Tales From the Front: There is No Opportunity to be Found on My Couch. (I know because I checked.)

By N'Diva Arhm

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My first layoff left me crying, depressed and unable to function for about 26 weeks.  Coincidentally, that is exactly the length of time that my unemployment benefits lasted.  Once my unemployment benefits ran out, I somehow managed to find a job.  It was not in my field.  It lacked the status and prestige of my previous employment and they made me wear a uniform.  It did, however, pay substantially the same as I had been making and it had a pretty decent benefit package.  I didn’t appreciate that job because I kept comparing it to the one that I used to have.  My miserable attitude eventually led to my being fired and into a downward spiral of ever lower paying jobs with no benefits.

This expensive lesson has taught me several important things.  First of all, I’ve learned that there is simply NO OPPORTUNITY TO BE FOUND ON MY COUCH.  I know, because I checked thoroughly during my 26 weeks of state subsidized self-pity.  Seriously, not only was I not employed but I failed to use that state subsidized time period in any way that was of benefit to me;  I did not learn new skills, explore my options, perform volunteer work, contemplate my future or do anything about my miserable attitude.  Had I utilized that time effectively—to plan, heal and grow—I could likely have prevented much of my continued downward spiral;  But I didn’t.

My second lesson came when after two failed businesses, I found myself working multiple part time positions just trying to cobble together a living.  It was a miserable time, made more so because of my miserable attitude.  Instead of being grateful for work and that I could care for my family, I would instead recite my litany of woe: “I’m working 60-70 hours a week in order to make half of what I used to make.”  While that was an entirely true statement, I finally came to realize that COMPARING MY CURRENT JOB (OR JOBS) WITH MY PAST CAREER WAS FUTILE AND SELF DEFEATING BECAUSE THE PAST IS GONE.  IT NO LONGER EXHISTS. IT IS NULL AND VOID.  GET OVER IT!

For many of us, the kinds of jobs we used to hold just don’t seem to exist anymore.  Entire industries have gone under, or if the industry is still doing business, cost cutting measures have completely eroded our pay scales and benefits.  For many of us, paid time off, retirement plans and affordable medical benefits have gone away.  You get the picture.  We all do.  Only by taking the focus off my past, could I begin to start working towards a better future.

My most recent lessons have come in the course of working one of my go nowhere jobs.  They come from a favorite albeit now a former co-worker, Joe The Polish Jew. (Yes, that’s how he refers to himself.)  Let go from his decades long position, instead of wallowing in self pity, Joe got busy working several part time jobs while investing in his family's future with some long term projects.  I saw him do it with a sense of adventure and the confidence of knowing that he had always taken care of his family and regardless of the circumstances, would continue to do so.  I learned the importance of DOING WHAT IT TAKES TO SURVIVE FOR TODAY WHILE SIMULTANIOUSLY WORKING TOWARDS A BETTER FUTURE.  It’s exhausting at times but it was the only hope I had of getting off my downward spiral.  In my case, it meant returning to school while continuing to work my go nowhere job and then starting over in a new field (while still working my go nowhere job).  The other lesson I learned from Joe is that EVEN IN A DOWN ECONOMY, THERE’S ALWAYS A WAY TO MAKE MONEY.  As certain industries die off, others are or will be taking off.  Plan accordingly.

I began this article by describing my first layoff.  It was not my last layoff.  In fact, I was recently laid off yet again, this time from my entry level job in my new field.  The small PI firm I was working for is in a downward spiral and there just isn’t any work.  I’m not crying about it, nor have I taken to my couch.  Instead, I’m using what I have learned to continue on my path.  I got some extra hours on my go nowhere job and I’m doing a bit of freelance work.  I will survive as I continue my job search.  Using LinkedIn and old fashioned networking, I have a couple of interviews and a training opportunity.  This time, I will not be denied. Don’t let anyone, (particularly yourself) deny you either.  Stay strong and let me know how you’re doing.

Your Front Line Reporter,


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