These are tough times, no doubt. The so-called "experts" say the economy is showing signs of recovery. Try telling that to the millions of people in this country who are still unemployed.
For us Gen Xers, it's probably the first time any of us have lived through something this devastating. We were told if we graduated from college and worked hard enough, we could accomplish whatever we set our sights on. We entered the workforce during a time of great prosperity and growth. We established ourselves in our fields and moved up, and up and up. Many of us had achieved a certain level of success and fulfillment in our careers.
And then the bottom dropped out.
Almost every industry has been impacted by this recession. If you still have your job, be grateful. If you've lost yours, I feel your pain. Getting laid off is so much more than losing a job.
It happened to me almost a year ago- December 2008. I was the first of nearly 20 longtime employees in my television newsroom to be called in and let go. It was a horrible experience, to say the least. While I was the first called in, I was the last to leave. My employers were kind enough to allow me to stay on through the holidays so my kids would have something to open on Christmas Day. But staying for those extra two weeks meant watching as my co-workers were called in one by one and cut loose.
These were decent, hardworking and loyal employees, and so much more than my colleagues. We had worked together for over 12 years. We celebrated marriages and births together, and mourned the deaths of loved ones. There is a strong bond that is formed by working with someone day in and day out, in the strange and unusual environment known only to those who have worked in a newsroom.
The father of three laid off two weeks before Christmas. The guy whose wife was due with their second baby right after the New Year. Or the pregnant woman who was let go and left without health insurance for her, her husband and their unborn child.
These stories aren't unique. They have happened across the country, in countless plants, factories and offices. Layoffs are no longer limited to blue collar industries.
Anyone who has lived through a layoff knows the toll it takes, not only financially, but emotionally. We have invested ourselves in a career we love. We have made tremendous sacrifices to succeed. Our careers are not just what we do, but WHO WE ARE. It is our identity.
And when we lose our job, we lose a very large part of ourselves.
So what's next?
For me, it was taking time to mourn. Job loss is very real, and it hurts. I had been with the same company since I was in college. My husband works there. Our friends are there. It was hard to watch them go to work every day, while knowing I was no longer a part of that. It was no longer our common bond.
I had to define who I was, outside of what I did for a living. It meant taking inventory of my experiences, and of all of the things I have to offer, and deciding what it is that I really wanted to do with them.
I'm still working on that. What I have learned is that my job was a very big part of who I was, and who I still am. But it wasn't all there is to me. I am more than just someone who read the news. Just as I learned and grew into a position and an industry that I loved, I can learn and grow into the next.
A layoff isn't the END of your career. It's the beginning of your next one.