Surviving unemployment during the holidays

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Merry Christmas, you’re fired or your position is being eliminated or, don’t take this personally, but we are downsizing.

Have you ever experienced any of these scenarios? Are you living in fear that you may soon be facing this holiday greeting? I have lost my job nine times. How do you face your wife, your children, your parents, your brother or sister, your friends or neighbors? How do you avoid the pitfalls of fear, anger, anxiety and depression that only serve as self-defeating patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving? How do you turn a seemingly dreadful circumstance into a learning experience to further your good fortune? I have my share of experience. I have done a lot of things wrong in this volatile state and a few things right. Allow me to share with you the takeaways that have enriched my life to the point of actually being able to thrive and enjoy what can otherwise be one of life’s most stressful experiences.

First things first: you need a plan. If you are married, you and your spouse need to openly and honestly communicate. If you are a parent, your family needs an immediate plan. You do not know how long you will be without a paycheck so you need to know what assets you do have and how long you can remain liquid. Then you need to agree on how you can live more modestly throughout the course of your unemployment. I cannot emphasize enough the concept of agreement. Neither the dictator nor the victim approach will bring a workable solution to this uneasy time. Your plan also needs to include a family job search strategy. If this is your first time at this experience, then don’t underestimate the fact that looking for a job is the hardest job you will ever have. The entire family needs to agree that getting back to work becomes your highest priority. This is not a paid vacation and everyone in the family needs to understand how they can contribute and support you.

Your next step is to seek help. For your job search, begin by letting anyone and everyone know you need help. This is not the time to be humble, meek or mild. Stand up for yourself and your family. Be proactive. Treat your job search just like you did your job. Make a plan and execute on it every day. There are countless resources for application, resume and interview skills. Maybe you need to pick up a long-delayed new credential or skill. For the family, there are also endless possibilities to support your new needs. You will be shocked at the giving holiday spirit of neighbors, friends and family if you have the courage to make your needs known. Avail yourself of the services of the food bank and other social and charitable institutions that offer the wonderful gifts of clothing and Christmas presents. You will have the opportunity to return your good fortune to another in need in the years to come if you follow this course.

Last but not least, get your head on straight. I think the most important thing for you to know is that you are not what you do for a living, how much you make doing it, or how many material possessions you have accumulated doing it. There will never be a greater opportunity for you to discover and exhibit who you are as a human being. I also think the second most important thing for you to know is that your family unconditionally believes in and supports you for who you are, and not only as a money tree. Do not allow guilt or shame to take up residence in your consciousness. Do not accept any acting roles by playing a victim or being too proud. It has been my experience that life seems to keep repeating lessons until I learn them. This is not the time to be asking “why me.” This is your divine moment to ask what you can learn. Remaining grateful for what you have is the cornerstone from which to survive unemployment during the holidays.

About the author

Robert Cantrall has worked in the financial services industry for more than 15 years. He has worked an additional 15 years in eight other industries for companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500. Throughout his career, Bob has lost his job nine times including when WaMu failed in 2008. A native of Oregon, Bob currently resides in Seattle. He recently released his first book The Fall of My Life (check Amazon.com).

Photo: Unemployed men queue outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone