I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half now, and I know not everyone who is reading this now was reading my ramblings back during my Blogger days. Those of you who were around (and thank you very much for staying!) might remember something happening to me this day last year.
I was laid off.
I’d like to think I handled it with as much grace and dignity as a person can muster given the circumstances, but it never felt like that. Internally I was the biggest bundle of fried nerves you could imagine. I was deep in debt with a mortgage, a choking payment on an unreliable car, and now no job.
I grew up in a family of workaholics, and suddenly I didn’t have a job. People who knew me were shocked. I was humiliated.
The gravity of the situation didn’t fully sink in on the first day. I wouldn’t let it. I told myself I had to keep calm and carry on, and that everything would work out. I put out the word that I was looking for a job, and a handful of people responded saying their companies were looking for people. I had never had difficulties finding a job before, and companies were hiring, so why would this be any different?
I lined up an informal interview with a company fairly quickly afterwards, and met two of the managers for coffee. They said they’d call me back in a couple days. I never heard from them again.
I had a phone interview with an HR representative from another company who said they’d get back to me the next week. I didn’t hear anything out of them for months.
I had an interview with a large company downtown, and received a rejection letter the next week. At least they had the decency to send me one.
I sent out dozens of applications to companies that I never heard back from. I spent days searching for jobs through employment search engines, LinkedIn, word of mouth, newspapers, you name it. I interviewed for a job that had nothing to do with my education or employment background.
I had hit my rock bottom financially 7 months before. This was a different kind of rock bottom. I felt smaller than I ever had before. I wanted to disappear and hide under a rock. I felt like my value as a person had diminished. I felt like I didn’t have a purpose. I didn’t know what I wanted to do anymore. I didn’t want to be an Engineer. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was being judged by the people around me.
To say my confidence was gone is a gross understatement.
That in and of itself, was a good portion of my problem in searching for a job. I’ve always been confident, or at the very least, good at faking confidence. I’ve always had drive. I’ve always been working towards something. For that period of time in my life however, I didn’t.
I didn’t know what I wanted out of my career anymore. I didn’t want where it had just come from, that was for sure, but I didn’t know if I was cut out for this type of career. I needed a job, yes, but my confidence was so badly broken that I didn’t think I could be competent in any job.
It’s very difficult to convincingly sell yourself to prospective employers when you don’t have enough confidence to sell the same thing to yourself. Why would an employer think I could do a job if I didn’t think I could do it?
Fortunately, things worked out for me in the end. I applied for a job I was interested in, and then separately I received a message from a recruiter on LinkedIn asking me if I’d be interested in the same position. I was interviewed in a room overlooking the shop, and watching the activity got me excited about the idea of working there. I wanted to work there. It was actually interesting work, and it was directly related to my education. My half hour interview took almost an hour, and the recruiter set up the second interview for two days later. After the third interview they offered me the job. I was ecstatic. But I was still scared.
In all honesty, I still am scared. I’ve seen how easy it is to have the rug pulled out from under you. I wasn’t happy in my last job. As much as I wanted to be, I wasn’t. As much of a cliche as it is, the line “getting laid off was the best thing to ever happen to me” is very much true in my case. It got me off my unhappy hamster wheel. It beat me up a bit doing it, but it got me there.
I love my current job. Sure it has its ups and downs, but overall I work with a great group of people doing work I enjoy. My stress level has dropped drastically.
I still worry though. Hiccups in the work flow put me on edge, and whispered rumours of potential lay offs get my heart rate going. The likelihood of it happening in my current position is pretty slim, but I’m acutely aware of how quickly that can change. The thought of being put in that position again scares me.
It’s entirely possible that the fear of being put in the same situation is what has prompted me to pay off over $20,000 in debt in the last year. I say year, though really it’s in the last 10.5 months since I started working again. I never want to find myself in that position ever again. It’s terrifying. I’m still scared.
I honestly don’t know if that fear will ever go away. I’d like it to, but I have a feeling it’s become a part of me. Small part mind you, but still a part. My desire to be independently wealthy isn’t because I want to have lots of money, it’s because I never want to be in the position where not having money becomes a problem.
There’s a big difference.
Recommended Reading: Can money buy happiness? (Part 2)