Published in San Diego Union-Tribune, October 19, 2015
Take time to grieve a job loss, then get back in game
You will be fired. You will be laid off. Your position will be eliminated. There will be a RIF (reduction in force). You will have a lousy boss who screws you over. It will not be your fault.
You worked hard, you attended all the stupid meetings, and you didn’t steal any pens or paperclips. But, goodbye, sayonara and don’t let the door hit you on the way out – and oh, by the way, severance and accelerated stock – are you kidding me?
Welcome to America and the thing we call – a job.
I have been CEO or chairman of more than a dozen companies – and I have been fired twice. And recently a very good friend of mine found that “her position has been eliminated.” A large multinational bought a tiny biotech and they consolidated, and my young friend (with a Ph.D.) found herself out on the street, wondering what to do now.
So let’s turn to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who famously wrote about the seven stages of grief.
1. Shock. Are you kidding me, you’re firing me? Huh!
2. Denial. Yes, it is actually happening. I know that the HR person is a rat and didn’t tell you the truth and you got no formal exit interview, but there is no denying it.
3. Anger. Oh, why me, it’s not fair. I’m going to call a lawyer and sue them. (Do not do this.)
4. Bargaining. Maybe I can make a deal, take a lesser position in the company. I will work for a reduced salary. I just don’t want to go back out there.
5. Guilt. It is all my fault. I had it coming. I should have worked 90 hours, not just 82.
6. Depression. I am 30 and miserable and alone, and have no job and the holidays are coming. What do I say when asked what I do for a living?
Or I am 50 and what do I tell my wife and children? Depression is age independent. It does not discriminate.
7. Acceptance. Ah, the sun will come up tomorrow – unless it is June in San Diego. Sometimes, this is accompanied by hope. (I am not big on hope; I prefer acceptance and let’s get on with it).
Now, let’s get real.
1. Do not broadcast your dismissal to the whole world. They don’t care, and it may affect getting the next job.
2. Do nothing precipitous. Do not post your resume on 29 job sites that same afternoon. Breathe.
3. Don’t panic. In spite of what you currently think about yourself, you are not worthless or unemployable.
4. Don’t be arrogant. If offered outplacement assistance, take it.
5. Yes, file for unemployment. (Unless you just got a $500,000 severance like the guy from the San Diego pension board.)
6. Take a trip. But not two months. A couple of days, decompress, analyze.
7. When discussing the next opportunity, don’t be afraid to
talk about the elephant in the room. Disclose early and explain to your advantage.
8. If there are health issues, take care of them
now. You probably still have coverage until your departure date. After that, welcome to COBRA.
9. Network. Now, No. 9 is easy to say and hard to do well. It is a learned skill. You need to do this. There is no other option. A job will not waft in through the window. There are 21 opportunities in a week – seven breakfasts, seven lunches and seven cocktails. Do not sit home alone and eat peanut butter and ice cream.
10. I will bet that there is one person at the former company who was a mentor, adviser, boss, friend, ally, etc. That is the first place to start.
11. Do not take the next job offer. Take the right job offer. (This is hard because there is a reality to money.)
12. Do not go out and get married or divorced.
I have to admit that I have suffered through all seven stages more than once. But I have also been liberated by it. My “next” company was always better. I was free – and could make a fresh start. I could re-invent myself. In a way, “they” did me a favor. And I have always been grateful for it.
Rule No. 441
“The rest of my life begins now.” – from “Jerry Maguire”