Sunday, March 28, 2010

What happens when you lose a job you love?

The article in today's New York Times Sunday Magazine by former House & Garden editor-in-chief Dominique Browning was very interesting. It gave me a lot to think about.

Some of the comments about the article were not sympathetic at all. People said things like, "Oh poor Dominique, having to sell one of her two homes."

Is she more fortunate than others who have lost their jobs? Of course. She doesn't deny it. One of my biggest issues with American culture is the idea that material goods equal happiness. The negative comments missed the whole point of the article. Yeah she had a nice house, so what? When you love what you do, do it well and have been working non-stop for 35 years, it must be hard to just stop.

Ms. Browning is not yet retirement age. Her kids are out of the house. In a society that worship youth, especially when it comes to women, what does she do now? How will she define herself?

No one is saying losing a job is like losing a loved one. However, there's a reason it's acknowledged as one of the most stressful things someone can go through. Not only for the financial reasons like, how will you pay rent, but also the emotional upheaval.

A few years ago the production company I worked 24/7 for shut down suddenly two weeks before Christmas. It along with other things going on (or not going on) in my life sent me into a spiral I wasn't sure I would recover from.

I put my birthday trip to Italy (I had never been before) on hold since I was unemployed and had no savings to speak off. I felt traveling would be irresponsible.

That Christmas was the first one we spent in St. Martin. My parents had moved back in October. My family was very worried about me and urged me to take the trip, just on a smaller scale.

My brother Fed-exed me a check as an early birthday present. Instead of three cities in two weeks, I picked one city and one week. I went to Rome.

While the way the company shut down was still horrible, it forced me to really look at my life.

Many people are in Ms. Browning's situation. For the Boomer generation, it's particular tough to reinvent yourself at an age that used be your peak earning years.

I'm part of Generation X but work in a very unstable business. People are getting let go left and right and their job skills don't easily translate to other fields. What is a former Development executive going to do? Working in publishing would make the most sense but those jobs are disappearing as well.

This unemployment cycle is different from the past. Many of the jobs that have been lost are gone for good. They are not coming back. We are moving more and more away from making products to just consuming them.

I don't know what this means for the future. I don't think it's a good thing.

HERE is the article. Have you ever lost a job? How did you deal with it?


Anonymous said...

Yep, I can totally relate, being that i work in tv/film. I think our identities get tied up in our work in much deeper ways than less creative work. It can even be devastating to wrap up a high profile, awesome project, to some low budget stinker because you need to take the next contract.

On the flip side, the instability has made me stronger in other ways; I can handle losing or quitting a job easier than someone who's been at the same job for 10 years, and I always put aside emergency savings. With the closing of a huge vfx studio in Toronto, its occurred to me that I may need to develop a serious plan B. But what?

Viajera said...

I've never lost a job, but I've quit one and will be quitting another in approx. a month. Despite never losing a job, I feel for Ms Browning. I've quit 2 jobs cuz I've never found employment doing something that I love. Truthfully, I haven't even figured out what my true calling is. ;)

And THAT'S why her plight speaks to me: If I found a job that I loved and I lost it (esp. later in life), I would go into a sharp decline. To do work that you love, that is worth more than money. Even at my young age, I know that well.

glamah16 said...

I read this this morning and was depressed by the whole sadness and desperate tone. I would have the same reaction even laid off from a job I didn't care for. Lack of security scares me.
I always take pride that I'm not defined by my job and have many interests outside of it. If I was to faced with this, I wont lie and say I'm not worried. But I would also take it as a sign from the universe in that it was time to move on.
I'm applying to jobs now while employed to hedge my bets against a very uncertain future.I find its challenging when you have been somewhere so long to re adapt and enter a new arena with so many unemployed people who are perhaps more suitable. But at the end of the day I like to think sales are sales.

Simone said...

Our recent ecominic climate has forced many of us to re examine our lives and livelihoods, but in reality most of us realize we need do it way before the pink slips arrive. But for many of us it is only after it does that we are fored to determine what it is we can and will do in order to live a life that "protects' us from whatever elements we believe we need protection from. No matter if we have 2 homes to sell or less than half a month's rent we are all in the same boat of self reflection and need. The thing about humanity is that regardless of circumstance we all want to survive and most of us adapt and change (usually forced or drastic) to do so. In the end defining how we live is part of our individual journey isn't it?

erin :: the olive notes said...

I saw this article earlier today - it's a good perspective to have. It's always lovely to hear of people finding the good in the seemingly bad situations....there was a story on This American Life that touched on this too.

Anonymous said...

It isn't a good thing and reinvention can be quite stressful. This job market is tough and is the reason I am staying in school at this point. I don't know what to do. $65,000 of debt is nothing to sneeze at. Recovery is not imminent and you are right we won't get those jobs back. the next few years will be interesting. i am waiting to see how things will turn out..

Esther said...

I went through a similar situation this past July. All of a sudden one goes from a 6 figure salary to nothing. What really hurts is to make financial decisions, ie: I spent $200 to color my hair monthly - and my car note is $200. Which one do I pay for......
and/or my field is super saturated - what else can I do to financially tide myself over until I can find a job in my field.


btw - It has been 7 months now and I am so happy. First time I haven't had a job since high school!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

jean-pierre - I agree. Creative work can be extremely unstable. Good luck with your plan b. I don't have one and it freaks me out.

viajera - very true. That's why I was surprised to see so many critical NYTimes comments. What happened to empathy?

glamah16 - lack of security scares me as well. I can't imagine being 55 and having the rug pull out from under me that way. Reinvention is not easy no matter what the self-help gurus say. Good luck with your search.

simone - it's hard to define how to live or what's really important to you when you are going 24/7. You're on this treadmill and poof, next you know five, ten, maybe twenty years have gone by. You're right...these uncertain economic times have many of us questioning what is we are doing with with lives.

erin - I'm looking forward to reading her book. Her writing definitely struck a chord with me.

odiessa - Hopefully by the time you graduate from school the market will be a little better. A lot depends of course on what field you are interested in working in. Economists say the worst is over. I hope they are correct.

esther - thanks for sharing your story. I had the same issues (minus the six-figure salary part)trying to figure out what to pay for and what to had to go. I kept my gym membership because the working out helped a lot with my stress.

Anonymous said...

I never lost a job but I'm currently on long term disability. It may not be the same thing but the effects to the psyche are similar.
For one, you discover that you are truly replaceable and people you worked with for years no longer seem to know your name.
Secondly, you start to re-assess what is truly important in life. Am I working at a job that fulfills me? Is there loyality and ethics at this workplace.
But lastly, it is true, if you haven't got good health, you ain't got nothing.
No job can give you that.

Ms. Violetta

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

ms. violetta - I agree. Many of us take our good health for granted.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Interestingly enough, every time D or I have lost a job, it's come out for the better, but ... wow, is it traumatic and scary.

I think we're heading into an age where flexibility is key. I feel safer having floated between jobs and careers so many times over the years. I DO think that many of the skills that you mentioned are translatable - good communication and writing skills, the ability to work (and play) well with others, etc.

There's no doubt, though, that the world is changing and if we have hopes for growing socio-economically, that's probably not going to happen.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

jen - yes flexibility is so important. That is one reason why I think this economic crisis is very tough on Boomers in particular. It's hard to change careers in your late 40s, 50s and 60s.

dalia said...

i've been described as "resilient" one too many times when it comes to losing jobs and love, but roll with it. jobs/work always come back around. i suppose though, i'm lucky in that i'm a jill of many trades. i write, edit, have customer service and hosting skills, can do alterations, makeup, hair and styling. i'm handy, can talk my way around a can of paint, and can cook well enough to cater...

i'm about to be out of a job in a few months, and i'm worried about being in that place of instability again...but if my life is any example to me, i should just not stress about it so much, and now that the work ALWAYS comes...

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

dalia - I like your attitude. I'm not sure what I can do besides writing at this stage of my life.