with a consulting firm CEO I contacted during my first week sans emploi. I was surprised he never answered my LinkedIn mail as I had sent a lot of business his way. I emailed him again using another address and 5 minutes later he called me. Trying to reach him again proved fruitful: I’m joining his firm in a couple days.
I may have been jobless but I was not resource-less or worth-less. My ego may have been bruised but the professional that I am remained strong.
Lesson #6: Be grateful
This was my 1st lay off ever and I’m in my late 40’s! I loved my job and still have immense respect for my ex-employer. I spent 8 amazing years learning, growing, and working alongside sought-after leaders and colleagues.
As I now begin my 3rd career, I have a lot to learn and discover: new clients, new colleagues, and new perspectives. I know for certain I’m a better person and a better professional now than I was that day my colleagues broke the news to me in the conference room. I know this learning experience perpetuates.
As faith would have it – as though it needed closure – I’m returning to the Bahamian ashram with my friend of 40 years to celebrate our respective 49th birthday. We will be meditating and doing yoga so I will likely be levitating on my first day at work! Caring for my body and mind is the best gift to myself to celebrate my new professional ahead!
Bonus Lesson: The Human Experience
The HR professional in me may comprehend the mechanics of job loss. But having lived it first hand, I now possess a deeper understanding of the human experience. You can’t learn that in school. You simply have to experience it!
Loosing your job affects every aspect of your life: your ego, your image, your finances, your relations, etc. It is a transforming experience, as is the Bahamian ashram. It is a genuine life opportunity. It adds the “Human” in “Human Relations”!
Special thanks to Ysabel Viau and her talent at making my English writing sound so much more English ????. Y@ysabelviau.com