Thursday, September 15, 2011

I've lost my job. Now what?

A guest post by Nicole Abdou:

“You've got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you're not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.” ~Steven D. Woodhull (U.S. geologist, 1976-)

Something happened in late July that I thought I would never recover from – I lost my job. My greatest fear was realized as soon as my two managers walked into my office. One of them was based out of Atlanta, the other out of Tampa. When they entered my office unannounced, I knew it was over.

I handled it as well as I possibly could – I smiled, I thanked them for their patience, I wish the company luck, and I gathered my things. In less than 15 minutes, everything I had worked for was over. My purpose, or so I thought- was lost.

I went home and the best way I can describe my feeling was numb. I felt numb and shocked. I felt betrayed and humiliated. I just sat there, staring at the wall, and the once talkative, hyperactive girl, was now super calm and super void of any visual emotion. I went to bed wondering if this would change my life in a way I would not recover from.

Surprisingly, I awoke with a sense of calm and my head was clear. I knew, without a doubt, life WOULD be different, but it is entirely up to me which path I will take. I could lay in bed, feeling sorry for myself, waiting for people to come and console me – but the truth of the matter is, I am a grown woman with almost 20 years experience and a great education – I needed to pull myself up by my boot straps and make a plan.

That morning I made a list that would change my outlook for the rest of the time I was waiting for my “career life” to begin again. This list was broken into three different categories:

1. What I wanted.
2. What I needed.
3. What I could eliminate from my life.

Once I set a mini-plan in motion, I felt like I had a little more control over the situation.

For example, here are my top 3 in each category:

1. Get out of Non Profit.
2. Learn Arabic
3. Exercise More

1. Start the unemployment process
2. Organize my job search in a special notebook
3. Budget wisely

1. Unnecessary expenses: (ex. Gym Membership, etc.)
2. Annoying Conference Calls (that was more humorous than an actuality)
3. Waking up at 6am

Again, some of the list making was mainly humorous, but it did allow me to put life back in perspective.

Look – I’m not going to sugar coat it, unemployment is HARD. I will admit, I am on a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but one thing remains the same – it’s up to me how I react to things. I got the messy part out of the way first (unemployment, turning receipts to my old job, making sure the loose ends were tied, canceling my gym membership, filing a deferment for my student loans.) Once that was done, I could get to the business of a job search.

I spent about 3 days updating my resume and constantly applying for jobs. I made a point to wake up by 8am, and have a little to-do list. I would spend up to 3 hours searching and applying for jobs, and about another hour organizing something in the house. I made a point to call at least one friend a day, just to get that emotional support we all need. But planning out my day, and being smart about how I spent my time, this has given me the opportunity to not dwell on what went wrong.

If there is one piece of advice I can give you, just to weather the “unemployment storm,” is to focus on your next big move. This is actually a blessing in disguise! I know, I know.. hard to imagine it. But here is YOUR chance to be strategic. Find that next “it thing” you want to do – Go back to school, start your own business, or find that company that really fits your work/life style.

More importantly, take some time for you. No, I don’t recommend just lying around and crying, (though an evening or so of this can be quite therapeutic!) Read that book that is lying on your night stand, write in your journal, take a free class at your public library – just DO SOMETHING. If you have a spiritual side, then pray. If you prefer communing with nature – go for a hike. This is your time to soul search.

Focus. Plan. Eat Ice Cream on occasion. Pray. Talk it out. Cry if you have to. But move forward. Do what you have to do to get to the next part. I assure you, when we fast forward 1 year from now – it will all make sense.

Good luck!

Nicole Abdou, 38, is the author of Destination Unknown and former Communications Director. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her Egyptian husband. Traveling, photography, and Zumba take up her free time. In her blog, Destination Unknown , Nicole tackles every day issues from: Unemployment, to living in a multi-cultural marriage, to growing up in the south, and anything else that strikes her fancy!

She can be contacted at: Her blog:


  1. Great post! I also recently lost my job and can identify with a lot of the feelings you experienced. Surprisingly I also felt calm but now I'm working hard to plot my next move.

  2. Been there, done that, and it ain't no fun! But it is survivable. My one regret - now that I am working again - is that I did not take the time to enjoy the only summer "off" I have had since I got out of college - about 600 years ago! It was a gift that I missed.

    Thinking good thoughts for something great to come along soon.

  3. Well written, Nicole! I lost my job in the corporate world in January and have been looking at non-profit but now have my doubts about that too. No one seems to be hiring. Stay strong!

  4. Nicole,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I have been following your job loss journey since July and am continuously impressed with how you strive to stay positive. I think creating your plan did help. Actually, creating a plan while contemplating any life change is probably a good idea. Good luck to you and as I always say stay strong.

  5. To Emily - one of the first followers of this blog:
    I am so sorry to hear you lost your job, I hope you find something you enjoy more.

  6. Webb,
    I think it is hard for most people to enjoy time off after being let go, especially in today's economy.
    My husband was unemployed during the summer of 2003. He would be the first one to tell you he didn't enjoy one minute of his time off. He didn't want to spend money doing things he enjoys like golf and was afraid to spend money on home improvements, so mostly he cleaned and waited for the phone to ring. He ended up finding a job that pays less, but enjoys more so everything worked out in the long run.

  7. Catherine,
    Best of luck to you.

  8. I love this post so I had to go visit her blog!