If You’ve Been Terminated, You Need to Read This

If you’ve ever been terminated – and most of us have at one time or another – you know what a stressful, frustrating situation it is.

Sometimes, it’s wise to just sit back, take a deep breath and try to keep things in perspective.

Tami Cannizzaro’s Tales of the Terminated takes that approach. It’s a lighthearted, always witty account of Tami’s brush with unemployment. Tami’s journey made me smile and laugh. What’s more, it brought hope that being laid off or let go isn’t the end of the world. It’s a new beginning.

I was able to speak with Tami recently. Our question-and-answer session follows.

What resources did you use to ‘get back into the game’ when you were terminated?

Everything!  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, email, networking groups, church, friends, family. And that was just in the first few days!  It was a bit crazy, to be honest.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed a strategic, focused approach. Sounds logical now, but when you are in the after-shock of being laid-off “fight or flight” sort of takes control. In my case it was “try-to-do-everything-in-one-week”.

Based upon your own experience, what would you suggest as a first step for individuals who have lost their jobs?

Aside from registering for unemployment benefits and immediately cutting unnecessary expenses, and the all-important pity-party? Develop a game plan; a multi-prong strategy. That includes identifying what you WANT to do, and what you NEED to do to get there. I wanted to reinvent myself rather than simply going back to the same type of job, but that doesn’t happen overnight. I actually laid out my plan on a grease board, with my end goal of writing a book. Then I worked backwards from that with steps to make that happen, including financial plans.

What positives did you find about being terminated?

Freedom! For the first time in for-ev-ah I was able to take some much-needed time off. My mind was free to imagine what I could do, to think about what I really wanted in my career going forward. And freedom also means more time to spend at the gym and working on house projects. What I’m really saying is that I had time to fantasize about what I would do, since I did not achieve abs of steel, and the house projects I’d dreamed of completing are still on my to-do list. But hey, just the idea of having free time to focus on me, hubby and my pup was great.

In all seriousness, I found it refreshing to be unencumbered from a day-to-day business routine for awhile and found that my creativity level soared. It was during this time that I discovered my love of writing. I was finding humor in common lay-off situations, like networking groups, interviews and trying to work from home, and started chronicling my journey through unemployment in my blog, Tales of the Terminated, which led to my book of the same name. I doubt I would have discovered my love of writing, and would probably never have written a book if it weren’t for the layoff.

What negatives would you avoid if you had to go through it again?

Aside from losing income and being unable to shop, the worst thing for me was the stigma – either real or imagined – that comes with being laid-off. The biggest negative was the loss of identity I felt, despite the fact that I always claimed, “I am not defined by my work”. Ha! As a career gal, of course I was defined by my work. It’s a humbling experience the first time you run into an old friend or former colleague and have to answer the question, “What do you do?” A job – even if we don’t like it – gives us an identity that we can share with others in social situations. For me, it was as if I lost a part of me without the luxury of a job title and company to put beside my name.

How did losing your job change you as a person?

I hate to sound cliché, but it really did force me to prioritize as well as put things into perspective. My husband had been laid-off eight months before I was, and although he had found full-time contract work by the time I won the Lay-Off Lotto, the recession was going strong and we did not feel secure. We discussed a “worst-case” scenario: what if neither of us found employment, we blew through our savings and were forced to sell our house? We came up with a plan for living under those circumstances and realized that, while we wouldn’t really like that situation, we would survive. Just having this plan in the back of our minds, even though we will probably never have to use it, is quite freeing.

Losing a job doesn’t scare me like it used to. I’m a bit more of a risk-taker than I was before, knowing that we survived a double lay-off and have come out just fine. I’m less willing to tolerate work-related stress – meaning that it’s so insignificant in the overall picture of life, why dwell on it? If I lost my job again my philosophy would be that I was looking for a job when I found this one, and I can do it again.

Hubby and I were savers before the lay-offs, and now we are even more aware of the need to save money. Despite the fact that both of us are working, I still find myself questioning every single purchase: we don’t really need soft drinks when water will do; designer lettuce only if it’s on sale; deodorant is expensive, is it a must-have? I mean is anyone really going to get close enough to smell us?  Of course I’m kidding with the last one.

What advice would you give others as to maintaining a positive attitude and not becoming discouraged?

First, realize that losing a job is difficult but it’s not the end of the world. Allow yourself a short – a day or two at most – pity party, then put on your big girl shoes and develop your plan for finding a new job.

My advice is to get out of the house – don’t spend all of your time in front of your computer looking at job boards. Join a networking group, volunteer a few hours a week at a non-profit, get some exercise. All of those will contribute to your overall positive attitude, with the added benefit of meeting new people.

I’ll let everyone in on a secret that very few in the Land of Layoff will admit: it’s okay to take some time for yourself, away from your job search. For me that meant going to the gym, as well as taking some time each day to just sit in the backyard and read a book. I have one friend who planted a garden after she was laid-off. It doesn’t matter what it is; just do something for yourself.

Another thing (many people will disagree with me on this): I highly recommend taking a part-time job while you look for full-time employment. First, it shows future employers that you are a go-getter, taking action rather than waiting for something to happen. Second – and most important – it’s good for your mental health as well as your checkbook. Both Hubby and I did this, and it made a huge difference in our attitudes – it’s great to be needed at a job. Plus, both of us found consulting projects in our fields from people we met at our part-time jobs.

What is your current career?

Aside from being a speaker and author, I am an account director at a PR agency. What’s interesting about this is that agencies prefer to hire younger, fresh-out-of-school talent and are hesitant to hire someone who only has corporate experience. Through networking I met the agency owner and worked as a consultant for her. Once she saw my work and that I fit in with the company culture, she offered me a full-time job. Not that I’m old, mind you. But I don’t think anyone has figured out that I’m the oldest one at the agency. Shhh….it’s our secret.

In addition, I also serve on the MS Marketing Advisory Board at Texas A&M, and I mentor students.

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Do you believe that your current career  protects you from being terminated again? If so, why, and how can others profit from your experience?

Honestly, I don’t think that anyone is safe from a layoff. Whether you are young and fresh out of school or a bit more mature and experienced, I think that being laid-off is not a matter of “if”, it’s “when”.

One thing that has helped me throughout my career is that I’ve always been open to career opportunities that will broaden my skills. In fact, my entire department was laid-off first, but I was moved to another position since I had experience in that area. Granted, I knew it was a temporary solution, but it helped me plan for the inevitable layoff.

This might be a good place to include this:  I advise those looking for work to get out of their own way. We tend to be our own worst enemies when it comes to a job search, putting too many parameters around what our next job should provide before we will consider it. I find this especially true of older people I meet at speaking engagements – many tell me they do not want to accept a job unless it checks off all the boxes on their ‘wish list’. To me this is the opposite of what should be done after a layoff. I am a huge advocate of working at something you love, but the key in this situation is to find employment – even if it’s not at your ideal job or compensation level. You can always continue the job search while working.

What was the most gratifying thing about seeing your book in print?

It was a defining moment for me, to realize that I had reinvented myself as an author. I actually cried when I opened the box and held it in my hands. It was hard for me to step out of my comfort zone and try something so utterly new and different, especially such a personal project. Seeing that book actually come to life was proof that if I put my mind to something – anything – I could do it.

Are you planning a sequel? Perhaps “Tales of the Employed?”

Of course!  That’s not exactly the title I had in mind, but I like the way you think. I’ve got a pad full of notes and ideas that will become my next book.

Tales of the Terminated is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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