How It Feels To Lose Your Job
By Al Getler
“You work for 30 years because you think that what you do makes a difference, you think it matters to people, but then you wake up one morning and find out, well no, you’ve made a little error there, you’re expendable. I should be laughing.” – Glenn Holland on the news his job was eliminated in the film “Mr. Holland’s Opus”
When you change your job, you leave behind a lot of people, accomplishments and memories. When you lose your job suddenly, you lose all of this and quite a bit of your soul. Quite frankly, it hurts.
On a sunny morning in 2004, I had a flight from the Columbus, Ohio airport to Washington DC. I was headed to an industry convention to meet with a headhunter. There was an exciting prospect for a job in the Boston area. Since my wife and I had always felt called to live in New England for no particular reason other than a feeling, we were very excited.
While waiting for my flight, I browsed the books in the airport book store when a fabulous title caught my attention.
“Landing on the Right Side of Your Ass: A Survival Guide for the Recently Unemployed” by Michael Blastoff leapt out at me. As I was between permanent positions (the polite term) in my industry (newspaper), I was intrigued by the book’s fetching title. Even though I had immediately gone back to work in friend’s advertising and branding agency, I wanted to get back into my chosen industry.
On the flight to and from Washington, I read the book one and one half times. This guy Laskoff managed to tap into everything I was feeling after having been layed-off. I had gone through every stage he described after losing my job and his comedic approach to describing the feelings I had and the steps to recovery are lessons I have shared with many people.
The Dreaded Moment: The Real ‘You’re Fired”
After the 2003 holiday season had come to an end, I was ready to get back to the job I loved at a newspaper company. I had been real sick just before the holidays and then came a week’s vacation, so I was ripe to return.
It was a Monday. The weather was gray and cold and large snowflakes fell intermittently. I had just shaken the chill from my walk back from lunch as I sat in my office checking email. That was when the grim reaper popped his head into my office and asked me to come to his office. I could smell death.
As I walked into the grim reaper’s office, I saw the regional HR vice president sitting in a chair. The grim reaper started speaking. At first I didn’t hear him (the sound was more like Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice in those old cartoons) and then I interrupted him.
“Why? Why the hell would you do this?”
The response may have included something about reorganization and company culture and blah, blah blah.
“Just give me the paperwork.” I said as I stood up and turned to walk out. “I can’t believe you would do this with as much as I have given this place.”
The grim reaper stood in shock asking me to sit back down. I held out my hand with death rays shooting from each eyeball. He handed me the envelope and I turned leaving his office and walking towards mine. The grim reaper intercepted me and told me my things would be sent to me but not before he finger through every item personally.
My hot Irish blood boiled. My New Jersey roots nearly seeped over the edges of my temper. It was all I could do to not hit the balding, chubby, beady-eyed bastard right above his cheesy mustache. I don’t like condescending jerks and he was one; perhaps their king. I held it together instead of releasing what would have felt so good.
I turned and walked out the back door to the elevator. As I descended, I dialed my wife.
“They just fired me. They kept all of my things and kicked me out.”
She was shocked. My wife knew I bled ink and was so devoted to my newspaper job.
That night, my phone rang. A competing newspaper wanted to know what had happened. They wanted to know why I had been fired. The high road was my only choice.
“I decided to move on and seek new opportunities,” was my response.
They didn’t buy it. The next day I saw my picture above the fold with the words, “Getler Out!”
The phone rang. People offered their condolences. Notes of support arrived in the mail. The Rotary Club called to be sure I was still coming to the next meeting. The community support was awesome.
Years later, I look back and see that the nationally known company that reorganized me out of my job had no hard feelings towards me. They had acquired our group three years earlier and, by reputation, the reorganization came (three years later than usual.) It seems after three years of prodding and poking at what we had done with our newspaper group, they were ready to do it. Only they were ready to do it their way, not mine.
As it turns out, the paunchy, beady-eyed bastard got his walking papers almost three weeks later. Unfortunately, however, the remainder of my teammates either got laid-off or severely demoted as well. It truly was a reorganization of our group’s management; they had not lied.
The parent company could not have been better to me in retrospect. They made sure my transition was comfortable in every way possible. They gave me ample support in rebuilding my life. The most senior HR VP even called in to check on me and invited me to rejoin the company if I heard about something that interested me. And even if they weren’t sincere about having me back, it felt good that they at least said it.
Due to the support of my wife and daughters, the compassion of my previous employer and the support I received from my friends and colleagues, I was well on the way to recovery from a job loss.
And just like Michael Laskoff’s book had promised, I landed on the right side of my ass working just outside of Boston for one of the classiest guy’s in the newspaper business, Boston Herald owner and publisher, Pat Purcell. Three years later, I landed what I thought would be even a better job with bigger money and a bigger title in a community I have come to love.
The grim reaper struck again. Only this time he lured me into a local hotel promising breakfast. Oddly enough, he was also bald, beady-eyed and…whoops…my attorney says I need to move onto the next paragraph.
The other day I began opening boxes from the office I spent six years of blood, guts, tears and emotion working. My fabulous, wonderful hard-working executive assistant, Linda, was asked to pack up my stuff. When I opened the very first box at random I saw that Linda had sent me a message.
My copy of “Landing on the Right Side of Your Ass: A Survival Guide for the Recently Unemployed” was sitting right on top of the contents of the box staring me in the face. I am not sure how Linda figured out exactly which box I would open first (although one containing books was an easy guess) and I am not sure how she figured out which way to face the book, but it made me laugh out loud.
I picked up the book and leafed through it. It was another defining moment in the lifespan of my career. I had come back stronger the last time. I had used my years of experienced and launched a new journey that turned out damned well with a long string of awards and results to underscore my team’s and my success. Most importantly, I have added to my collection of great friends and contacts. My network has greatly increased the value of my net worth.
Once again, I will land on the right side of my side ass. I am so excited for the future that I can hardly contain the excitement. I am a free agent. I am able to create my next step.
My Next Step
So, what should I do? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below or, if you want to send me a private message email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, I happen to know a very good consultant you can call on. He can speak to a group of thousands or coach an individual leader to success. He can help you with your digital strategy and guide you through the media landscape. He is a free agent. You can reach him at email@example.com as well. He comes with references.
Al Getler is a consultant in digital media, print media and leadership. He is also an accomplished speaker, comedian and ventriloquist.
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