Wednesday 17 January 2018

Gina London: How to pick yourself up after being fired from your role

'Unfortunately, other people's comments and actions can impact our opinions of ourselves. It takes plenty of positive self-talk, effort and determination to get moving again' (stock photo)
'Unfortunately, other people's comments and actions can impact our opinions of ourselves. It takes plenty of positive self-talk, effort and determination to get moving again' (stock photo)

Gina London

What do you when you're in your 50s and find yourself without a job? Not because you retired with a comfy pension, mind you, but when you still need to find a way to earn a living? Well, among other things, you may write to me.

That's what Pat from the Midlands did this week and his story touched a nerve. Mine.

Pat wrote to say he was wronged at the place he had worked all his adult life. He sought correction through the courts but ultimately lost.

Now, a year after the final judgment, he remains "depressed" and finds it hard to lift himself from the "gloom which has put immense strain on my wife and family".

I am sensitive to Pat's situation because it reminded me of how I felt back in 2008 when I was fired from my job.

I wasn't in my 50s but I also wasn't planning to suddenly be removed from a steady pay cheque.

At the time, I was the senior vice-president of a powerful government affairs firm in the United States.

I'd come back to the office after the birth of my daughter when I abruptly and without warning was told my services were no longer needed. I vividly remember the emotional roller-coaster that being zapped out on your keister puts you on.

When it comes to self-worth, only one person's opinion really matters: yours.

Unfortunately, other people's comments and actions can impact our opinions of ourselves. It takes plenty of positive self-talk, effort and determination to get moving again.

I'm no psychologist, so I'm not offering my suggestions below as a substitute for counselling for clinical depression after a job loss.

But, for me, and others who have shared similar stories with me, here's what helped:

1) Stop wallowing

Ouch. This is hard. Sometimes even to this day, I can imagine myself in that settlement-mediation room and think of something I didn't say that I wish I would have.

As for Pat, I don't know the ins and outs of his story, and of course, he only presented his view.

But I do know it dragged on for years, which must make it all the more difficult to stop thinking about what might have been said or done differently.

I also know this: the company has long moved on.

If we're to successfully transition into the next phase of our lives after any difficult situation, we have to focus on what we can change and not want we cannot.

The past is in the past. Write down what's on your mind. Then dramatically burn the pages in some ceremony or whatever.

Just purposefully find a way to stop replaying the scenarios that make you seethe and stop imagining different outcomes.

Once we fully understand it's our thoughts that create our feelings, we can steel ourselves against our own negativity.

2) Get active

One of the best ways to shake off negative feelings and frustrations, is to get shaking. I mean it. The bigger the better.

After I lost my job, we sold the house and everything in it. Moved to France. Okay, that may be too dramatic for you.

But even before you dust off your CV or visit a job placement office, get busy. Get dressed. Get away from the TV or Netflix. Get out of the house. Go for a jog. Go to the gym. Garden. Get your hair cut. Volunteer at a charity. Do stuff. Do lots of stuff.

A friend of mine in New York got laid off and the first thing she did was buy a dog.

It forced her out of the apartment at least twice a day. It also forced her to think about someone besides herself. That's important too.

Get yourself into a schedule and you'll get bonus points if you can make it involve others who depend upon you. You need to feel needed again.

3) Ask for help

Don't be embarrassed. First thing to remember is that most everyone else in the world is caught up in their own situations, they're not dwelling on yours. They may not even be aware. So ask. For ideas, references, contacts, a short-term project, whatever you may need to get you going.

My friend Tony, who at one time employed a hundred people as a publican in Cork, had to declare bankruptcy at the depth of the Irish recession.

When it was over, he didn't have anything. Not a home. Not a car. He asked around and a friend sold him a van for €500.

4) Get creative

Tony then bought a used portable oven and began driving to fairs selling pizzas until he got back on his feet. It wasn't exactly his publican roots, but creatively close.

For me, I asked every single contact I had if I could take on some freelance writing, editing, voice-overs - things I wasn't necessarily doing at the time I lost my job, but I things I knew I was good at. You can get creative too. Once you begin earning even a little money, your self-esteem will improve.

You're not too old to begin again at any age. How do you know when your mission on Earth is over? Are you still alive? Then it's not over.

The Communicator can help! Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

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