Gabriel Rumbaut's Blog

Confessions of an Earthbound Misfit

Job Loss: Disaster or Opportunity?

We all know how financially devastating job loss is, especially if one doesn’t have a savings account to fall back on. What often remains unstated though is the deep impact losing one’s job can have on a person’s psyche. We tend to treat job loss as purely a financial matter, and ignore the tumult of emotions such a traumatic experience can cause.

What we don’t realize is that many of those bearing the weight of unemployment feel as if they’ve lost their identity and purpose. We tend to describe ourselves not by who we are, but by what we do. Our jobs and professions are how we show that we’re worth something in the world and are capable human beings. When we lose that, what are we left with?

I’ve experienced this loss of identity personally. In October of 2008, I was laid off from my job as a proofreader at Kaplan K12 Learning Services. The blow was devastating. Having studied English in college, holding a job with such a big company gave me a sense of accomplishment, as if all my hard work in school had paid off. When I lost the job, I felt as if I had nothing. Over the next year, my sense of identity slowly drained away. I felt like I was less than a man, and dreaded being asked what I did for a living.

I know I’m not the only one who’s struggled with this.

What then are those who are suffering from job loss to do?

While unemployment is absolutely anguishing, it also presents an unparalleled opportunity. When life gives you lemons and all that. Here’s what I learned during my year of unemployment. I hope this helps you:

1. Recognize the gift of time you’ve been given.

If you’re unemployed, it’s probably been a long while since you haven’t had to answer to someone about what you do with your time. Recognize that you’ve been given a tremendous freedom that you (hopefully) won’t get again. Take advantage of it.

While your day will probably consist of job searching, you have the ability to choose how you schedule your time. No bosses to report to. No coworkers to bug you. Your time is yours. Don’t squander it.

2. Use your time to find and develop your passion.

In the midst of your job search, take the time to find and develop what you love. If you’re lucky enough to already be in a field you love, head to your local unemployment office and ask if they’ll pay for classes to help you develop new skills. So long as such classes will help you develop your career, unemployment will often pay.

If you hope to change fields, experiment. Find free classes to take in your spare time. Explore various art forms. Search the internet for free articles and lessons that will help you hone your craft. You’d be surprised at what’s out there. Who knows? You might even unlock some new talents.

3. Don’t let hopelessness suck up your time.

When I was unemployed, I felt like I was trapped at the bottom of a hole with no hope of escape—ever. I thought that my situation would never improve and that I’d wasted my college degree. There were entire days when I would not leave my house at all. I’d send out resumes just because I felt I had to. But other than robotically applying for jobs, whole days were consumed by video games and TV. After all, what was the point in pursuing anything if it would only end in failure?

Don’t let yourself fall into that same pit. The hopelessness will be there. It will plague you. It will gnaw at your skull. But you have to fight through it, even if you don’t want to, even if you all you want to do is crawl into a ball and cry. Let yourself work through it. Recognize that you are not alone in your struggle.

4. Make your passion a habit.

The best way to force yourself to do something is to make it a habit. Create a strict schedule for yourself. Your priority should be sending out resumes and contacting employers. The rest of the time, develop your marketable skills and find your passions. Set aside time every day to take little steps toward your goals. Not only will this keep you too busy for your mind to focus on despair, but it will also turn these things into habits after a few weeks.

I hope that you’ve found this advice helpful. If you’ve struggled with unemployment, I’d love to hear your advice.

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14 thoughts on “Job Loss: Disaster or Opportunity?

  1. Author Kristen Lamb on said:

    LOVE this post. I actually was misdiagnosed with epilepsy and it cost me a career in sales. I was in HORRIBLE depression for quite some time. To cope…I started writing. Thank God for setbacks. He often has a better plan than even we can imagine for ourselves. You have a wonderful blogging voice and I just LOVE your posts.

  2. Thanks! That means a lot. 🙂

    I agree wholeheartedly. I think God speaks to us through our troubles. I’ve learned that he uses them to guide us to better things.

  3. Gabriel, nicely done. I have not suffered a major job loss, but I did work my butt off to get the dream job — only to find that it was a nightmare and had to quit. I have never looked back. And yes, you have to look at these situations for the blessings and learn to be grateful.

  4. I took most of last year off work voluntarily, and in some ways wish I’d made better use of my time. I had a wonderful year though. Even so, when the time came to get back into the workforce, I found it really tough.

  5. When life gives you melons . . . ha ha ha.
    Great post. It is nice to be reminded to see things from many angles. Job loss doesn’t have to mean devastation and depression.

  6. A most excellent and timely post, Gabriel, although I might add that this well applies to those of us working at home (writing, writing, submitting, eating piles of rejection for years and years …) I heartily agree, that so much of what looks really ugly and depressing in life, is an opportunity in disguise, as long as we pick-up your courage and have a look behind the curtain. The blessings are there, they just need to be turned in and redeemed for the cool prizes 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing such hard-earned wisdom with the rest of us. I’ve never been unemployed (one of the benefits to working as a nurse – you always land somewhere), but I lost a job that I’d thrown my whole heart into. It took a while to put myself back together after that, but if I hadn’t lost that job, I wouldn’t be here now.

  8. Thank you for this post. It’s full of so much hope and great advice! I’ve lost a job twice in my short adult life and both times were just as you described–that pit of despair. But, looking back, both gave me opportunities to find something better. Wish I’d had this post year ago!

  9. Great post. Throughout my life I have come up against THE WALL whether loss of job or end of a ‘comfortable’ situation revealing a road ahead that is scary because it is unknown. It seems our first reaction is to withdraw into a fetal position and pray for things not to change. But they do change and when we embrace the change and let go of holding onto the old with one hand, to open the other hand to the new, we find a new direction that is better than the one we were afraid to let go of. Great advice.

  10. Great post. I made a career shift from a stressful, “professional” position (that I had gone to grad school to be able to do) to one that was far more removed from what I had received my degree in. It took me nearly a year to feel like I was a valuable, necessary person at work because I wasn’t doing the more difficult, stressful professional work there (though my coworkers didn’t see it this way and were very supportive). So much of my identity had been wrapped up in what I thought I was going to do for a long time. I am much happier now for the shift and have been able to attend to other passions in my life. Thanks for sharing your journey and your advice.

  11. Wonderful! Having just recently been laid off from my job of 20 years, this post struck very close to home for me. But the positive nature of it is inspiring! I’ve been working hard to downplay the financial stress and really concentrate on the gift of time to work on my writing. I know I’ll have to go back to work, and I’m activily searching, but I’m going to enjoy this respite as much as I can.

    Thank you for sharing your personal expereince with us…

  12. Great post! Valuable information. Thanks. I find volunteering helps with the self-esteem. The feeling that you have helped someone else is incredible. If you volunteer using your job skills you keep them up-to-date. Volunteering is a win/win for you and the people you help.

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