My Job is Eliminated
On August 13, 2015, I was working from home. My life partner was in the hospital after having a knee replacement, and my kids were home so I didn’t go into the office. Around ten that morning, I received an email from my boss, saying he was coming into the office and wanted to meet with me. He lived in Texas and had been in Chicago, so I knew this was serious. I emailed him back telling him my situation.
My manager called me a half-hour later to let me know that the company had eliminated my job, the phrase used in California to get rid of an employee while protecting themselves from a lawsuit. My heart was pounding since I am the breadwinner. I told him I had to wait for my daughter-in-law, to pick up my sister-in-law and granddaughter, from the airport and would be in by 1 to clean out my stuff.
My life is hectic; my partner has many health issues, I have two special needs teenagers, and my sister has a long way to go to recover from a long illness. Working full time and being a caregiver can is a challenge and stressful. I wasn’t sure what to do with the news that I had just received. Then I realized that one of the stresses of my life no longer existed. I shut down my computer and just sat there. I experienced a weird body sensation, one I hadn’t felt in decades as I began to relax.
When I went into the office, Co-workers bombarded me with hugs and good wishes. They all told me that I would have no problem finding another job with my experience. I sat with my favorite co-worker, who was picking up more than 40 hours of work a week, what my daily tasks were and a list of development projects. I trained him on the skills he needed and handed him a lot of documentation. We promised to meet for lunch in the future (which we still do almost every month). I packed up my stuff, met with HR to get my severance package and drove home. I thought about getting another job — updating my resume, making calls, using LinkedIn, etc.
I also thought about my family life and how I now have more time to dedicate to caring for them without the pressure of work. I liked my new situation more and more. I’ve been working on a memoir for a few years but hadn’t been able to dedicate much time to it. Now was my big opportunity.
One Year Later
It’s now a year after my job was eliminated. I continued to blog on my family caregiver website as I reported on my partner’s and sister’s health issues for a month until their health stabilized. I also continued to have more material to write for my memoir as new problems cropped up in my family.
Between my severance pay and unemployment, we have done well financially. When I turned 65 a few days ago, I realized that I couldn’t work out of the house because of continued family issues. Staring at my Medicare card, I realized I’m officially a senior citizen. I formally retired from the workforce but not from developing new skills Every day, since my job was eliminated, I kept busy. Today I recounted my accomplishments.
My intent last year was to complete my memoir. I have not met my goal because I realized I didn’t know how to write one. The writing was factual, and the story had no theme and too boring. I had joined an online writing group at the beginning of 2015. I concentrated on submitting a new piece every week. My writing improved (yes, you can comment on this post). But I also found out there is a lot more to writing a book in the digital age than there was even a decade ago. This is what else I learned:
Write, Write, and Write Some More
The more you write, the better you get. The better you get, the more people want to read your book, and the more people want to read your book, the more books you sell. I have submitted some of my pieces into contests (I won a Twitter story contest) and joined a few online writing and coaching groups. All of them have been invaluable:
- Tribe Writers has taught me how to cultivate a tribe of fans who follow my work.
- The Write Practice has a critique group called Becoming Writer that has been the most organic way I’ve learned what a good story is, how to write it and how to edit.
- LA Writer’s Group gives advice on creating good writing habits.
- National Association of Memoir Writers features memoir writers who discuss why they wrote their book as well as their pitfalls and obstacles they had to overcome.
Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing and Hybrid Publishing
- With traditional publishing, the author sends their book to an agent to shop your book to publishers where they will get an editor to work with you to make your book publishable (editing, formatting, storyline, etc.). This path can be time-consuming and filled with many rejections.
- Since the Amazon boom, self-publishing has become a very attractive option. The writer has a lot more work to do including finding an editor, hiring someone to do a cover design, getting an ISBN, formatting the book, deciding on the format (eBook, paperback, hardback, or audio).
- Hybrid publishing is what you’d expect — a combination of traditional and self-publishing.
The Author as a Brand
The Internet contains a plethora of content from individuals and companies offering advice and products on their sites or, for a fee, using someone else’s site (Amazon, Etsy, etc.). I spent a good part of this past year learning how to become a brand and get myself noticed. The following is a partial list of what I studied but haven’t necessarily mastered:
- Self Branding — Lisa Quast, a contributor at Forbes, has an excellent article
- Content Strategy — how you plan and manage online information to get more traffic to a website. Learn about Content Marketing and Organic Traffic by HubSpot
- Digital Marketing — marketing brands and products using digital technology. Read an article by Neil Patel on Digital Marketing.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — growing visibility organically, i.e., not paid advertisements. Learn basic information about SEO by Moz.
- Google Analytics — measures and tracks website traffic. Learn basic information about Google Analytics by Moz.
- Keyword Research and Analysis — Read articles on Keyword Research by Moz
- Advertising with Social Media — how to use Facebook, LInkedIn, Pinterest, etc. to advertise products and content. Read this guide to Social Media Advertising by Hootsuite
Every Writer Needs an Author Website
Even if you don’t believe you need to brand yourself and how you decide to publish a book, you need to do some marketing. Traditional publishers expect an author to have an established author website with a following before they choose to publish your book or not. They expect the author to be part of the marketing team. I have a couple of sites; one as a Family Caregiver and one as a Writer at dalobel.com. The biggest problem? How do you get the word out? These are the basic steps:
- Select a website framework such as Wordpress, Wix, SquareSpace, iPage or others that might need a coder.
- Depending on the framework you select, you might need to select a web hosting site such as Bluehost or Go Daddy.
- Design the look and feel of your website including medias, color, font, and of course — content. There is more to having a website — plugins, themes, security, and general maintenance to name a few additions.
- Understand how to create relevant content including what to post, type of information (text, video, pictures), how often, and — most importantly — how to get people to engage with you.
My goal for the next year is to:
- Keep writing my memoir, short stories, and novel
- Use my writing and technical skills to freelance
- Enter more writing contests
- Publish at least one book
- Improve my author website
- Learn more about branding and implement what I’ve learned
- Promote my brand
- Publish articles online
- Write engaging, relevant content that people find interesting and useful
Did my writing improve?
If you read this post without falling asleep, being bored and still learned something, then my writing has improved. I plan to continue writing articles about reinventing myself during the coming year.
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