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Today's Great Fear: What if I Lose My Job?
As I write this, unemployment is at about seven percent and we’re being told that it may rise to nine percent or higher. Of course, it's good to remember that TV news is less about dispensing the news than it is about keeping viewers. So, rather than report that ninety-three percent of all Americans are employed we’re reminded on a daily basis of the threat of unemployment.
To give some perspective to our current situation, historically economists felt that anything under six percent was great. But in the last couple of decades we’ve had such great prosperity that anything over four percent seems cataclysmic. So with the help of the mainstream media, we’re all scared. Some are even predicting another Great Depression. While, anything is possible, let's not forget that during the Great Depression unemployment ran around twenty-five percent. In those days people were trying to sell apples on street corners to get by. Today, we’re more likely to be concerned about whether we can afford an Apple Computer!
Now, this doesn't mean that our fears are completely unfounded. If you’re part of the jobless seven percent, you know it’s tough! To give you some more statistics, the average time to find a new job right now is about four and a half months. I’d like to help you shorten that. If you have a minute, let me share some tips that might be helpful if you’ve lost your job and are in a desert period.
1. Remember, it’s nothing personal. After a job lose, many people go into a real funk and find themselves asking over and over, “Why me? What did I do wrong? Am I not up to the task? Am I a failure?” This is what is sometimes referred to as “stinkin’ thinkin.’” The truth is, you probably didn’t do anything wrong. Because of economic realities, it simply became more profitable for the company to cut your job. Businesses don’t have feelings. To be successful a business, by definition, means the business must make a profit. Otherwise, it ceases to exist. So your dismissal wasn’t a personal attack on you. It was simply a tough, pragmatic decision made to lower the company’s cost of operation.
2. Negotiate with your boss. Try to get an extension. See if she will let you work for an extra month or two while you attempt to find new work. Ask for a severance package. While this may sound unlikely, some employees are wise enough to parlay a boss’ request for a “non-compete” clause or a “no solicitation agreement” into the promise of several months of salary in the form a severance.
3. Fake it ‘til you make it. Don’t fall into the trap of acting like a depressed person. If you act that way—you’ll become that way. And, depressed people aren’t very appealing to employers. Sitting on the couch, eating chips, and watching Oprah ain’t going to fix it! This means that you maintain a disciplined schedule. Get up early every morning. Eat a decent breakfast. Go to the gym. Get dressed like you would for the job.
Then go to work!
You may be thinking What do you mean, ‘Go to work?’ Don’t you remember this article is about the fact that I don’t have a job!”
Oh, yes you do. Your job is to look for a job. Note: I didn’t say, “Your job is to find a job.” No, it’s to look for a job. If you do enough “right” things for a long enough period of time—you will find a job. Set tough (but doable) goals for yourself. For instance, determine to shake hands with twenty-five new people each day. Cold call five businesses each day. Call five people you know each day and tell them that you’re looking for a job. Aggressively seek out and respond to on-line job openings. And, of great importance: keep a daily journal. At the end of each week you can review it and see whether you’ve truly stayed on course.
4. Learn to network. This may not be in your “comfort zone” but this isn’t an option — it’s a requirement. To stay sharp, engaged, and in other people’s minds it is vital that you get out and shake hands. Go to support meetings. Go to job fairs. Go anywhere there are people. Have a card made with your name, phone number, address, and email. Hand it to everyone you meet. Don’t be shy.
5. Get work before getting a “position.” This is especially important if you are laid off without the three to six month job fund I teach about in the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar. If you don’t have rent or grocery money —get some work in a hurry! Deliver pizzas. Clean houses. Rake yards. Do anything that is legal and moral! This will help you maintain the sense of control that is all important in tough times. Depression frequently occurs when a person feel like they have no control over the events of their lives.
Besides helping you maintain some control of your destiny, there is another wonderful thing that an interim job can do. It can become a career! There are thousands of businesses all across America that were started simply to make a few extra bucks through a hard time — which grew into major enterprises. Maybe this is what Paul was referring to in Romans 8 when he reminded faithful Christians that “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”
6. Use this time as a period to reassess your life plan. Ask hard questions, “Is this the field I want to go back into?” “Do I have a skill set that will be in demand in the future?” “Should I re-educate myself for a totally different field?” “What do I really want to do with the rest of my life?”
Often painful periods like this can be turned into opportunities for productive life change. There’s a great old saying, “Sometimes a flower blooms best when it’s re-potted.”
I’m certainly not minimizing the pain and concern you’re feeling. But, as Christians, we do have a great resource. During dessert moments in our lives we have a strong protector. That Strong Protector never told us that we'd avoid long, dry dessert periods. But He did promise to give us the “living water” we need for the journey.
Steve Diggs presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar at churches and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve on the Web at http://www.stevediggs.com/ or call 615-834-3063. The author of several books, today Steve serves as a minister for the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.