Tag Archives: unemployment

How to Survive a Lay-off

I ran into a friend of mine in the Old Navy parking lot a few weeks ago.  When I mentioned my recent lay-off, he replied, “well, it’s the season for it, isn’t it?”  Truly, I have several friends who are recently unemployed or about to be.

This is my first lay-off in about 12 years.  And where I ‘celebrated’ the last one with a tremendous amount of day-drinking, late-night hell-raising, bad daytime television, and unhealthy doses of self-loathing and self-pity, this one felt more like a gift.

Sure, I’m sad that I lost my job – I really liked many of the people I worked with, respected the company, and was proud of my success there.  But I wasn’t really going to get my name in lights.  And selfishly, secretly, I still really want that.

The best thing about being laid-off is that you don’t have to make a secret about your job hunt.

If you, like me, had a highly connected boss who is well-liked around your industry YOU ARE SCREWED if you look around while still employed.  It is just uber-awkward for all involved.  Lay-offs solve that problem.  Not only can you look openly but you can hit her up for a reference when the process gets real.

So what about the dirty details of life for the newly unemployed?

Well, there is always this.

And of course day-drinking.

But if your mortgage, dependents, or liver prevent you from getting pruny in a pity-pool, here are my suggestions for surviving a lay-off.

First, apply the 30-30-40 rule.

Spend 30% of your time looking for a job.  Not more and not less.  If you focus and act quickly, 30% is enough time.

I concentrated on 3 things and I started the same day I was laid-off:

  1. I rewrote my resume – a half-dozen times – with feedback from people who were not afraid to tell me the truth.
  2. I called/emailed/wrote everyone who loves me in my industry to tell them I’m looking and that I need their help.
    (People like to feel useful but usually only take action if you ask them directly.)
  3. I set up interviews with every job that was even remotely interesting.
    • You will freshen up your knowledge of what is hot and what is not.
    • You will sharpen your conversational skills/ interviewing skills.  e.g. I learned that it is probably not in your best hiring interest to casually mention that you didn’t see any female executives on the company’s website.
    • You will meet some cool people in positions of influence along the way.

I had 23 interviews in my first 3 weeks of unemployment.  That felt AWESOME.  Most of them were not going to go anywhere but I was active, and engaged and it didn’t leave much room for the whole “nobody wants me” narrative that likes to creep in when you are dismissed from a job.  Jobs and relationships only work when there is a mutual match.  If one of the parties changes his direction, the relationship is doomed.  No blood, no foul.  Part as friends and get back into the fray!

The second 30% of my time I focused on giving to others.  I am not the greatest at volunteering my time.  I do make pretty decent donations throughout the year to causes I care about but have idealized the notion of donating talent as even more valuable.  My talent seems to be creativity.  I’ve had a few random connections with people who’ve found my Linked In profile and asked for help with theirs.  I HATE resumes.  They are painful and sterile and austere.  Linked In summaries should ‘show some leg.’  While not actually sexy, the narrative of your career should also showcase a bit of your style and personality.  Make something that people will actually want to read and they will.  People interview for skills but they hire for personality.  (I sound like I really know my sh*t, right?  I am 83% certain I’m right.)

While unemployed, I rewrote some Linked In profiles, made some recommendations on Linked In, shopped for and crafted some decor and activities for a 5 year old’s birthday party, and did some small business marketing consulting for free.  Every single minute of it was fun.  It wasn’t the gratitude that made me feel so happy; it was that I did something that actually benefitted these friends.  I might not have had time to do these things while working full-time.  But I did while unemployed and I was able to show both new and old friends how much I value them by giving up my time to do something that came easily for me but caused them headaches.

Finally, I spent 40% of my time taking care of me and my family.  I have spent so much time with my daughters – playing, learning, adventuring, etc.  My 4 year old has said multiple times “Mommy, this is the best day of my life.”  My response?  ME TOO.  And it has been.  I will never get another chance to be unemployed when my girls are 4 and 1.  I soaked up every second of their filthy, silly, annoying, whining, giggling, wrestling, dancing, singing, mess-making, crafting, writing, reading, snuggling, cuddling, and general awesomeness.  I am so full and yet I have room for more everyday.  It is a gift that keeps on giving.

To a lesser extent, I also doted on my husband.  No, I didn’t suddenly become a sexpot runway model who fed him bonbons while shaking mine.  Although that would have been nice…  I did, however, chip in a great deal more on housework  – which usually falls on his shoulders as a SAHD.  I continued to cook even though I felt like ordering fatty, starchy badness.  Since the hub is on the Ironman training regiment, I also cooked mostly healthy, flavorful goodies to support the goal he is working toward.  We even managed to sneak in a couple of date nights where we cashed in some gift certificates to offset expenses we weren’t sure we could afford.

And for myself?  I did two things:  I worked out regularly and I tackled my “Icky List.”  The work-outs shouldn’t need explanation.  I feel good about myself when I’m fit.  I have made peace with not being a string bean.  I actually like being big and strong.  Dressing a big and strong body without looking like a hoochie?  Another post for another time.  But for my heart, my longevity, my waistline, and my confidence – there is no better money or time spent than in the gym, pool or yoga studio.  And I didn’t give that up over this break.

The “Icky List” is comprised of the things that I don’t want to do but that need to be done, at varying degrees of urgency, that tiptoe into my consciousness on nights when I really need to sleep.  They start off like stealthy reminders – using ballet feet to sweep across my otherwise calm, dark mind just before sleep comes.  But only one of them needs to be a code orange to jar me out of calm and into “Oh crap!” mode.  Once that happens, the Icky List becomes a heard of elephants trampling any remaining hope of rest while cackling witches swoop around my cranium mocking my incompetence.  It isn’t pretty.

I reorganized two rooms of my house to make better use of space and hide/remove clutter.  I donated 147 books from my introduction to hoarding stash to allow for toy bins, stationary boxes and less unsightly clutter.  I regrouted my kitchen counter.  I organized pictures.  I purchased a new external harddrive and back up external harddrive.  I saved my pictures and music on both.  I organized the basement storage and DVDs and closets.

The list is not completed.  It probably never will be.  But I look around this house in which I have spent so much more of my time lately and I am proud of what I’ve accomplished.  I enjoy the home we’ve made here.  I have no nagging anxiety about devolving into a messy, clutter-loving nightmare.  I am not tied to my things.  I am tied to my people.  And that’s a pretty good tie in my book.

The best part is?
I’ve been sleeping pretty well.

Finding my dream a job certainly helps.

Author note:  Not, in fact, a dream job after all.

Get over the F Word

Lately I’ve seen a rash of articles about feminism that have me feeling itchy.

Even more maddening, I haven’t been able to name my response.  I just know that it is visceral.

I think it started with this op-ed about the conservative women candidates who celebrated victories in the June primaries.  But as I got deeper into the Great Schism of feminist ideology, bloggers like Taylor Marsh coming down on one side and Kathleen Parker from The Post on the other, I felt my ire rise both at the coverage of Sarah Palin and at my inarticulateness in the face of that coverage.

Sarah Palin makes me cringe.  She speaks almost exclusively in cliches and colloquialisms.  She has the gall to mock things like “hope” and “change” in a country where 50% of the population has felt dissatisfied or outraged for (at least) the last decade.  I think she is akin to one of those wind-socks at a car dealership, blowing furiously for attention, bending this way and that way but lacking actual substance. 

But if we’re to believe her latest campaign commercial, not everyone feels that way.  She was Governor of Alaska and a candidate for Vice-President of the United States so she must have something going for her besides her aw-shucks, Annie Oakley-style rootin’ and tootin’.  Right?  I mean, right? 

With all due respect to Ms. Steinem who categorically denounces Palin as unfeminist by reason of her anti-choice stance, I think she missed the point.  

This isn’t about linguistic copyright infringement.  Saying Palin can’t join our club doesn’t carry any weight because she has her own clubhouse and doesn’t care about our “rules.”  This is about leadership and mobilization and public relations.  She is getting extraordinary media coverage and promoting the idea that she leads a movement of like-minded women.  And we’re complaining that she misused our secret handshake.

There is a beautiful line delivered in the West Wing series by the character Ainsley Hayes where she says, “I don’t think whatever sexuality I have diminishes my power. I think it enhances it.” “And what kind of feminism do you call that?” Celia asks. “My kind.”

There is no doubt that women in politics can be mean girls who deliver catty comments.   There are plenty of arguments for how Feminist Blogs are guilty of the same strong-arm, mind-melting that Women’s Magazines use like in this one from Slate.com.  Feminism shouldn’t pit women against other women.  (It shouldn’t pit women against men, either.)

But Palin is undoubtedly speaking to and for a segment not aligned with Ms. Steinem’s views.  She’s charismatic, and passionate,  and of-the people.  She’s the female version of George Bush with the same bumbling statements and embarassing, you-should-know-better public gaffes.  

I’m of the opinion that the Head of State should be a Statesman (or woman).  A dignified, learned leader and orator who inspires confidence and exemplifies moderation and exercises diplomacy.  I think we have that now.  But about half the country thinks we’re going to hell in a handbasket. 

So wouldn’t that tell us that we have slightly more important things to debate than whether or not Palin is allowed to use the word ‘feminist’ to describe herself?  I mean, you can’t exactly put the toothpaste back in the tube. 

So let’s get over the F-word. 

Reproductive rights are critically important for women to participate fully in society, full stop.  But what of that society?  Is it even worth participating in? 

Or maybe we need another F-word… like F-ocus.  Shine the Feminist spotlight on women’s issues like the war, no, the other war, the economic crisis, unemployment, the obesity epidemic, the oil spill in the Gulf, the energy crisis, the breakdown of our education system, our dwindling competitive advantage in a free-market economy, our crumbling infrastructures, our international relations, our civil unrest, or the growing divide between rich and poor in this country.

F, yes those are women’s issues. 

We are F-amily.  I got all my sisters with me.