DON’T get me wrong, I’m don’t wish retrenchment on anyone. Being laid off and searching for another job can really be traumatic. Some people struggle to find work and even when they do, they often make less money than before.
Before I founded my own human resource agency, I was a salaried employee. And over that span of four years, I was laid off… twice.
But like any experience, you can usually draw some value from it. This is what losing my job taught me:
There will be a breakthrough
I found a job after I was laid off the second time, but the trauma of it still lingers. I was constantly haunted by the spectre of job loss in my new company, as I was in the aviation industry and we faced the fallout from Sars.
People were afraid to travel and business was extremely slow. But I had no doubt in my mind about one thing — I was not going to be laid off the third time! That is when I started to think about being my own employer. And that sowed the seed for starting the company I lead today.
The need for action
The hardest thing about losing your job is the large, black hole of uncertainty. It is the fear of the unknown. That fear can paralyse you.
Don’t let that paralysis settle in. Action is key. Once the farewell drinks are over, dust off your CV and update it, and get the word out that you are in the market for a job.
Every industry has a life cycle
I was in the education industry when I experienced my first layoff. My company offered mainly IT-centric enrichment courses to schoolchildren. The money was good but then came the dot.com crash and it affected my employer badly.
Naivety blinded me from the obvious fact that it was time to get out of this industry. Instead, I found a job with a smaller outfit with the same business model. That is how my next layoff came about.
The largest issue you will face when you lose your job is likely to be a financial one. How are you going to pay the bills? How much do you have in savings? How long can your money last?
Assessing your financial situation and gauging your ability to survive can be terrifying and eye-opening. Maybe you realise you are closer to the edge than you thought. Or maybe you can take comfort in the fact that you will be okay for a while.
The lesson is, don’t wait until something happens to get your finances in order. Seek advice on how to secure your future while you still have time — and a regular income — on your side.
After deciding I wanted to become an entrepreneur, the next question was, in what field? When you are re-evaluating your career, take a hard look at yourself and honestly assess the skill sets you have acquired.
You also need to know your strengths and your weaknesses. Put your ego and pride aside. If training is necessary for the career you want, make arrangements for it.
Frustration and rejection are part of any job search but are amplified when you are already unemployed. Know this and accept it. If you feel you need a break and can’t possibly face yet another interview, try doing something else like volunteering or taking up a new hobby or class. Let that interlude clear your head and make you feel refreshed for the next challenge.
I went through all of the above and learned a lot: rejection, dealing with failure, how to assess my options, and, importantly, building a deeper skill set. I weathered a storm and came out of it for the better.
The process was really an invaluable experience as it helped me to build resilience and strength of character. And if you have never failed before, you won’t know how sweet success can be.