Read an Excerpt
"Hello, My Name Is Tory,and I Was Fired"
Attitude is everything, so stand tall andget your ducks in a row
In 1993, I was a 22–year–old hotshot. Or so I thought.As a publicist for NBC News in New York—the youngest ever,I was told—I was making enough money to rent a nice apartmentnear Lincoln Center, enjoy manicures and pedicures on weekends,eat out and shop. Not bad for a good Jewish girl from Miami Beachwho had always dreamed of making it in the Big Apple.I was on a roll. I had been offered a job working as a (very) juniorpublicity assistant for Barbara Walters at ABC's 20/20 whileI was still in college. I jumped at the chance. Then NBC recruitedme, and soon I was on a first–name basis with some of the biggeststars in broadcasting. Tom Brokaw, Bryant Gumbel, Jane Pauley,Maria Shriver, Stone Phillips, and the late Tim Russert.
This was heady stuff. At some point, all of those bold namesbenefited from my publicity skills for television's top–rated newsprograms: Meet the Press, Dateline, and the fortieth anniversarycelebration of Today. It was my responsibility to promote thesesuperstars and their work. I called newspaper reporters in everybig city across the country as well as the producers of TV showsfrom Entertainment Tonight to Larry King Live to sell them onwhat my stars were doing. And the answer was always yes."We'd love to promote Maria's new special." "Of course we'llshowcase that investigative piece on Dateline." "Let's plug Sunday'sMeet the Press." I was very good at generating great coverage.But it wasn't all sunshine. NBC News got into serious troublewhen it aired a controversial Dateline story that showed GeneralMotors trucks exploding into fireballs in certain kinds of crashes.But instead of actually capturing one of those explosions on tape,the story producers rigged a truck to blow up to simulate whatallegedly occurred in actual accidents. A bad move ethically andjournalistically, as an independent panel would later conclude.And an outright disaster in terms of public relations.
Defending NBC and Dateline kept me busy for months. I wasgrilled by reporters from around the globe from the moment Iwalked in the door of my windowless office at 8:00 A.M. until Ileft—hours after Nightly News had aired. It was a crazy and exhilaratingtime, and I loved the challenge. This is what public relationsis all about, training I couldn't get in a classroom. I was trulypassionate about my job. I loved NBC and its history and even thefact that I worked in one of the country's most famous buildings,the landmark Rockefeller Center. Everything about the job—thepeople, the frenetic energy—I loved it all.Like I said, I was a hotshot. I thought I was really good at publicity.A rising star at the network. I was kicking butt.And unbeknownst to me, my butt was about to get kicked.
When Megan Henderson, a top morning show anchor in Los Angeles,and before that Dallas, was a television intern, she remembers "beggingfor extra hours, bugging the reporters, asking a gazillion questions,and annoying everyone around me with my enthusiasm.""I left that unpaid internship and six months later I was offered afull–time producing job with Fox because of it," she recalls.But today, Megan says, many of the interns at her station "just sitand wait to be told what to do. I always tell them, 'It's up to you tomake this worth your while. If you truly want to be in this business forthe right reasons and are willing to work hard, you will make it. Butyou've got to put in the work and pay your dues.' "
Increasingly, she says, younger people think in terms of immediategratification. "More so than ever, kids are getting what they want,when they want it, and without a lot of effort."
But that's not the reality in most work environments, as Meganpoints out. That's why it's important not to get ahead of yourself—totrust the journey and know that you are where you're supposed to be."Working your way up is part of the process. When I was just startingout in the business, I was so focused on getting that huge market jobright away. I was disappointed in myself for not getting to my destinationimmediately. What I didn't realize was that I was paying my dues fora reason. Had I landed that big market job right out of college, there'sno doubt in my mind that I would have lost it just as fast. I needed tostart in a smaller market so I could make mistakes and learn from them."Megan says that she came very close to landing a job in Los Angelesafter only a couple of years in TV news. "I was devastated whenit went to someone else, but I now know that I wasn't ready for it. Itwould have been a total disaster."
The fallout from the GM story cost a number of people their jobs,including the head of NBC News, Michael Gartner. Before returningto his home in Iowa, he thanked me for helping him managethe story, and graciously told me that I would succeed at whateverI did. He wished me well.
I thought I was safe at NBC, part of the family. I had done agood job handling the GM story. I even talked to the new executiveproducer of Dateline about switching jobs and becoming a bookeron the show that I loved. He said he liked the idea and would runit by the new president of NBC News, Andy Lack, a well–respectedveteran in the industry who was hired with much fanfare to restoreconfidence in the news division.
And that's when it happened.
I got a call from a human resources representative who told meto report to Lack's office. When I walked in, he was sitting in hisbig leather chair. He didn't get up to greet me.
Not a good sign.
He clasped his hands behind his head, leaned back in his bigleather chair, and told me that anytime someone takes over a companyor a division, he or she wants to put his or her own mark onthings—new protocols, new processes, and a new team.The light dawned. "Are you firing me?" I interrupted.
He replied, "You have thirty minutes to leave the building."Just as I did for the network with the Dateline story, I went intospin mode—this time for myself. Thinking on my feet, I told him hewas making a terrible mistake, and I listed the reasons. Talk to anyoneinternally or externally, I said, and you'll hear what a great asset Iam, that I really know my stuff, and that I'm totally devoted to NBC.He looked at his watch.
Changing gears, I asked him to give me a chance to prove myself."Give me three things to accomplish in three weeks, three months—whatever time frame you want—to prove myself directly to you."
All I wanted, I said, was to stay at NBC News.
He listened, cold, devoid of emotion.
It was clear that I was not going to keep my job. As I stoodup to walk out of his office—trying desperately not to burst intotears—his parting words of wisdom were, "Tory, it's a big worldout there, and I suggest you go explore it."
I walked out in shock. My world as I had known it had come toan end. I thought my career was over. I didn't even get to pack upmy office. It was done for me and my boxes were messengered tomy apartment later that day.
I walked to my apartment, climbed into my pajamas and threwmyself a good old–fashioned pity party, catered by Häagen–Dazs.The entertainment? Daytime TV, long conversations with my momin Florida, and lots of sleepless nights filled with self–doubt.I was embarrassed, humiliated, and just plain scared. Word travelsquickly in the world of network news publicity. I felt as if I could hearthe whispers of "Tory got fired" down the hallways of NBC. ExceptI didn't—no whispers, no gossip, no words of encouragement—because my phone didn't ring. I can count on the fingers of one handhow many of my so–called "friends" reached out to me. Ouch.Not long after, I got a kind e-mail from a former colleague,who is one of the classiest women I've ever met: Maria Shriver,now California's first lady but back then a correspondent for NBCNews, based in Los Angeles.
She told me that I probably wouldn't believe it now—nor wouldI want to hear it—but that in no time I'd look back and realize thatthis was one of the best things that ever happened to me.I deleted the message—angrily. How could this successful, rich,powerful Kennedy girl, the gorgeous wife of a movie star, knowhow I felt? What did she know about having the carpet ripped outfrom under her, about being afraid where the next month's rentwould come from?
But there's a reason Maria succeeds at whatever she does. She'sno dummy. After the benefit of some distance—okay, a lot of distance—I realized she was absolutely right. This was indeed thebest thing that could have happened to me.
Yet at that moment, I was still too hurt and bitter to grasp herwell–meaning thought. And it was those same feelings that stoppedme from picking up the phone and calling the friends and colleagueswho could help me get back into the game.
Blah: "All my friends were work friends."
Ah!: "True friends stand by me in good times and bad.This is the perfect time to realize who they really are."
Instead, my pity party turned into a misery marathon formonths, financed by my severance pay, unemployment benefits,and my cashed–out 401(k)—something only someone in her twentieswould think was a great idea.
Wallow for a Day, Then Move On
Radio psychologist Joy Browne says she was fired twice in her life andthat in both cases it was the best thing.
"It never feels that way at the time, and everybody can say to you'doors open, doors close.' It's true—but it's not the least bit comforting,"Joy told WomenForHire.com.
"When you get fired the immediate response is just to feel horribleby yourself for maybe about twenty–four hours; you know, wallow in itand then take a deep breath and figure out why," she says."If someone will tell you why you got fired if you don't know, that'svery helpful," she says. "Talking to the person who fired you, certainlyin an exit interview, the most important thing to do is to say, 'Couldyou tell me what I could do differently next time?' Sometimes therereally are things we do that could be changed, and that's at least valuableto know. The more we know, the less likely we are to say, 'I'm a rottenperson, no one will ever love me again, I will never work again.' "
With a cool $23,000 in my checking account, going to the ATMdidn't feel so scary. That is, until rent payments, retail therapy, andmore than a few cash withdrawals whittled away at those five figures.I could see that my out–of–work windfall wasn't going to last forever.But before I continue with my tale, let's talk for a minute about whatmay be happening to you.
About to Get a Pink Slip?
If you sense that layoffs are coming in your shop, you may not beable to avoid the ax, but you can prepare for the severance possibilities.If you're part of a mass layoff, your bargaining power is diminishedbecause the employer will have a predetermined package foreveryone based largely on length of service. If, however, you workfor a small company or you're one of only a few being let go, youcan—and should—have a say in what you leave with.Severance typically includes cash compensation, which maycome in a lump sum payout or the continuation of salary for aspecified time frame, benefits, property, and outplacement services.Consider each one carefully before agreeing to anything.
There's no precise formula for determining a cash payout. Someemployers will offer one to two weeks' pay for every year youworked at the company. Others will offer a firm amount, say, twoweeks' pay total, for everyone. Commissions or bonuses that wouldbe coming due may be included in your payout. Unused vacationtime can be converted to cash if you're being terminated before youcan make use of the time you earned.
A quick story: I heard from a woman who negotiated for anextra week of vacation after her second year at the company. Whenthat anniversary came, she went to HR to get that bonus week onthe books. The HR person told her that she had to wait anotheryear, citing "company policy." Luckily, she had her e–mail automaticallysaved in her e–mail program's archive, including the messageagreeing to that extra week after year two—sent to her by thesame HR person, coincidentally. She decided not to make a fussbecause she wasn't planning on using the time just then. Not longafter this conversation, the woman was part of a department–widelayoff. When she discussed severance with her manager, she askedto have her extra week of vacation converted to cash. The managersaid she needed proof of the promise, which was on her companycomputer. The problem: She was now locked out of that very computer.She lost the proof and the cash. The lesson: Print hard copiesof every promise you receive—bonuses, vacation time, and promotions.Store the printouts at home for safe keeping.
The biggest benefit is an extension of your medical coverage, paidby the company, especially because COBRA is very expensive. Pushhard for an employer–paid extension so you're not stuck footingthe hefty bill nor are you without coverage. If your employer haspaid for other benefits—a gym membership, life insurance, tuition,or cell phone bills—those may be extended too if you negotiate.
Do you use a company–provided BlackBerry, computer, or car? Severanceagreements may include an extension of access to this property.
Many large companies offer outplacement services, especially aspart of a large layoff. It includes expert assistance with preparingfor your next job. Popular services include résumé writing, jobsearch coaching, mock interviewing, and retraining.
Your employer may not offer any of this. It's up to you to askfor it. So when you get the bad news, don't sign anything. Instead,ask immediately for a copy of the severance package. Find out howmuch time you have to review the offer before responding. Treatthat deadline seriously, but don't allow anyone to rush you.You may have plenty of clout to ask for—and receive—morethan what's offered. This includes additional cash, an extensionof company–paid insurance, and use of property that's valuable toyou. Among the points to consider when asking for extra: Did you leave a prestigious position to accept this one? Referenceany personal or professional sacrifice you made to jointhe company.
Have you been an exceptional employee? Strong performancemay justify a few extra parting dollars.
Will your help be needed beyond your last day? You canagree to help transition your work to a remaining staffer. Perhapsyou offer to be on call for a month if questions arise thatyou're best qualified to answer in exchange for an extensionof pay and benefits.
Are you being asked to sign a waiver? In exchange for promisingnot to sue the company or talk publicly about yourexperiences, you can ask for extra money. If your managerdoesn't want to read a blog or a book (think The Devil WearsPrada) about your experiences, he or she may readily agree tosweeten the severance in exchange for your silence.
Depending on the company and your role, ask about continuingin a freelance or consulting capacity to assist with a transition.This compensation should be in addition to—not in lieu of—yournegotiated severance.
This is also the time to ask for a letter of recommendation fromyour boss. You can also ask the HR department to provide a letterconfirming your dates of employment and indicating that you werepart of a reduction in force, left the company in good standing,and are eligible for rehire.
The more they ask of you, the more you can demand of them.Keep track of your unused vacation or other accrued benefitsbecause they may not, which means you'll have to bring it up. Stayup to date on media coverage of layoffs to find out the latest severancepackages offered in your industry or your area. Talk to friendswho've been through this and ask for a referral to a reputable laborlawyer if you believe you have a claim for more than what's beingoffered. Don't allow the emotion of the moment to paralyze yourconfidence in speaking up. The power is in your hands to get themost money before you turn in that ID badge.
For many people, the cost of COBRA to extend their health insurancecoverage after a layoff is prohibitively expensive. If you're concernedabout losing coverage, check with your state about less–expensivealternatives or visit ehealthinsurance.com. Some coverage is betterthan none at all. Nobody ever thinks he or she will get sick or havean accident, but when those unexpected events happen, uninsuredpeople risk financial ruin. Safeguard yourself.
You may also be able to negotiate fees with doctors and pharmaciesif you're no longer covered by a plan. At your doctor's office,before receiving treatment, ask about a discount for payment and areduction in the standard fee because you're uninsured. When visitingyour local pharmacy, explain that your coverage has changedand ask about special programs that provide significant savings.
Sock It Away
If you're like most Americans, you've always lived paycheck topaycheck, which can mean sudden shock when the money stops.There's no greater fear than not knowing how you'll keep a roofover your head, the lights on, and food in the fridge.
Even if you've never paid particular attention to money matters,now is not the time to turn a blind eye. Financial panic will negativelyaffect your job search and could lead you to make bad decisions.Ask yourself these money questions. Turning the answers intoaction will ease an already stressful situation.
What am I owed? File for unemployment immediately (accuracyand honesty are the keys to avoiding a delay or denialof benefits) and pay particular attention to eligibility requirementsin your state for emergency extensions in case it runsout before you've found a new job. Calculate this along withthe amount and duration of any severance pay, including continuationof benefits.
What do I have? Make a list of the account balances for all ofyour assets. No matter how big or small, jot down the valueof savings; checking and investment accounts; and 401(k),IRA, or other retirement accounts. Also make note of theamount of available credit on your credit cards and homeequity account. Even though tapping into retirement fundsis not recommended because of penalties, you should knowwhat you have in case of a financial emergency.
What do I owe? Now focus on the flip side. Make a list ofyour monthly expenses in order of priority. Divide the listinto two columns: necessities and nonessentials. Rent ormortgage, utilities, food, health insurance, gas, and car andother loan payments are likely to be your must–haves, whileclothing, premium cable, and entertainment are not.Depending on severance or unemployment benefits, it's likelythat while out of work, your monthly expenses may exceed yourmonthly income. What to do?
Cut costs. Obviously dining out isn't an option when you'renot bringing in the bacon. And the cuts should go deeper.Examine your bills to figure out where you can trim anyexcess. If you're paying for extra features on your phone orcable bill, downgrade now. Avoid canceling insurance at allcosts, but consider downgrading the policy as an option ifyou're seriously short on funds.
Conserve cash. Consider making minimum monthly paymentson outstanding balances to hang on to as much cashas possible. Before making any new purchase, wait at least24 hours before deciding if you really need it. Everythingmust go through the want versus need scrutiny. Steer clearof situations in which you know you'll be tempted to spendmoney that you can ill–afford at this time. When a pal suggestsa get–together for an afternoon at the mall, counter witha couple hours of strolling in the park.
Contact creditors. Ignoring the bills and avoiding contactwith creditors is guaranteed to result in penalties. Instead,call to explain your temporary circumstances and negotiatepayment options. This may include delayed billing, loweringmonthly minimums, adjusting an interest rate, and evenextending credit limits.
For one–on–one assistance with finances, contact the NationalFoundation for Credit Counseling, an association of nonprofitcredit counselors (nfcc.org).
Hold the Excuses
Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts says that she once camehome after failing to get a job she wanted and complained to her parentsthat it was because she's black.
That didn't sit well with her parents—her dad was a Tuskegee airman,the first black military air corps, her mom was the first black personon the Mississippi State board of education.
"They were like, 'Sit down, missy girl! We love you, we think you're terrific, but you've got to realize you might not be good enough yet. Don'tever say it's because you're black or a woman. Don't look for excuses.' "Robin says that this little chat has stuck with her over the years. "Inever have looked to make excuses or find faults in others. I just try tobe the best that I can be.
"As women, we have a lesser degree margin of error," says Robin. "Ican't tell you how many times I've been places and they hired a black or awoman and for whatever reason that person didn't work out. And they'relike, 'Oh well, we tried, so we're not going to do that for a while.' And Iwould say, 'How many white men did you hire and that didn't work out,but that didn't prevent you from hiring, you know, another white man?' "Don't be consumed with wanting to be liked, Robin says. "Aswomen we want someone to like us. Yeah, I do too. But you just haveto have thick skin. Do not look for excuses."
Own Up to Reality
Back to my story. With my money dwindling and precious timewasting away, I had to quit assigning blame for my unemployment.I had to find a way to finally shake my unresolved anger—theintense, force–10 frustration I felt at being so rudely dismissed bymy former family. I needed a vehicle to blow off steam, lots of it,once and for all.
The answer came to me out of the blue. I'd take a cue from theDear John letters by out–of–love women, and I'd write a Dear Andyletter from an out–of–work woman. And I really let him have it.
You're a jerk.
As the new boss, you have every right to clean house andfire me. But the way you did it—with a dismissive smirk as youbarely gave me five minutes to make my case—is forever searedinto my memory.
I will never forget how you reclined in that leather chair,hands clasped behind your balding head, as I—a terrified 22–-year–old publicist in my first real job—fought to stay at a companyI considered heaven on earth.
"Tory, it's a big world out there, and I suggest you exploreit," you said.
I have no other choice now, do I? But you had a choice inthe way you treated me. Just because you have the clout to hireand fire doesn't mean you have to do it so coldly and cruelly.Your arrogance astounds me.
I can't help think of the scene in Broadcast News, wherethe creepy suit asks the guy he just fired if there's anything hecan do for him.
"Well," says the man, "I certainly hope you die soon."I don't wish that on you or anyone. But I do wish that whathappened to me happens to you someday.
Mean people like you always get theirs in the end, but itoften takes a while. I hope it happens to you real soon. And Iwouldn't mind being there to see it.
Not bad, eh? Wait till I tell you what happened when he got thenote. You'll freak.
Actually, no you won't, because I never sent it. But that doesn'tmean it didn't feel good—really good—getting that anger off mychest.
I still have the missive, tucked away in a safe place, not to hold onto my fury but as a reminder that it's okay to be angry when you'retreated badly and to never, ever treat someone with such disrespect.Writing a letter to the person who fired you—or who wasresponsible for your being fired—is an easy and effective way ofmaking you feel better and stops you from spewing that antibossvenom to the very people who may help you get that new job.
Blah: "No job, no money, no hope."
Ah!: "New life, new energy, new way to focus on what Ireally want to do."
I learned a few valuable lessons from my abrupt exit—uh, termination.Here are some of them:
ALL JOBS ARE TEMPORARY
Even though we think of ourselves as permanent staffers, nobodyholds on to the same role forever. All of our positions are somewhattemporary. At some point—whether by choice or circumstance—itis time to move on. Sometimes that happens sooner than we wouldhave liked or we're stunned by the suddenness of the change, but inthe grand scheme of things it shouldn't be unexpected.
LIFE ISN'T FAIR, AND NEITHER ARE COMPANIES
Sometimes you can do everything right and still lose your job.New bosses want to bring in their own teams or old bosses thinkthat by letting some people go they'll shake up the office. Thesooner you accept that simple workplace truth, the sooner you'llget over the shock of getting fired. Another truth even moreimportant to remember: You may have lost your job, but you'llalways retain your talent. And with that talent, you can get backon your feet.
MAKE THE MOST OF THIS SITUATION
But sometimes making the best of it is the only thing you can do. It'sstill hard to admit this—even to myself—but Lack actually did me afavor. Working for someone so disrespectful and dismissive of yourtalents can have an adverse effect on your life and career. Just as youshould end a toxic personal relationship, you should get out of anunhealthy working relationship. If you are undervalued and unappreciatedfor what you bring to your workplace, it's time to move on.Vice President Joe Biden tells a story about his father, whoworked a variety of jobs to support his wife and four children.At one point Joe Senior was employed by an auto dealer wholiked to reward his employees with silver dollars. At a companyChristmas party, the boss dumped a bucket of silver dollars onthe dance floor and watched as his workers scurried to pick upthe coins. Joe Senior left the party, his family in tow. He neverreturned to his job at the dealership.
His rationale: A job is not supposed to be degrading. It's supposedto be rewarding.
"That's how you come to believe, to the very core of yourbeing, that work is more than a paycheck," Senator Biden said inhis speech accepting the Democratic vice–presidential nominationlast year. "It's dignity. It's respect."
Even if you still have a job, you may be one of the hundredsof thousands referred to as the walking wounded—you're stillemployed or you're underemployed, but the terms have changed.Reduced hours, pay cuts, and forced unpaid vacations or furloughsare putting the squeeze on your compensation. And while you'reno doubt appreciative of that paycheck in these tough times, evenas it shrinks, it's high time to kick your job search into full gear.
DON'T BAD-MOUTH YOUR FORMER BOSS
If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. Fight theimpulse to tell everyone within earshot what a jerk your ex–boss isbecause, fair or not, trash talking your former employer reflects badlyon you, not him or her. So vent your anger in a Dear Andy letter ofyour own. You'll find a place to write yours at the end of this chapter,along with a little help to get you started. When you need to talk aboutyour hurt feelings or your fears for the future, confide in a trustedfamily member or friend. It may take a day, a week, a month or evena few months to get there, but once you make that cognitive shift anddecide to permanently move on, I promise life will get better. It's thefirst step in restoring your confidence and ego—two things you willneed when you seriously and effectively look for a new job.
Just Do Your Job
Whenever anyone asks Good Morning America Radio host Hilarie Barskyabout work advice, something her dad told her early in her careercomes to mind.
"He was a tough guy who was very respectful of hard work," shesays, and he urged her to "avoid petty office politics, gossip, and otherpeople's drama."
" 'Don't put your angst on others, don't let their angst rub off onyou, and don't be bogged down by all of their stuff,' " says Hilarie,whose program airs on XM Satellite Radio.
Another bit of advice from her dad: "Go to work. Do a good job.Get your money. And get the #$@#$ out of there."
She took his words to heart. "I resist the urge to respond in themoment, and I'm not a confrontational person," she says. "I won't go titfor tat when someone else gets moody or frustrated. I'll bite my tongue."
Silence Can Be Golden
During her early years as a writer, Joanne Gordon felt she had to proveto others what she knew.
That was ironic, the former Forbes staffer says, "since there was somuch I did not know."
As a result, Joanne says she probably "did more talking than listeningin interviews, in meetings, and in performance reviews. I not onlymissed opportunities to grow, but I'm sure I failed to impress. I wish Iknew that it is okay not to have answers, or to voice them if I did."No one ever told her that she was talking too much, but one dayshe heard someone say that whenever she heard herself talking shestopped because it was a clue she'd gone on too long. "I adoptedit for myself. When I did talk less nothing was lost, only gained. Less ismore."
These days, Joanne says she embraces her ignorance. "Then I ask,listen, and learn. And the moment I hear myself talking too much, I tryto shut up."
Get on Your Way
Now it's time to get to work. Here are some tips to start you off onyour path toward securing a new job. Write these tips down andpost them on the fridge or the bathroom mirror—any place whereyou will see them every day.
DO NOT PANIC
Getting anxious about what you perceive as a hopeless, dismal situationor your inability to find a job is counterproductive. Nip it. Itonly increases your stress level—the last thing you need right now.
Stay calm and in control of your emotions, because a levelheadedyou is much more effective than a frantic, frazzled you.
SET THAT ALARM
Like to stay up late and sleep past noon? Great! That's what weekendsare for. During the week, you have a new gig—it's called"Find a Job," and you have to get out of bed in the morning to do it.Now you're working for the most important client you'll ever have:you. Also, you don't want to miss a phone call from a prospectiveemployer because you were asleep, nor do you want to answer thatphone with a groggy voice because an HR person woke you up.This is not a vacation; this is the time to dedicate yourself to findingsomething better for you and your life.
PUNCH THE CLOCK
It's natural to goof off while job hunting but it's important toapproach your job search like a professional. That means puttingyourself on a regular schedule. Wake up early, shower, get dressed,and have breakfast, just as you would do if you were heading outto an office. Map out a period of time each day—I recommend aminimum of four hours—during which you do nothing but makenetworking calls and follow–ups, check online job boards, or meetprofessional connections. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplishin as little as four hours a day. By focusing on your job search asintently as you would a job, you're more likely to reach your goals.
GET OFF YOUR BUTT
Pounding the pavement is not the same thing as doing cardio.While plotting your new workday, pencil in some time for exercise,even if this isn't part of your old routine. Exercise will give youadded energy, enable you to blow off steam, and help you avoiddepression. An hour at the gym, a brisk walk in the park with yourdog or a friend, or some downward dog in your living room willrecharge your body and spirit.
KEEP A JOB JOURNAL
Buy a lined notebook to maintain a job journal dedicated to yoursearch. On those pages, make note of at least three specific thingsyou do each day toward finding a job. Keep track of the people youmeet, paying particular attention to any required follow-up. Sincesuccessful job searching is broken down into regular and continuousbaby steps that lead to the giant goal of getting hired, all ofthese entries will enable you to monitor your progress. Skippingdays only delays your ability to cross the finish line.
End every day by reflecting on one thing that went right on thejob-search front. Sometimes the victories may seem awfully small,and that's perfectly acceptable. You made a cold call and the voiceat the other end was friendly. You sent an introductory email toa new contact and it wasn't returned "undeliverable." You addeda new connection on your LinkedIn profile. Woo hoo! Don't belittlethose moments. Instead, claim them with a smile. Every stepcounts and it's those teeny weeny triumphs that will result in thebig payoff.
DON'T IGNORE THE PAIN
Loss of income can wreak havoc not only on your finances but alsoon your self–esteem. Men can be especially hard hit. If you wereaccustomed to being the main breadwinner, it can be emotionallycrippling to admit to your family and friends that you're now outof work. Add to that the pain of not being able to take care ofyour loved ones financially. If these feelings are bottled up insideand they're causing friction among you and those closest to you,consider seeking professional help. If you still have access to youremployee assistance program, you may be eligible for free confidential counseling. If not, contact your local Career One Stop Centeror even a public or county hospital to ask for a free or low–costreferral. Until you take care of your mental health, it's difficult toput your best self forward in the job search.
For most of her career, Working Mother Media president Carol Evansbelieved that worrying about the problems at work was a necessarypart of business life.
"I worried about everything," she says. "How would we reach budget? What if the CEO wouldn't fund my big idea? What would happenif my ad director quit? Is that new competitor going to ruin everything? What if no one shows up for our event?"
It was exhausting, Carol recalls, but necessary because if she didn'tworry about everything, important things would fall through thecracks. "I convinced myself that not only was worry necessary, no, itwas the secret key to my flourishing career."
Then about 10 years ago she met executive coach Mary LynneHeldmann.
"I was telling her a few of my business problems and she was tellingme how to handle them from a psychological perspective," Carolsays. "The problems wouldn't really be solved by strategy and energyand proposals. They needed to be solved by finding a new and differentstrength inside myself."
Over the next year Carol worked with Mary Lynne on manyissues. "It took a while for me to embrace the opposite of worry—confidence—and to see that I could get much more accomplishedwith confidence than with worry."
Today, Carol credits Mary Lynne for helping her buy WorkingMother Media and run it for seven years before selling it to the BonnierCorp.
"It certainly wasn't worry that allowed me to do that," she says. "Itwas my strong sense of confidence—and sharing my executive coachwith my management team."
BE PREPARED FOR REJECTION
I advised a job seeker to get contacts from the alumni associationof his MBA program. The first phone call he made—after heintroduced himself and mentioned the connection—was greetedwith, "Just because we went to the same school doesn't mean I havetime for you." This guy was so horrified that he dashed off a snippyletter to me for giving him the advice and refused to make any morecold calls. All this based on one bad call. You can't be afraid of coldcalling; it can cost you many good opportunities. Be prepared forrude people to reject you, to let your calls go to voicemail, to hangup on you. It's all part of the process, and it can be very upsetting,but you can't let it get to you. Just pick up the phone.
Take Criticism in Stride
Years ago, before she became one of television's biggest news stars,ABC's Diane Sawyer walked into an TV station in her hometown ofLouisville, Kentucky, and asked for an on–air job.
"They said I wasn't polished enough to be on television news," she told WomenForHire.com. "It's funny, every time I run into the guy who said that to me he just rolls his eyes and says, 'Don't tell anybody!'"
Being told that you're not the right woman for the job—or thatyou're bad in your current job—is tough to hear, Diane says."The first few times it happens, you're just devastated," she says. "Itjust seems so mortally wounding."
In her early years, when she was unsure of her TV skills, rejectionand criticism hurt.
"When I would be criticized for looking icy or of seeming like asnow princess, I would think, 'Well, it's not entirely wrong because I'mnot myself on TV.' I didn't know how to be myself on TV. I was still toonervous and green, so that was wounding because it was true."
But as Diane became sure of herself, she learned to take criticism instride. "You discover this funny thing happens, and as you go throughlife and it happens off and on, you feel it less."
For Diane, the litmus test rests in the validity of the critique. "If Idon't think it's true, then it doesn't get through my radar. I don't evennotice it."
ENGAGE IN A STRATEGIC ACTIVITY
Prospective employers and other professionals you meet will askhow you're spending your time. You'll want to have somethingsmart to share with them. Two options: Enroll in a course that willsupport your skills development or introduce you to a new field.Another idea is to identify a worthy volunteer initiative and committo long–term service. You should focus your time on a cause that'saligned with your career interests or in a capacity that relates toyour career. For example, if you're in technology, volunteer for anorganization that brings technology to underserved public schoolsor give your time to a homeless group that needs a technology proto help with its internal back–office needs.
SET MINI GOALS
Job searching is a marathon, not a sprint. You won't nab the bigprize overnight, so don't torture yourself trying. While it's importantto be optimistic every day, you want to sprinkle that witha healthy dose of reality. If you wake up each morning obsessedabout getting hired that day, you'll go to sleep each night feelinglike a failure. But if you set mini goals—making five cold calls, followingup on several résumés, and so on—you'll stand tall, pleasedwith your accomplishments.
If there is a single self–help or motivational book out there that doesnot mention rewarding yourself for a job well done, then I have yetto find it. Looking for work is often long and hard, and there areelements of it that can be degrading as well. So it's important toset some goals and list rewards when you achieve them. Land abig interview? Treat yourself to a free career makeover at Sephora.You may even decide it's worth investing a few bucks to spruce upyour look. Send out 10 résumés? Have dinner with a friend at yourfavorite "cheap eats" restaurant. Hit 10 cold calls? Order in Nineto Five from Netflix. You get the drill. Rewards need not be expensive,but the feeling you'll have when you reach one of your goals ispriceless. And make sure to share your achievements with supportivefamily members and friends, who can help cheer you on.
REPEAT AFTER ME
I used to dismiss the power of positive thinking as some hokey gimmick.I was especially suspicious when my daughter, Emma, ended ayoga lesson and kept muttering, "I am strong, and I hold the power."But week after week, she'd stand taller and prouder—and evenlouder—when repeating the refrain at the direction of her instructor.Emma had a bounce in her step and felt good about herself. Monthslater as she'd struggle with a homework assignment, I'd overhear hersaying, "I am strong, and I hold the power." Just those words—andsaying them out loud—helped her get through a challenge. I watchedEmma have her Blah to Ah! moment. Now it's your turn.Time to download "Good Riddance" by Green Day or "Survivor"by Destiny's Child and start writing a Dear Andy letter of yourown. In the box below, you'll find Mad Libs–style assistance. Trustme, you'll feel better before the song is over.
Dear _______ [ ex–boss' name],
You are a _______ [descriptive word you'd never say in front ofyour mother].
I have worked for _______ [the name of the company] for_______ [number of years], often putting my job before mypersonal life.
I became used to your refusal to _______ [a verb thatshows appreciation] my efforts and your lack of _______[respect, praise, or anything positive] and complete disregardfor _______ [anything from your feelings to the good of thecompany].
But I never thought you would fire me.
If you only knew what it was like to listen to your _______[again, something that mom would not approve of], day afterday, forced to follow your _______ [something juicy about theboss' lame–brained ideas] that were not only _______ [nastyadjective] but _______ [even worse adjective], you would be_______ [how you felt when you first realized your boss was ajerk]. I certainly was, at first.
But as the years passed, I realized that _______ [somethingpetty your boss prized] and _______ [something even pettier]were more important to you than getting the job done well.
Despite that, I continued to work hard to fulfill the company'spromise.
Clearly, _______ [anything from shared achievement tosuccess] is not on your agenda. Your expectations are _______[unreasonable? impossible? You get the idea], your manner_______ [time to make mom ashamed once again].I see my firing as evidence that you are a _______ [failure,fool, flop—or another choice f–word] as an employer, unableto _______ [inspire? appreciate? recognize?] people who arededicated to their work.
In the words of the immortal Joni Mitchell, "You don'tknow what you've got till it's gone."
With no regrets and in all sincerity,_______ [your name!]
What Comes Around…;
Cosmetics queen Bobbi Brown is known around the world but therewas a time when she couldn't even get a job at a cosmetics counter."I tried to get a job doing makeup at Marshall Fields in Chicago,"Bobbi told WomenForHire.com. "I wanted to be a makeup artist at thecounter, and they rejected me, which I let them know when they comeinto my office wanting to carry my cosmetics. That's always a big joke."
It won't be easy, but I promise you'll find success faster witha positive attitude than with negativity guiding your days. You'llface numerous challenges in the weeks and months ahead, butyou'll come out stronger and more resilient than ever, if you maintainthat smile and stiff upper lip. Nobody likes a grumpy person,so you may have to force yourself since a positive, upbeat attitudeis a must. Now let's get going!