Saturday, May 16, 2009

Life After Lay Off

Thursday was my last day at work. Though I'd never use a word as strong as "love" to describe my time there, it was my first job after grad school and the job that brought me to New Jersey. Lots of things happened in my life during these past three years, from the death of a grandparent to my brother's college graduation, my father's remarriage and the coming and going of umpteen friends/boyfriends.

Most relevant, I realized that perhaps this job, a position I'd been groomed for during two years of school, internships and informal training, was not a good fit for me and I was often frustrated and unhappy. Now, just two weeks and two days after that fateful day of reckoning, I've learned a few things about life after lay off.

1. I seem to inspire confidence in people. Various colleagues and friends have commented, "Oh, I don't worry about you. You'll be fine and will have a great new job in no time." While it's nice to know they find me capable and more importantly, employable, I do want their concern if for no other reason than the fact that I'm scared shitless.

2. Being unemployed is a little like being pregnant (I imagine). Everyone has an opinion on what you should do and horror stories about their own similar experiences. And no one has any problem telling you exactly what they think about your situation. From the delicately sympathetic, "How are you?" to the audaciously rude, "Ever find a job?" the unemployed have to field a startling number of questions.

3. Brains and ambition do not necessarily confer certainty in one's path in life. Yeah, there are a million jobs I could do, but ask me what I want to do and I'm really not sure. After I finish writing this post, the next item on my to do list is tackling a values clarification exercise that will hopefully help me out.

Somehow, my dream job still hasn't evolved beyond the New York Times Styles Section correspondent position I fantasized about in college journalism classes. When interested parties inquire about what I'd like to do next with my career, I don't truly have a good answer.

It's almost embarrassing for someone who's always prided herself on being unafraid on ambition to suddenly find herself without clear goals in sight. When I moved to Baltimore after college, I knew I'd go to grad school, get a fellowship with a three-year work commitment and continue on the path of professional achievement within the Jewish communal workworld. Seven years later, I am need of a Life-GPS that soothingly utters, "recalculating."

Who knows what this values clarification program will suggest and what the next few months of job hunting will bring my way. Though I am not so lost that I will blindly follow the suggestions of my blog readers, I'm happy to hear what you have to say... as long as it doesn't involve law school.


Josh said...

It's hard when you're in it to see it this way, but for the reasons you wrote above this is the perfect chance to re-evaluate your professional life and go in a different direction if you want. When I got laid off, I was an MBA selling computers and working with people who didn't all have bachelor's degrees. After thinking about what I wanted to do and taking some calculated risks (I turned down a job offer to wait for an offer from a place that didn't pay as well), I landed in the perfect position for me. I will swear up and down forever that getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally.

Ima Shalom said...

Here's what I'll say...I wasn't sure what I wanted to do next at all and was just keeping an open mind. Then I learned about my current job and I was just like YES that sounds like something I would do. I don't think I could have told you ahead of time that I wanted to do it, but it's a great fit.

SaraK said...

I am need of a Life-GPS that soothingly utters, "recalculating."I LOVE that line :)
Best of luck!

Bible Belt Balabusta said...

I'd love to know what values clarification tool you're using....

Rebecca said...

BBB, send me your email ( and I will send you the exercise.

SuperRaizy said...

Being unemployed is tough, no doubt about it. My best advice would be: don't lose your self-confidence. Other people seem to think that you're capable and employable, so you must be. If you keep your self-confidence, then you will be ready to tackle any new opportunities that do come your way (and they will!)

Jack said...

The good news is that even when you are married and have kids you can go through this kind of stuff. ;)

As a kid I watched my mother teach at one school and my father stay at the same job.

Now at 40 I have had a number of jobs. Stayed at one for about 7 years, put chunks of time in at others. For a while it used to bother me, but then I accepted that life has changed. It is not so unusual to move around, virtually all of my friends have had similar experiences.

It is easy to say, but stay tough. It does get better.