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By rosietomato
August 6, 2008

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And this is a positive thing! Let me explain...(If you've ever read 'On death and dying' by E.K. Ross's 5 stages of grief, you may understand what I mean.)

Today marks the second month since I was told by my company that my division was eliminated and my job is gone after only working for the company for one year. I have two more months before I'm officially unemployed so I'm exactly at the half way point. It begs the need to be a point of reflection.

Stages of the job search:
First there is denial---It can't be happening to me, how could my job be eliminated, I'm a) important to this company, b) am doing top quality work. You feel like you are having an out of body experience. You walk around in a haze. That didn't last long but then I'm a pragmatic kind of person. This stage only lasted a day for me.

Next there is anger---Why me! You look around at the others who still have jobs and start getting paranoid that someone was out to get you, you're better then those who still have a job and are p*ssed that they don't have to look for another job. Then you internalize, what did I do wrong? Could I have done my job better? What fatal mistake did I do? What helped me get over this phase quickly is looking at the bigger picture. Reality: the company has stockholders to answer to. They have to cut cost to the bone. As critical as I thought my job was to the company, it was of lesser need than the basic functions of manufacturing, sales and marketing and even there it is a need to cut excess. Its numbers not people. ITS NOT ABOUT ME. This lasted a couple of weeks and overlapped with the next step. The important learning point is to keep your thoughts to yourself or if you must use only one friend (as well as spouse) to be a sounding board. After the fact, based on my experience, its better just to internalize. It's hard on a friend/fellow employee to endure negative talk, and your spouse, as supportive as they can be are still worried about facing the unknown abyss of job change. It's important to be sensitive to both but realize if you do need a verbal outlet find one, better a friend outside the company. The MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember is that you get MANY more 'points' if you keep a positive congenial attitude at work, not to mention keeping your own blood pressure down. You do no one any good by carrying a bad attitude around and bad mouthing people to anyone who listens while you are still on the payroll. Remember, not all companies eliminate jobs by having security standing at your office. A really nice person? Or a surly carper. Whatever, you don't want to do is get into angry words with a) your boss, b) HR. They are doing their jobs and eliminating jobs is not part of a normal job description, after all they are human and need to have their jobs to, terminating positions is not part of their day-to-day job descriptions.

Next there is bargaining---OK I've got to get my resume updated and out on the street. I have capabilities someone out there must need and I need to find that someone! What am I willing to give up? Location--will I have to move, is that an option? Am I willing to do that? Salary--do I have to take a cut in pay if I stay in the same location? Would it be worth it? Could my family afford it? How low am I willing to go in pay/benefits? I play spammer and shoot my resume out to every job that remotely looks like I've got qualifications (or not) just because a) its in the same city, b) may require a long commute but the money looks right, c) fill in the blank. This phase took me about two months to get through.

Next is depression---this usually comes after anger and while you are still in the bargaining phase. This is a very serious phase and you need to really be careful about your health. Watch your blood pressure, mine went from 90/60 (normal for me, and no family history of high blood pressure obviously) to 150/80!!!!! when I went for my annual physical during that time. Also for 2-3 weeks I would walk into my house at 5pm and felt my nerve endings had exploded and was in bed asleep by 8pm and up at 4-5am. I would use those extra hours before I headed off to work to search the job sites for anything that looked like I could do the job.

And finally acceptance---the 'what color is your parachute' phase. You step back and ask yourself, at this stage in my life based on my life experiences, what do I REALLY want to be doing? Note this is the wisdom phase. I sat myself down and slapped myself silly. Then I got down to work. I've been working for 29 years. What has been the common thread of my journey through the last 7 jobs over 29 years? I've had a stellar career (IMO) that actually tracked like the sector stock market. In the 80s I was able to break into a rising technology sector and made an international reputation in that area, it ebbed so I switched to the environmental sector. Took that through the late 90s by doing a sector/arena shift. Not lots of international reputation (read that none) but government experience. Had successes there. I used that to launch me into my next phase which was a combo of technology and environment. The combo was financially successful for me but I was concentrated in the academic/government sector. I broke out and joined corporate America and unfortunately got cut. So what can I do next. After contemplating my resume (g*d I'm tired of tweaking my resume!) I realized that I have the perfect set of experiences to help companies achieve their environmental/technology goals as a consultant. So I'm now targeting consulting firms that want to do just that. So far the nibbles suggest I'm in the right $ salary.

Sooooooo, I'm now in the acceptance phase and it is a really good place to be. After 29 years and contemplating my navel I've defined where I want to go to in my 'last' phase of my life before retirement. I'm no longer sending blind responses to every e-job under the sun. I have a couple of positive responses from earlier blasts of my resume that are actually in a sector that I want to embrace. Obviously it is obvious with my bio. My blood pressure is now down. I sleep well at night, though because I'm an A personality its tough for me to come to work every day with minimal work to actually do until my release date. But there is a bunch of us in that situation. We talk. Some talk has been negative but I've been trying to turn it into positive talk. A new thing I learned is that if you are part of a downsize, keeping a positive attitude within the group really makes life easier. I'm thrilled that one of my internal folks who is also made redundant after 28 years, is learning to understand that it is not about them but a company thing.