For somewhat more money, you can join a nearby branch of the Five o'clock Club or the Forty Plus Club. These clubs are meant specifically for mid-career people out of work. The National Business Employment Weekly, which is published by The Wall Street Journal and available at newsstands and libraries throughout the country, supplies regional listings of these clubs and their activities.
Contact the placement office of your college, university, or professional school. Many placement offices provide services to alums. These range from career planning workshops and counseling to job listings. Also see what your nearest alumni association has to offer. Now is a good time to join the association, if you haven't already, and to become active in local events if any take place near you. Networking is an important part of finding out what organizations have what kind of openings, as well as in getting your foot in the door for interviews.
Read more and spend lots of time at bookstores and libraries. Read everything you can find on the topic of anger. Harriet Lerner's The Dance of Anger is particularly helpful and readable. It is better at providing advice on anger in personal relationships than on workplace anger. However, you will probably feel more anger in personal relationships as a result of the stress and anger caused by losing your job, so now is a good time to learn about handling anger in all relationships. Don't be put off by the fact that it is written specifically for women; virtually every insight is as valid for men as for women.
While you're at the library looking at anger books or checking out workshops for job seekers, find out whether your library has a special collection of materials on jobs and careers. Many libraries do, and some also have librarians who are specialists in locating information relevant to finding jobs.
Seek a helping relationship
Helping relationships come in many varieties and prices. But most psychological helping relationships offer emotional support, expertise in defining and solving problems in relationships, and aid in changing problematic behavior through a dialog focused on you, the client. Explicit payment of money for the therapist's or counselors time rather than implicit exchange of emotional, communicational, material, physical, sexual, and intellectual favors forms the basis of reciprocity between client and helper.
If at all possible, get counseling as part of your severance package and negotiate for the right to select your own counselor. Best of all, get an allowance for outplacement services that you can spend as you wish. This approach will give you the widest latitude for finding a counselor, therapist, or coach (you may want to consult all three during vocational transitions) whom you find helpful and compelling.
Join a professional organization
If you hold memberships in professional organizations or associations, maintain them; if not, learn about those in your field and join one or more of them. If you are contemplating a career change, join a professional organization in the field you are considering. Professional associations are valuable sources of information and connections for people launching new careers. The Encyclopedia of Associations (Detroit: Gale Research) provides a comprehensive listing of professional and trade associations in the United States and can be found in most large libraries.
Now, while you are underemployed, is a good time for active participation as opposed to passive membership. When engaged in full time jobs, many people don't have time to serve on committees, attend special functions, write for newsletters, or become involved in the administrative activities that keep professional associations going. In fact, if you are concerned about the cost of maintaining membership while unemployed, you may be able to provide services in lieu of fees.
Participate in community affairs and voluntary activities
Many people also complain of having no time for church affairs, involvement in local schools, or participation in a variety of voluntary activities while employed in a demanding professional or managerial position. Well, you no longer have that excuse! The benefits of participation are many and varied; here are some that clients have related to me:
- Tom B., a systems analyst terminated when the small firm for which he worked was purchased by a larger company, volunteered to help make and serve meals to homeless people at a local synagogue. He said it helped him feel better about himself because it demonstrated his ability to make a valuable contribution to society, a far more valuable contribution, in fact, said he, than he had been making on his former job. He continued to volunteer after securing another job.
- Nancy F., a securities broker busted from her job after the 1987 stock market crash, got her first paid consulting project as a result of helping her alma mater review its portfolio of financial holdings. Another member of the review committee was so impressed by the quality of her work that he asked her to help him review and manage his family's portfolio. Now Nancy has another brokerage job, but she was able to weather a long period of unemployment because of the financial and psychic boost provided by both paid and unpaid consulting projects.
- Marty H., who lost his position as executive vice president in a bloody corporate battle of succession when the CEO died, became a mentor to a class of sixth graders. He helped them with homework, listened when they had problems with playmates or family, arranged for field trips to companies in the region, and encouraged them when they showed special interest in a particular subject or sport. Meanwhile, as a result of these activities, Marty realized that one of the things he had most enjoyed about his former job was his role as mentor, teacher, and guide to younger managers. Instead of returning to executive life, he returned to school and is preparing to teach management to graduate students of business.
As we have seen, anger can reinforce the status quo in relationships; this is true whether they be work relationships or personal relationships. If you direct your anger about termination at the rotten boss who fired you or who failed to protect you during the organizational battles that raged when costs were being cut, you are contributing to a wasteful and brutal status quo.
You rage internally, externally, or both at your "rotten boss" as the person to blame for your termination. Perhaps you have great fun with the letter writing exercise, pointing out to him or her numerous inconsistencies, poor judgment calls, downright in competencies, and ethical lapses. Maybe you indulge in fantasies of revenge. One client reported to me persistent fantasies of letting the air out of the tires of every grey, 1989 Lincoln Continental she saw because her boss had driven one. Another imagined secretly tape recording staff meetings at his ad agency and sending them to clients expletives and snide asides about clients undeleted. Over the years, I've collected many more accounts of revenge fantasies and activities than I have room to list here.
Revenge fantasies and guerrilla activities aimed at individuals can be extremely amusing and quite clever. They can also be extremely satisfying emotionally, at least in the short run. But revenge especially directed at individuals who are themselves caught in an oppressive corporate culture doesn't change the status quo in any significant way. In truth, powerful organizations can more easily maintain their privileged positions versus employees when employees implicitly protect organizations from serious critical examination by blaming other individuals for corporate misdeeds.
Termination is rarely, if ever, simply a personal matter, much as we may be encouraged to view ourselves or individual bosses as the culprits. So, direct some of your anger energy toward learning more about and becoming active in the legal and political issues related to employment termination.
Do you know whether you live in an "at will" state? Do you know where your elected representatives stand on the issue of extending unemployment benefits? Have you ever written or called one of your elected representatives on any issue? Are the budgets of job information centers in your local libraries being cut while "your tax dollars are at work" for the third summer in a row on the same segment of interstate highway and you can't detect any improvement?
Aristotle's understanding of anger as a response to perceived injustice suggests that anger may serve an important function in society. Far from being a problematic physiological anachronism, anger may be an important safeguard of community life in a modern society increasingly dominated by huge, bureaucratic organizations. Anger alerts us to possible injustice and gives us the energy to combat it. When we are able as individuals to connect with other individuals who share a cause for anger, we can combat the sense of isolation and powerlessness that job loss often evokes.