Take a look around your office or your house right now. Which do you love better: the work you’re doing or where you’re doing it? Let me tell you why I ask.
I’m getting dozens of emails every day from newly unemployed people asking “How could they fire me? I was so important to the company”; I also get a lot of “I work 50 to 80 hours per week, I sweat and slave for the company, and it seems like they don’t care.” To all of which I say, “Get used to it.”
I hate to throw water on the fire of productivity, but if you honestly think that where you work couldn’t survive without you, you’re nuts. Unless it says “Owner” on your business card, you’re expendable. That’s why it’s more important than ever to honestly assess how you view your work and your relationships with others.
Here are a few things you can think about:
Does your life revolve around your work? If so, ask yourself why. Could you blow off an afternoon and lie in a field somewhere reading a book, or do you think that your office would come to a screeching halt?
Are you nice to people? This is basic… but nobody likes a jerk. If you’re the king of the hill in your town and you treat people like garbage, it will come back to you. See my karma article last week.
Are you developing skills not normally associated with your position? If you’re a writer, art director, or production manager, what else can you do? Develop a new skill or two. When the ax is being swung at your company, you’ll have allies in lots of departments rather than in just one.
Do you know 20 other people in your town who can help you? No? Get busy. I can’t stress this enough: Get out there and meet people. Join a softball league or a Rotary Club. Teach a class. If people in the community can count on you to pitch in, you’re much more likely to land on your feet if you do get fired. Loners have a tough time getting the next job.
Here are three things your present employer thinks about:
1. Profits. Is your company making money? I’m a writer, not a financial genius, but even I know that if a company is continually losing money, employees will be steadily losing jobs. No use burying your head in the sand.
2. Teamwork. Do you play well with others? When decisions are being made about who stays and who goes, egotistical pain in the butts go first. If you could wave a magic wand and make three of your coworkers disappear, I’ll bet it’s for personal reasons, not professional.
3. (Refer to number 1.)
A lot of people I get mail from are doing some creative things after they’ve been fired. Here are a few:
- Getting out of Dodge. They post risumis on job boards — then head for Europe, Asia, or parts unknown. “I’ve been working 70 hours a week for two years. Time to breathe,” says one reader.
- Taking a spiritual break. “I’m spending two weeks at a monastery in the mountains with no electricity, no PalmPilot, and no email. I want to see if I can do it.” I give the guy credit for trying.
- Writing the great American novel. “I’ve been working on a script on and off for years. Now’s the time to try it,” one woman writes.
Having been through this myself a few years ago, I know that it’s very tough to get back on your feet. Here are a few tips from me:
- Spend a day or two being upset. Then figure out how to let it go.
- Alcohol and drugs aren’t the answer. Ever.
- Stay connected to friends and family. Because the market is getting worse every day, everyone knows people who are being fired. Nobody takes it as a personal failure anymore.
- Set your alarm, and get up when you used to. Don’t lie around all day in your cruddy clothes. Get up, shave, shower, and get out of the house. Even if it’s just to get a newspaper.
- Economize. Even with a decent severance package, it’s good to cut back on the luxuries for a while. Think of it as your pioneering stage.
- Email, call, and talk to people in your industry. Network like a mad person. Jobs open so fast that timing is crucial. If you’re out of sight, you could be out of mind.
- Laugh at least once every single day. Remember, we’ll all be dead for a long time.
- Avoid movies like “Terms of Endearment,” “Sophie’s Choice,” and “Brian’s Song.” Nobody needs more misery.
To those of you still gainfully employed: Expand your circle of professional and personal contacts; be good to everyone you work with; and cut down on unproductive gossip. To those of you out of work: Your next job will happen; you’ve got hundreds of readers who can help… let us know what we can do. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to forward risumis around the country.
Who knows… I might be needing your help some day.