In November of 2008, two weeks before Thanksgiving I was called into my supervisor’s office and asked to take a seat. I knew what was about to happen, for the previous two years we had been told that lays off were coming. I had been told this so often that I stopped believing it and then it finally came. So after five years at my television station, at a job I called out sick to only once and performed very well at, I was laid off. Twenyy of us had to go. It wasn’t personal, my work was great, but seniority dictates that the younger guys go first. So there I was, for the first time in my adult life, unemployed.
- Mistake #1 – I didn’t tell anyone. Sure I told the future bride, my family, and a few close friends. Besides that small group I kept my mouth shut. I was ashamed, I felt that I had failed, that it was my fault. Looking back I can say with absolute certainty that I was wrong. I should have posted it on Facebook and Twitter the minute I left that office. I should have let as many people know as possible. Why? Simple, people know people and someone you know will probably know someone in your field that is looking to hire. Don’t let pride stop you from getting back on your feet.
- Mistake #2 – I withdrew. For a good week I just wallowed in my own unhappiness. I felt like a teenager who had been expelled from school. Fortunately since I was laid off so close to the holidays I was forced out of my house and into the company of people who care about me. Being around loved ones is always important, even more so when you are dealing with the stresses of being unemployed.
- Mistake #3 – I wouldn’t take a job that didn’t pay a lot more then my unemployment money. It seemed logical at the time. If I am considering a job and it only pays 30 dollars a week more then what my unemployment check was then why take it. Why should I work 40 hours to make 30 bucks? First off, it’s better to be working. It feels better, it helps you network and socialize, and that opens up opportunities. You also need to consider that you will never get a raise or a promotion from the unemployment office. With overtime that job that only pays 30 dollars more might pay 150 dollars more. This can add up quickly over the course of weeks and months. That job also prevents you from having a larger hole in your resume which could help you get a higher paying job down the line. Most importantly unemployment payouts end. That job doesn’t come with any guarantees, especially in this economy, but if you are a good worker and work hard that job should hopefully last.
- Mistake #4 – I stopped looking when I “thought” I had a new job. A few times I had a friend or family member recommend me for a job or I had a good interview and I thought that it was in the bag. My search was over, any day now and I’ll be getting a call. Well, that didn’t happen. In one instance the company I thought I as going to work for laid off a ton of people. In another the job was eliminated. Nothing is certain and I wasted a lot of time waiting for good news that never came.
- Mistake #5 - I forgot the most important thing. After being unemployed for about 6 months I was in a funk. One night I laid in my bed thinking about my life and the mistakes I made, the missed opportunities. I was beating myself up with “what if’s”. What if I switched to another station like I had planned to. Why didn’t I buy Apple stock ten years ago? It went on and on and then something dawned on me. This is still America. Opportunities are all around me. Sure things are bad, they might even get worse, but if I work hard and keep my eyes open I will get another chance. If I learn from the past and prepare for the future I should be able to capitalize on opportunities when they arrive.
In September of 2010 I returned to full time work. I am not earning as much as my old job, but my commute is much shorter and I am proud of the work I am doing. Despite all of my mistakes I have emerged wiser and happier. If you have just lost your job or are dealing with stress and burden of being unemployed I hope you can learn from my errors and avoid the pitfalls that I have mentioned. It might not happen as quickly as we might like, but if you work hard and hang in there you can overcome this. I am rooting for you.