3 Lessons from Unemployment

I’m going back to work! After being laid off in March 2012, I scrambled like a chicken with her head cut off the past 6 months doing freelance gigs as an entertainer. I also went to my trusty fallback degree and worked as a counselor for the local university. There were many emotions as I questioned my talent, my decision to pursue performing again, and trusting that something good would come out of a funky situation. This was the first time in all my years of living that I didn’t know where my next paycheck would come from. Not a good feeling. And even though I used my education to work as a counselor part-time, it still ate at me that I felt so helpless. Compared to others who go years without working, six months is not a lot of time in the world of unemployment compensation.  without a consistent job. So I’m beyond grateful that I’m not back at work. The discomfort provided several lessons along the way and I wanted to share them today. I’m not completely healed from the disappointment but I can share lessons that are now closest to my heart.

  • Don’t assume the worst about  your skill set  but always check if your work environment is the best fit for your abilities.  When employment contracts came around in March and I didn’t receive an offer, my coworkers began the whisper while you work mentality. You know, the ” What happened?”, or “I can’t believe it!”, or “Well, I didn’t think she was all that anyway”  talk away from me but just close enough for me to hear it.  My goal was to not get sucked into the conjecture and let that affect my overall belief in myself. I was already fragile from the pending  financial and lifestyle change  coming and did  my best to avoid discussing the past. I had to stay focused on what was next.  I admit I worried about my overall value as a performer and wondered had I simply lost  the “it” factor. To my surprise,  I didn’t have too much time to think about it as I received several offers for freelance jobs the week my full-time employment was to end. I also used an old contact to  return to work part-time as a counselor. It was a blessing because the jobs reminded me I still had value as a performer and to watch defining myself or my worth  by what I do for a living.  Freelancing  opened my eyes to how I was limiting myself to one primary stream of income. Quick lesson learned: don’t doubt yourself. And realize that if you aren’t  the best fit for one place, another company may hold a totally different perspective.  Go where the water is warm and where people are seeking your skills.
  • Diversify I’ve never had the entrepreneurial spirit. My parents have always worked for someone and when my dad tried his own business, he quit trying and went back to the sales world. But the lay-off shook me out of my comfort zone where I just show up to work and get paid.  Being laid off  left me feeling like I had no control over anything. And, I realized I gave too much power to people  relying on them to hire and pay me for my skills. To avoid this from happening again, I took inventory of  my strengths and weaknesses and saw a lot that I wasn’t fully maximizing. As a result, I’ve decided to get another certification to enhance my counseling marketability in private practice.  My goal is to eventually manage my own clinical counseling & consulting services so that I can support myself no matter what my day job is.   I  started a blog that  addresses mental health  and social issues affecting women and minorities. This will turn into free lancing my articles in online magazines for supplemental income as well.  And I haven’t given up performing.  I took my moment to mourn the loss of one job, and then started auditioning again. it’s working as I am starting a new show as we speak.  Social media has now become  a resource for tips on rebounding from unemployment and networking. I’ve never been too comfortable bragging on myself but now my mouth is open wide sharing what I can do and how well I can do it.   Thankfully, I am starting a new full-time job today as a college counselor but have a different focus and purpose in returning to work.   I’m actively looking for ways to improve my marketability. If there’s a class, I’m taking it.  Free training? I’m there and constantly asking for emails to keep in touch with professionals I meet.   You could say I’m all over the place but it means I’m improving my areas of influence. Diversify now means making sure I am always enhancing my skills, having multiple sources of income that I control, and  constantly looking for the next opportunity for growth all while doing what I love.   
  •  Take Care….of You.  My feelings were like a roller coaster  while I was wasn’t working  consistently.  One day I’m hopeful and happy, the next I’m sad because I got a job rejection letter in the mail. The next I’m up  exercising and trying to keep my stress level down, only to plop on my favorite red couch to swallow a whole pint of Blue Bell Cookies n’ Cream  ice cream wondering when I would have medical benefits again.   My energy level dropped, I gained weight, and I was a mess. I’m so very grateful to family and friends  that supported me and reminded me of Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.  God always works things out for our good. I just had to do my part and make sure I was pursuing HIS purpose as well. I also had to readjust my social circle.  Let’s face it, it’s hard to hang with friends like you used to when you’re broke. Even harder to balance healing from the loss of a job when most of your friends still work there.  I worked hard at staying connected to church and sorority activity and even contacted  a life coach to process my own disappointments.     When I was down, my friends who also believe in God’s plan for my life  kept me grounded.   I believe in prayer, I believe in utilizing  counseling and maintaining a healthy body to stay sane. So, whatever it takes and whatever works for you, do it and take control of what you can do especially in difficult times. It’s one of the biggest keys to recovery and getting focused on what’s next, not what’s left.

There were many more lessons learned and in this economy, I know I’m not the only one who has experienced shaky employment trials.  But I firmly believe that things that can break us  have the potential to build us into a stronger and better version of who we were before IF, we allow it.


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