My Story: The Day I Lost My Job
It was a Friday morning.
Good Friday morning to be exact.
I’m going to use that as a metaphor for the job-loss-to-new-future journey. Allow me a quick explanation.
In the Christian tradition, Good Friday is the day followers of Jesus remember his suffering and self-giving, for them and for the world. It’s the international, transhistorical, once-and-for all-time holiday… of loss. It happens right before Holy Saturday, the international Day of Bewilderment. It’s the day the disciples of Jesus are in stunned disbelief, their Hope is cold and dead in a tomb, and their faith is just shy of its own death.
They are quietly, reluctantly, figuring out how to move forward. Some even may have begun to believe something good was going on; they could feel trust flickering in their hearts. Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and the birth of Hope eternal, is the Day of Hope. It’s the Day of New Things, New Possibilities, a New Future.
But you don’t have an Easter without a Good Friday.
And that day was my Good Friday.
A ROUTINE MEETING
The day before, at an inter-company meeting to connect with our new CEO after a transition in leadership, one of my 3 bosses asked if I could meet with him the next morning.
I thought it was a routine meeting. Our company had just changed management and I was excited about the new possibilities. I figured we were going to have a “get down to business” talk, and leave with some fresh ideas and action plans for the future. Honestly, I was excited.
My job was more than a job to me; it was a calling, a vocation. I was energized by what I got to do every day, and though the numbers on paper were slow to grow, I had a mission to help many to reach more with that help every day. I liked all my co-workers, and even came to love a few dear friends. I felt as though my employers and everyone around me were “for” me.
As I walked in that morning, I saw that all 3 of my overseers were already in a meeting together. As I approached the door, I could see that all three of them had red eyes – and my direct overseer’s eyes were welled up with tears (we were and are good friends). When they saw me, the main manager said, “Dan, good to see you. Come on in.”
After a few moments of small talk, there was a pause, and our primary leader said, “Dan, we have some unfortunate news for you.” They were compassionate. My job would be terminated immediately, I would receive two weeks’ pay as severance, and that was the best they could promise. The new CEO of the organization no longer wanted to be in the business I was leading, and the changes were immediate.
They noted that there might be ways of working together in the future, but again, there were no promises.
STAGGERING OUT OF THE OFFICE
I remember emotionally staggering from the office that day in a state of grief and bewilderment, trying to get my head on straight, struggling to think clearly as to how I was going to tell my wife. I literally felt like a ghost floating to my car, empty, and without hope – feeling as though God (and everyone) had abandoned me.
I got in my car, and began to drive, alone with my thoughts. I couldn’t even think, pray, or talk to anyone; I was so disoriented. Then I saw a large church off to the left-hand side of the road. I drove into their massive parking lot and parked in the farthest corner.
I turned off the car, glanced to see if anyone was around, and let it all out. I pounded on the steering wheel as hot tears streamed down my cheeks. I said, “Why God? Why? Why would I face this loss at this time in my life?
It’s already been such a hard road for our family, and here I am – unemployed in a place I’ve never lived before, after moving here only a few months ago. I’m afraid, I don’t know how I’ll provide for my family and I don’t know what to do.”
GOOD FRIDAYS COME—AND ROCK US
You know, the funny part is that I was so disoriented that I only later realized again that it was Good Friday. Good Friday is the day Christians around the world celebrate a suffering God, a God who goes to a cross, a God who gives His best for the sake of others.
I remember so vividly how the Lord, in that moment of my primal anger and honesty, began to lovingly whisper to me.
“You know, Dan, today is Good Friday. Today is a day for you to mourn and grieve and be bewildered. A few thousand years ago, others felt like this, too. You have faced a great fear. But I want to tell you that if you’ll walk with Me, we’ll walk into tomorrow – which is Holy Saturday. You will still be reeling from having faced your fear today, from the loss and the pain of it all, but you will begin to see shades of hope, glimmers of possibility, moving through your heart and your mind.
Dan, I want to remind you that when we face our fear, there is always a Resurrection Sunday awaiting us. You will take My hand, you will rise with Me from this, and we will move forward into the future.”
FEAR IS LIKE A WALL—WE MUST WALK THROUGH IT
Fear is like a wall in our lives; we come up to it, though we’ve done everything in our power to avoid it, and we hate being put in that position. Some people form their entire personalities around avoiding their fears, facing the wall and avoiding contact as best they can. They try to go around their wall of fear, or they turn and run away from their fear.
One of our greatest acts of courage will become who we choose to be in that moment – someone who avoids the fear, or someone who walks into the fear – to become you were designed to be on the other side.
My story ends well. A year later, I cannot tell you how elated my wife and I were that the company had let me go. I was a different man. I had contracts to fulfill, a sense of personal freedom to do what I needed to do, and we had learned some great lessons about how to view and handle money. Today, I honestly believe that God was the one behind me being let go. For real. In fact, my three circumstances of sudden job loss, I believe, were God’s gift of training for me to talk to you.
Ready to Move Forward?
If you’ve just lost your job, it’s time to get down to business. Your new work is finding your new work—work you love, and work that energizes you.
And, if you’d allow me, I’d like to help you turn what feels like a great loss into one of the greatest gains of your life.
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out
everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do,
everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)
Three Stages To Your New Future
I have broken your journey toward what I call your “New Future” into 3 Stages.
Each stage is called a “day,” but in reality can last half-a-day, or even for a few days. Only the last Stage, Stage 3, should last more than 1-3 days. Stage 3 will last for months until your New Future (the next opportunity to earn satisfactory income while working in a sustainable way) presents itself.
Stage 1 is Your Good Friday. This is the International Day Of Loss. It is D-day of the surprise of your job loss (I would note here that if you saw this coming, there was work you could have done before it happened that would greatly ease your path now. But even that can be fixed. For now, we’ll assume it’s a complete and utter surprise).
Stage 2 is Your Holy Saturday. This is the International Day Of Bewilderment. Like the disciples in Jesus’ time, this day is bewildering. Your grief is mixed with fear is mixed with what do I do now is mixed with holy crap is mixed with who are my true friends is mixed with will I become a street person is mixed with flickers, glimmers, quiet glints of hope.
Stage 3 is Your Easter Sunday. This is the International Day Of Hope. This is the final, and longest stage of the process. This is where you start working toward traction in your relationships, pursuing leaders, and showing up every day to your new work of finding work. And as you do it, you’ll have ups and downs of hope fulfilled and hope deferred.
But stay the course, and don’t just take the first thing that comes along. Trust, relax, and believe that you will find the work you need to be doing. Ultimately, when you find the substantial work you need to be adequately employed (the opposite of underemployed), you’ll have an Easter party to celebrate a new season of perhaps some deeper breathing for a while.
I would also encourage you to talk to your spouse if you’re married, to caring friends if you’re single, and significant stakeholders (like your kids if you have them) that the months ahead may require more time and hustle from you until you find substantial work. You are modeling for them that extended hours of work should only happen for seasons, rather than being the norm.
But as you’ll see below, you can never, ever take your eye off the ball of your spouse and children as this new plot line plays out. They are the treasures you must protect at all costs, and time with them (even if reframed to shorter increments) is vital. Remember, they’ve gone through some traumatic events as well.
STAGE 1: YOUR GOOD FRIDAY
- Mourn your loss. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, you just took a big hit. Yes, you were surprised by pain and no one likes that. Yes, you’re afraid of losing income, losing relationships, losing face, or losing yourself in the midst of the reality you’re now facing. Take the time to grieve.
- Tell only those closest to you. As you’ll see, I believe one of the biggest mistakes people make is for them, or their spouse, to immediately megaphone their pain into the online world. It’s a mistake, and will come back to bite you in quiet ways as you walk toward your future. Tell your close friends on the phone, or family members, and get their support. You need their support and comfort.
- Do NOT post your pain online. Like many things, while it feels good in the moment, oversharing online creates lasting effects that are unseen and detrimental. Oversharing may feel right in the moment, but it won’t serve you at this stage. You don’t need to galvanize the support of your online world yet. You’re going to do some writing, in an intentional way and through email, at Stage 2, Your Holy Saturday. (However, if you already did this, you can always either mend any fences your language may have broken, or edit your post. You will NEED the equity you have with EVERYONE who knows you – even those who let you go – don’t burn that equity on a post made in a moment of anger or weakness.)
- Pray with your spouse. If you’re a Christian, you don’t have the luxury of lingering in hopelessness. Go to God. Talk out your pain. Come as you are, not as you think you should be. Get it out, and end with words that help you look to the future with hope. God is in this; you need to believe that.
- Run or walk every morning early. Do it or before the normal time you would have gotten up for work. Keep your body in motion; it will help you pull off the next steps you need to as you move forward.
- Tell your emotions to get in the back seat. Dallas Willard once said, “Emotions are a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.” Your will is going to be doing the driving through these first few days, so while grieving a loss is good, you don’t want to live there too long. Tell your spouse that is your plan, so they don’t either. God is moving, and you should be moving with Him.
- Allow yourself to do this stage imperfectly. You won’t do this stage, or the next 3 perfectly. Just own that. But you can minimize damage, retain relationships that could prove very helpful very soon, and learn to trust in a way you have never had to before.
- Own that you don’t have all the information, and that the story is bigger than you. I battled a sense of betrayal in my job change. But here’s the reality. People run a company (or organization, or ministry, or institution). That company is bigger than me. They have to make decisions or implement decisions that involve the thousands of dollars I was being paid, and my function within it. Own that you don’t know all the details! I found out later that my overseers had been fighting to save my job, to find another way forward, to find me work that would keep me on the payroll. But they couldn’t do it, nor did they believe that was either their path forward (as they are responsible for the company) or mine. I wish I had considered that earlier when I was so angry. A year from now (I really believe it, if you follow this path), you’ll be thanking them for letting you go! You may even see that they had little to do with the change, and that God was moving you on for a reason. But you can’t see that now. Be gracious, benevolent in your reading of the situation, and kind to those who made the decision. Assume the best. If that is your tone in all conversations, both public and private, it will come back to you later.
- Affirm to yourself, and your spouse, that you are underemployed – NOT unemployed. This is a big one. From the moment I lost my job, I was officially underemployed. You may think that’s a play on words, but it wasn’t for me. I am provided for when I wake up, every day, and I have a mission in this world. A job to do. So while I may be underemployed on the pay scale, I am still committed to my mission and to adding value to anyone and everyone’s life around me – even those who just let me go.
- If you can handle it, go out to a nice meal that night – and blow some change on it. I’m serious. Acting like you’re in poverty today will not help you, your spouse, or your family, get through this. Go have a nice meal somewhere, and if you can’t celebrate that a new season – and a new freedom – has come your way, then just tell everyone you’re all going to get through this together (and you’ll need their support). It’s good modeling for your kids, too, on facing adversity with trust and a positive outlook.
- Buy your New Future Journal (NFJ). Your NFJ is any journal you purchase, one that you like and will treasure (you can find many journal options on Amazon) and devote to this season. You’re going to need this for what’s ahead. This is not your diary, or your place for lingering over your emotions. This is your journal for lists of people, for ideas, for phone numbers, and for your New Future. Buy a nice one, one that you like carrying around – it’s going to become your best friend in the next few months.
STAGE 2: YOUR HOLY SATURDAY
- Go for a run or walk. Again, keep your body in motion. It will affect your mood, give you space to think (I suggest running in silence or using the daily encouragements I’ve made in audio for free download here).
- Get your “hope hat” on. Holy Saturday is the International Day Of Bewilderment, sure. But you are simply underemployed, and you have lots of good relationships and connections to work with. Believe that, and get ready to start.
- In your NFJ, make a list of your New Future Friends (NFFs). This is a list of literally EVERYONE who cares about you. This list is going to be very important to you going forward. List out the names of everyone you know – in the company, outside of the company, or in your family – who you know cares about you. In my case, that included those who had to make the hard decision to let me go. I call these my “New Future Friends” – or NFFs for short.
- Send Email 1 – The “Thanks For Caring” Email – to your NFF List. This is your first step. Get a list of every person, in the company or outside of it, who you know cares about you. (Probably avoid sending this to those who had to make the hard decision for now.) This email is not complicated, is not for emotional catharsis, nor does it ask for ANYTHING.
Just say something like:
“Good morning. You might have heard that I’ve just had a transition at work, and I’m turning toward a new season. I just wanted to say that I appreciate you caring about me as we go through this time of process and discovery.
While most of us would never choose to face challenges like this ourselves, they are usually always a gift on the other side.I appreciate you, and just wanted to say that it is so encouraging to have friends like you in times of challenge like these.
I’ll keep you posted, and thanks again.
With love and friendship (or however you want to close),
Feel free to use or modify those sentences. Just say “Thanks for caring” in a heartfelt way.
- In your NFJ, make your New Future Work (NFW) List. This is a list of everywhere, anywhere, and with anyone, you would like to work. Dream. Blue sky mine (meaning, “go crazy, without parameters”). Get every idea out there on paper. This list is going to serve you over the next months, and will help focus you in what can be a disorienting time (many people get lost along the way without some focus, so let these tasks focus you. Hope is going to begin to flicker in your heart as you realize the freedom you now have.
- Still do NOT post your pain or process online. I can’t emphasize this enough. Everything sends a message – to friends, your former employer and co-worker network, and to prospective employers or contract providers. Ask your spouse to do the same. Trust me; what happens online is FAR less important than what is happening inside you both right now, and the “Thank You For Caring” email you have sent. Let me be your coach in this – if you can push pause in the online or social media world, it is going to pay off in the long run. Wait. You are quietly shaping your words and your future.
- Do NOT burn your bridges – it may come back to bite you. I tried hard not to put negative notes like this, but it is vital. Here’s why. First, you could receive contract work from the organization and the people in it. Second, you may be re-hired if there is some change that occurs later. Third, you don’t do anyone any good by ranting. Who wants to hire someone who rants, sounds “woe is me,” blames everyone else, or seems desperate for group affirmation in a public place when things don’t go as expected?
- If married, pray with your spouse, with the future as your focus. This is a good day to spend time getting some space, getting alone, and learning to trust in the face of what, for many, is their greatest fear. Take that space, and make sure that some silence and personal journaling is a part of your process. It will help to clarify your thinking and bring you back to hope.
- Remember that God writes your paycheck. Years ago my employer (at one of my church ministry jobs) sadly walked into my office. “Dan,” he said, “We can’t make payroll this week. I’m so sorry.” My response was immediate, and shocking even to me. “That’s okay. You don’t write my paycheck anyway – God does.” We looked at each other, both smiled, and he walked out. The next week, we made payroll, and we figured it out.
- Talk more in depth with significant mentors, encouragers, and supports. Again, I’m trying to get you offline and on the phone with significant voices you trust. You DON’T need people who will just take your side and get angry with you. Sure, that will feel good for both of you, but it won’t help you turn this page. You have a New Future ahead of you, and your best mentors and friends will intuitively know that and join you in the exploration.
- Review your personality tests and write your reflections in your NFJ. If you’ve done a Meyers Briggs, the Enneagram, or any other test that has helped your self-awareness, now is the time to revisit it. How do you respond in stress? What do you need to watch for? Discuss these reflections with your spouse, so they can help you rather than feed negative impulses in you.
- Get a small prayer team praying for you. This is your third list. Get about 5-7 people on an email list with whom you can share your prospects and journey forward, specifically for prayer. Just give them bullet point details, and don’t process all your pain with this group. You need a team – not a co-miserating group – as your New Future unfolds.
- Don’t make any major decisions. In times of pain, our thinking is convoluted. You are in what Saint Ignatius called desolation – a time of struggle and disorientation – and it’s not a good time to pull triggers and make big decisions. You can talk about options, but don’t commit to anything. Making the decision tomorrow will not be too late. Control your impulses.
- Get your LinkedIn profile fully up to date, and in your email signature. Ask for help if you need it. This is basically your online resume, and you’re going to point to it whenever it’s appropriate. It is one step down from a resume, but sending a resume feels more desperate (it’s okay to feel that way, but it doesn’t present well to others – you don’t want a job out of pity).
A LinkedIn profile link in your email signature, and anywhere else you want to put it, is gold for your work search.Just sign your emails with something like this:
- Go to bed with confidence that all will be well. Yes, you’ll have work ahead of you. But that’s part of life. For now, you’ve given yourself some time, and made some good decisions. Get ready to practice the virtue of hope – a muscle we must work to strengthen, and plan to get up early for your morning run/walk, and to get the day going.
STAGE 3: YOUR EASTER SUNDAY
- Get ready to jump in on pursuing work – not a job. You don’t want a job. And you don’t want just any job (at least not yet). You want work, and fruitful, connecting, and future-focused work at that. Contract work is the new resume, and twice I have received the gift of work by doing contract work (even years of it). Someone eventually made room in the payroll because they liked what they were getting, and I knew what I was getting into.
- DON’T send out your resume yet. I know that this is a surprise, but for now have no desperation in your tone – either in text or on the phone. You are going to leverage your relational network before doing a full-on job search. A resume is something your respond with if a friend asks for it, or is something you send with an application for those who don’t know you. For now, get ready to leverage your LinkedIn profile above.
- Send Email 2 – The “I’m Open For New Projects” – to your NFFs. The rubber is now meeting the road. Yes, you’re desperate for work; but desperation does not come off well online or in email. I suggest you stay in email at this point.Your “I’m Open For New Projects” email is going to go to each person (individually) on either your entire NFF list, or a subset of that list of friends who are involved in work that may (think broadly) connect with your skillset.Yes, I am also talking about friends and connections within the organization from which you’ve been given your New Future opportunity.
Again, these emails are individual; I’d encourage not to send a group email. Personalize your process, as people hire individuals out of unique, personal relationships.In that email, you’re going to 1) start with thanks, 2) express that you’re reaching out in a new season, 3) name your skills, 4) make a clear ask, and 5) end with question (so a response feels necessary). I would name only 3 skills, and tailor it to the person you are emailing. Copy and paste the whole body of your email, but then take the time to craft each email to each person and their sphere of influence.
“Thanks again for caring. Today I just wanted to reach out to say that this exciting new season that has just opened up in front of me means that I am now available for new projects.You know my skills and abilities are in the areas of:
.1. Resource Creation. I have 30+ years of experience creating written resources for companies and product development engines. This spills into years of experience in content-based marketing, article writing, and project writing. I love helping people write content, and presenting that content in unique and compelling ways.
2. Name Of Skill. State your experience, skill, and how you have helped others.
3. Name Of Skill. State your experience, skill, and how you have helped others.If you have any projects with which you think I could help, I would love to work with you on them. If there is nothing that comes to mind right, please keep me in mind and let me know if something does later.Or, if you know of someone that might have a project with which I could help, please feel free to forward this email on to them.Is there a project that comes to mind that I might be able to help with? Let me know, and thanks again for your support.With friendship,Your Name
LinkedIn Profilep xxx-xxx-xxxx
- If you are offered any work from your previous company, say yes as a default. I’m not sure why I’m putting this here, other than that it is my experience that little gestures of mutuality after a major change can blossom into powerful work—and relationships—for your future.When I was let go from the job I’ve used here as an example, they asked if I would consult for a bit for pay. I said yes. Then they asked if I would continue to talk on a radio show I had worked on previously. I said yes. Then that radio show turned into me, talking to about 2 million listeners every week, on topics near and dear to my heart.
I leveraged that equity to move me forward in many areas. And the relationships I have with almost everyone at that previous company turned into new contract work that kept me going for a year – covering all my bills!Honoring the request will pay off, in my experience. The income and connection will help, in my experience. As a default, say yes.
- If you’re ready, and feel it’s necessary, you can make a social media post/statement. If it would serve you or your company to make a post of some sort in social media, you’re probably ready to do it now. (In some cases, the company or organization requests this; it’s almost always better for you to speak first to posture your character and attitude in the most positive light.)Pray, then prepare a draft in a text or Word document of your social post so there are no accidents, and you can sit with it for awhile.This is where I can’t encourage you enough to be:-
– Perceived as thinking the best
– Encouraging to those who grieved with you
– A model of honesty with grace
– Appreciative of the work you’ve had the privilege of doing
– Expressive about your enthusiasm for the new season ahead of you.
Remember, everyone is watching – even potential contract friends or other employees from the organization. And the tone of your social media posts, even those of those closest to you (family best shares our burdens rather than carrying our offenses), have an impact.Take care of this throughout the months that will follow, and I promise – your posture will take care of you.
- Respond to your Email 2 responses. Be quick about returning emails, and get your business details in front of you. Know your rates, explain what you can and can’t do clearly, and be timely in responding.Again, always end your emails with a question (the last or second to last line), so a response seems necessary.
- Get our your NFW list, and start making contacts in those areas. In Stage 2, you made a New Future Work list, with things you’d love to do and people you’d love to work with. This is where applications will start to happen, your Resume will come in handy (both digital and print), and where you will begin to make some visits so people can meet you in person.At the very least, if no work has come through your Email 2, you are on a trajectory of finding new work that will form the next stage in the future ahead of you.
I truly believe a New Future is in front of you, and the sooner your own self-talk and home-talk begins to take on that tone – in public and in private – the less pain, and the more hope, you’ll experience in the process.
Hang in there. Your New Future is just beginning, and I believe these principles and action plans will smooth the way in front of you.
Header Photo Credit: Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash