Fired is not a Four-letter Word

FIRE

verb

past tense: fired; past participle: fired

·        dismiss (an employee) from a job.

“having to fire men who’ve been with me for years”

synonyms:

dismiss, discharge, give someone their notice, make redundant, lay off, let go, throw out, get rid of, oust, depose

Statistics Canada says Alberta’s unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent in February, despite little change in job numbers. Calgary’s unemployment rate for February is even worse at 7.6 percent, up 0.3 percent from January. Edmonton’s unemployment rate also rose to 7.0 percent from 6.4 percent in January. We have the highest unemployment rate in Canada right now and they believe these numbers are much higher than stated. With the downturn in the economy starting in 2015/2016, some unemployed workers have exhausted their employment insurance benefits and are therefore not counted in these statistics. Let’s face it, there are a lot a good people unemployed and it is a scary place to be. If you are currently working, congratulations. If you are recently laid off, redundant, fired or dismissed, I’m sorry for your loss. It is a very scary place to be when you do not have financial security and worry about even the basic needs of life being met.  If you have recently joined the rank of the unemployed, this article is for you! 

YOU ARE UNEMPLOYED, NOW WHAT?

If you have recently been exited from an organization, how do you even move forward when you are paralyzed with fear about money? How do you tell your family or friends? What should you know or do? Here are some suggestions to get started:

MIND YOUR MONEY

It goes without saying that loss of income can send most people spinning. If you are like most Canadians, you may have debt outweighing your savings or you live paycheck to paycheck. If you find yourself out of work, you need to focus on finances first. Contact your bank and find out if they have any resources available to defer payments until you land back on your feet. If you receive a severance, make sure you understand how best to manage those funds including protecting them in an RSP or TFSA until you need them. Apply for employment insurance right away. Even if you have money in reserve, you need to apply within four weeks of commencing unemployment. That does not mean you will necessarily get payments right away but you want to get into the system. STOP the spend. Cut all unnecessary spending immediately. Take a look at your expenses and reduce all the ‘luxury’ items for the time being. Gone are the days that you can get a nice severance from a company and then start somewhere the next day with an enlarged savings account. You will most likely need to use that money to live and there is even a risk it could disappear before you land somewhere else. 

For those people who share expenses with a partner, you need to be really honest about your financial situation and how you will survive as a unit. Not every couple share their incomes and debts so this is important to remember if you are out of work. Now is the time to come together and pool resources. You have to open about what the true financial picture looks like. Most people are in these relationships for better or worse and you need all the help you can get.  Maybe they can take on a greater share of the expenses for a while.  If you have support, you need to lean on it. Nothing will stress you out more if you are cutting costs and worried about how to pay your bills when your significant other gets into something like a long-term expensive lease for a new vehicle when you may be at risk of losing your own car. Talk about it!

HIT THE GROUND AND START RUNNING

Reality check here. Maybe you need a couple of weeks to collect your thoughts and sort out emotions and hurt about being let go but you need to get going. The longer you put off looking for work, the longer you go without being employed. If you decide to reflect for a couple of months, you need to do so knowing that you are directly extending your unemployment during that time period. There are people who exited jobs YEARS AGO and are still looking. Most people do not have the luxury of taking that kind of time off. The job market is bleak. Trust me…you may get more time off than you ever dreamed. 

CREATE A SCHEDULE

Do not fall into unusual sleep and work patterns without the regular accountability of a day-to-day job. Plan to look for work Monday to Friday and allow your evenings and weekends to be free. Unless you are used to shift work, maintaining a schedule will make you feel better. It will also align you with friends and family who are working so you feel like a part of society. You also need to compartmentalize some time that allows you to let go of the job hunt and focus on self-care. 

BE PROACTIVE

Gone are the days of submitting a resume and waiting for an interview. You have to get out there and make connections. Submit the resumes, complete the applicant tracking forms but also make real connections with family, friends, former co-workers and other connections. You never know who may hear about an opening somewhere and can get you a foot in that door. A job will not come to you, you need to go after it. Let everyone in your network know that you are available and looking. Ask them to let you know if they hear of anything. Try to make connections in industry, go to networking events and share your talents. The more you shake the trees, the more likely something is going to fall out…and by fall out, I mean a job opportunity or the right connection.

PORTABLE OFFICE/WORK SPACE

You now need to be more portable. Check your data plan to make sure that you won’t go over or accidentally have it shut down as you hit the job market looking for work. Look for Wi-Fi whenever you can in public places. You may need to make coffee shops your new work space. Carry a pen, notepad/laptop, business cards, portable charger, Kleenex and breath mints. You never know when you will run into a potential opportunity for employment. Be prepared!

TAKE THE HELPING HANDS

If you get your benefits extended from your former employer, use them. Go to the dentist, get eye exams and fill your prescriptions. If you have expenses from the company, submit. Even if you don’t care now, you may need those funds in the future. If your former company offers employee family assistance, see what that offers. If they offer outplacement services, use them every day before they run out. Take advantage of these services and payments before they expire. You may not have them again for a while and they can help you extend your money or land more quickly. You may not feel like you want anything from your employer but take advantage of everything they offer. Do not cut off your nose to spite your face.

SURVIVE UNTIL YOU CAN THRIVE

It would be great if you had the pick of jobs at your fingertips. If you could choose the company and work that you want to do and that you know will be fulfilling while making a great wage, that would be ideal.  For most people, this is not that time. There is no shame in taking a survival job while you wait out this downturn. There may be a need for you to reinvent yourself and your career. Be open to changing direction and think about all options. There was a great article about “‘Check your ego’: How to get a job in Alberta’s recession” published in 2017 that may be worth a read. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-job-market-still-on-the-ropes-1.3974687 No one should look poorly on work experience you’ve gained outside of your field while supporting yourself (and your family). 

GET SMART

You may need to consider re-training or learning new and more marketable skills. Don’t get hung up on what you used to do. Be realistic, is your career in need of an overhaul? You may want to look into education offerings that will allow you to change careers and become more current. This may be the time to ensure you understand student loan options for the boost you need. 

SHARE YOUR STORY

As I mentioned, the statistics are alarming. So many people are in the same boat and often because companies are downsizing their workforce. Out of work and out of your control, what should you do next? As difficult as it may be, you need to share your story. There is no shame in being out of work although it may feel that there is a stigma associated with it. Change happens. Tell people you are available and make sure you can articulate what it is you are looking for. When you talk about your exit, remove the emotion and be respectful. Put those emotions behind you and focus on the future. The more people you tell in a positive way, the more positive vibes you are putting out there looking for opportunities for you. Make sure you stay in touch with your support network. On the days that you feel discouraged or down, you need to reach out for the love. 

For those people who are out of work for an extended period, you have to keep on sharing your story even if you feel like a broken record. You cannot assume that people will remember you are looking for work. For most people, it is an uncomfortable and humbling experience to keep pushing yourself out there and networking. You have to get past that and remember this is all necessary to stay front of mind with contacts. Pace the interactions so it does not feel too frequent but do not assume one call with an important connection is enough.

KEEP GOING

I know it is hard. I know it is discouraging. I know it is scary but you have to keep going. You do not have a choice. You have to get up every day and get going. If things get too difficult, talk to someone or look into social services to help when the going gets really tough. You will have good days and bad days. Expect them and deal with each one as they come.

RE-PURPOSE FIRED

‘Fired’ generally connotates a negative action. I think it is time to take back the word. Let’s do away with the stigma that getting fired/laid off/replaced is somehow a flaw on the part of the receiver. Let’s reclaim ownership of the more positive aspects of the actual word ‘fire’. My quick Google search turned up this definition. I prefer it (and am choosing to ignore the other options).

·        stimulate or excite (the imagination or an emotion).

“India fired my imagination”

synonyms:

stimulate, stir up, excite, enliven, awaken, arouse, rouse, draw/call forth, bring out, engender, evoke, inflame, put/breathe life into, animate;

·        fill (someone) with enthusiasm.

“in the locker room they were really fired up”

Getting ‘fired’ may not be your choice but what you do with it afterwards is up to you. Hopefully this change is the catalyst to push you to bigger and better things. Keep going and soon you’ll be able to say from fired to hired!