Getting Canned: Part 2
If you took time to read the previous post, you’ve experienced the account of how I lost a job a few years ago. If not, I encourage you to take a minute to go back and read it. I’ll also take this minute to apologize, because I’ve realized I won’t cover all this in just two posts. It’s going to take three. Sorry about that.
As I sit down to put these thoughts in text, I’m realizing this has the potential to become very stream-of-consciousness. For your sake, I’ll try to avoid that and share not only the story of what happened, but my opinions on what I did right, wrong, and what I learned from the situation. Let’s pick up where we left off in part one.
The day after I was fired was shockingly anti-climactic. Kids went to school, the dog went out in the morning, the sun rose, and my house didn’t collapse around me. Sweet, I’m winning! That Wednesday is probably the least memorable day of the whole experience because it was so vanilla. I spent the bulk of the day wrapping up the details of closing myself out with the company I was leaving. So, it was really just a day of administrivia. More than anything, I remember thinking that it would suck to be on the other end of the phone with people who had just been let go.
I think I handled things well that day. I think I proceeded through it in a “businesslike” manner. I found myself actually caring how I interacted with the people I had to talk to about the details. They didn’t do this to me, there’s no reason to take it out on them. I like to believe that this was something I did right in the process, but I’ll really never know.
After that day, I decided I’d take a few days to decompress and digest everything. This is an area I got mostly wrong. I spent about a week doing worthless, brainless activities. I’m not proud of it, but I had several days where I said “screw it” around 10 a.m., opened a beer, and sat down in front of the television to play Call of Duty until the kids got home or I got hungry; whichever came first. Not my finest hour.
Here’s a couple general things I got right. The first one is easy to tell, the second, not so much. When I’m feeling especially contemplative, I have a tendency to wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning. I’ll take a drive or a long walk in the dark with my thoughts. To me, this is good. It generally doesn’t waste anyone’s time and just lets me reflect. It also puts a smile on my face to walk around when everyone else is asleep. So, in that respect, it helped me feed my spirit of Adventure in a small way.
Next, I monitored myself very closely for signs of clinical depression. I’ve got a history there, and I’m very wary of it. I watched for the typical signs like a loss of appetite or excessive sleeping. I’m not saying I deal with it perfectly, but through my own experience and watching loved ones deal with the same affliction, I deal with it bluntly and head-on. I’ve tried to tiptoe around it with myself before and that doesn’t work. I’ve got to watch for it and deal with it immediately if I see a red flag.
If it something you’ve dealt with, take control of it. You won’t win every battle, but if you take the damn disease by the neck and get help when you see indications of it creeping in, you’ll live through it. My advice is pretty simple. Get over the pride or embarrassment of admitting it and talk to somebody about it; ideally a professional. If you can stomach it, tell people who are close to you. They won’t judge you–they love you. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.
Photo Credit: Firooz Basri
One of the best things I did during my period of unemployment was plan a day-trip Adventure for myself. Because I traveled a lot in my previous job, I racked up a lot of airline points. My birthday was coming up about a month after everything happened, so I decided to give myself a little gift. I booked a 6:00 a.m. flight to Chicago, hopped on the train at Midway and spent a day touring museums, the aquarium, and eating great food. I finished up and got on a 9:00 p.m. flight home and slept in my own bed.
What a great day this was for me! Selfishly, I got to linger at all the museum exhibits that would drive my wife and kids up the wall. We don’t move at the same pace in places like that. (They’re getting better, though!) I didn’t have to ask anyone to do anything. It was all about me, and that was okay. I sometimes tend to spread myself thin to help others and this wasn’t the right time for that. That day really helped remind me that I am important, and sometimes it’s okay to do something just for me.
After the first week of video game debauchery, I shaped up and started reaching out to contacts and recruiters. Humbling experience. Most people in your network know about your situation before you speak to them and recruiters always ask “why are looking?” There’s nothing as cathartic as explaining getting fired to a long string of strangers that you want to have a good impression of you. I found it was best to just make it simple and blunt. I learned that any human with half a brain will be immediately turned off by any excuses, so don’t waste time with them.
Actually, during my Chicago trip, I turned down a recruiter’s request to interview with a company. I found myself sitting in a park near Lake Michigan between museums, explaining that this position didn’t seem to be a fit for me. It was with a great company and was well-compensated, but I couldn’t get excited about it. I ended up giving him phone numbers for two people I knew that still had jobs. (Crazy, huh?) I still believe I handled that the right way.
I continued down the recruiting trail and interviewed a few different times. Some went well, others were not good fits. I don’t remember how many I did, probably in the area of 5 or 6. Finally, one came up that seemed like a nice fit. The company was great and the products were solid. It was an area of the body I wasn’t familiar with, but I can learn anything, so I wasn’t worried.
As I progressed through the second and third interviews, I found that more than anything I was gravitating to the manager that I was interviewing with more than the position. I think I’d grown up a bit and finally realized that the people around me are a huge key for meaning in my work. I was getting this part right. It must have showed, because I got a great offer from them with a 12 month income guarantee and a start date about 6 weeks away.
Funny as it is, my connection with the manager is also what caused me to call him up and step away from the position about 2 weeks after I initially accepted it. After first saying “yes,” I started going through all the HR documents, drug test, and other administrative necessities to onboard myself. That’s when I hit a speed bump. I started seeing red flags in my behaviors. I was irritable, sleeping too much, losing my appetite, and pulling back from interacting with people.
Remember watching for signs of depression? Yeah, there’s a reason I watch for those things. It can happen a lot faster than you know. Thank God I have an amazing wife. We sat down one night and talked it over, I told her how I was feeling, and that I thought it was the wrong path completely. Up until then, I’d assumed I would just get the next job in the same industry and keep plugging along with life. Nope. I finally woke up and realized that was the wrong choice.
Although I was sure I’d found an ethical, high-integrity individual to work for, it still couldn’t make up for the fact that I was burnt on medical device sales. So, initially, I got that decision wrong. Thankfully I listened to the signals and finally got it right.
As I reflect on it, I realize that I found no smile, no gleam in my eye or fire in my heart; no Adventure at all when I pictured myself in this new job. I needed something different, and I thought I found it. In the next post, I’ll tell you all about that fiasco and the ensuing Career Adventures I gained from it.
Thanks for reading.
Adventure Camel Herder
Originally published at www.adventurecamel.com.