Empathize With the Unemployed
Have you ever lost your job? No, I am not talking about the time when you were 16 and you got fired at the local hamburger joint for showing up late and refusing to wear the funny yellow hat you were issued. What about in your professional career? I did, and it was horrible.
Let’s back up for a minute…Like many of you, I had been working in my professional career successfully for many years. Over a 13 year period, I had worked for 7 different employers. Each time I chose to leave a company, I only did it if the move would advance my career and salary. This was working quite well, and I was on top of the world. I was making good money, working as a director with over 70 employees reporting to me, and feeling unstoppable.
It was 2008 and I had a hospital system ask me to leave a great job I had, to come help them open a brand new $21 million dollar facility. I would increase my salary by another 30% in this one move. I figured I had nothing to lose…famous last words, right? Things went extremely well there for the first few months. I was far ahead of goals and the C-suite was very pleased. I felt confident that even though they were hiring a new CEO, that CEO would see me as the golden-boy and I would be the last person he ever fired. Well, I was wrong.
It was February of 2009. I was called to meet with my boss and the company’s lawyer. I never even saw it coming. They were laying off several people, in an effort to reduce expenses and look better on the bottom line. Since the facility was so far ahead on the budget, the new CEO figured it was not necessary to have me running it anymore. He could just put it on auto-pilot and let some lower level manager handle it.
I remember walking home, tears in my eyes, asking God why this was happening to me. What had I done wrong?!? You cannot imagine the pain I felt when I delivered the news to my wife, who immediately burst in tears. We had two boys, a lot of debt and very little savings. I was only given one month’s severance and this was right when the economy tanked.
One task I dreaded, was calling the bank and telling them that I could not pay for my FJ Cruiser anymore. They told me to put the keys on the floorboard and they would come pick it up. When that tow truck drove away with my vehicle, I pretty much lost it. All confidence I had plunged.
Do you know what the worst part was? The rest of the world moved on, as if nothing had even happened. My life felt like it was not even remotely important to anyone. I reached out to every friend, family member and contact I knew. I wasn’t asking them to give me a job or money, I was only asking for leads or suggestions. I will be the first to tell you that prayer is important, but I will also tell you that after you hear 100+ people tell you that they will keep you in their prayers or “thoughts”, you get pretty cynical. Seriously, I thought, the best you can do is “think” about me. How hard is it to make a couple calls or send me some job leads you know about? Each day, while I was desperately searching for a job, I would think about all those people I knew, who were getting up, having their coffee, reading the paper and heading off to work. How lucky they were. I missed it so badly!
If you have never stood in line at the unemployment office, you should try it. It’s an incredibly humbling experience. Here I was, a guy with an MS in Business Management and a BS in Kinesiology, with over a decade of professional management experience, and I was asking the government for some money. I spent every single day, for 3 months, waking up at 5am and applying for every single job I could find, which might at least be more money that what I was getting from Uncle Sam. While I did finally land a job, it was in a place where the cost of living was double what I was accustomed to and the salary was half what I had been making. Still, I was so happy to have any job at all.
Now that I have thoroughly bummed you out, let me tell you 3 things I hope you will take from this:
1.) When someone loses their job, do just a bit more than offer to “think” or “pray” for them. Tell them the names of some folks you think they should call, or call a few folks for them. I had one good friend’s wife who sent me at least 5 job leads per week, while she was working her fulltime job and caring for her family. I will never forget her kindness!
2.) Empathize with them, because not one of us is immune from having our careers take a tragic turn. The day you lose your job, you will be so happy that you helped others, because that kindness will come back to you when you need it most.
3.) Feel life in an incredibly powerful way when you help someone find a job. I recently met a young person through Linkedin who was trying very hard to find a job. She mentioned a company I had worked for in the past and I said I knew some folks there. I made a couple of calls and she got an interview. She nailed the interview and was offered the job. Later, she wrote me and said how much she appreciated what I did. Honestly, I didn’t really do that much, but to her it was life-changing. The warm feeling I got from that cannot be described. Give it a shot and see what happens.
I hope you enjoyed this article! Would you please FOLLOW ME by clicking the yellow button on the top right? What about at least sharing the article? Think of it as an investment. Thanks! Feel free to reach out anytime.
-Paul Elsass Twitter @paulthoughts