How to Start Over After Losing Your Career (& Be Happier as a Result)

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

I felt like puking. I felt like crying. I felt like screaming.

I felt like banging my fists against my head but could only hold them close to my heart.

  • I had been laid off from my job … for a second time.
  • Lower-ranking jobs in my industry were replaced by automation or had been outsourced out of the country.
  • I had lost the crucial re-entry points into the industry in which I had worked for decades.

I hadn’t lost a job … I had lost a career.

The Humiliating Result of a Shift in the Business Environment

Do you know what happens to an unemployed middle-aged man? It isn’t pretty.

  • I stayed indoors because of shame.
  • I let inbound calls go to voicemail during the daytime.
  • I wore suits when I did go out, as dressing casually during the daytime was too painful to bear.

I had fixed my entire identity on being a fixture within my industry. I had worked in the finance industry for my entire adult life. And my ego had shriveled into a weird psychological voodoo doll. Why? I was no longer validated with a salary and the security that came from that salary.

In a word, I was devastated.

How Your Career Can Kill Your Dreams

I had never actually aspired to a career in finance. I was going to live an adventure and tell stories. I dreamed of being a writer.

I was counseled to have a backup plan — advice which I accepted. I took a job after graduating from college and one thing led to another. I was always about to try my hand at story-telling when I would receive a promotion and a raise, so I would delay my dream again.

The money was gratifying for someone that had grown up in a lower middle-class family. The satisfaction that I felt from being regularly promoted became addictive. I may not have been doing what I loved but I liked being recognized for my climb in social status.

Yet I paid a high price.

My identity became a secondary consideration behind my corporate identity. My time was not my own. I worked long hours on the job.

I loved the beaches of Southern California. Yet I was forced to live in the suburbs away from the beach because I needed reasonable access to the commercial center of town. That reasonable access was a somewhat typical Los Angeles commute of 1.5 hours … each way.

Why was I devastated? I had measured myself with someone else’s ruler and had come up short. I had not believed in my dream and was paying the price.

How to Take Charge of Your Career Recovery

The biggest mistake I have made is to think that my future must be an extension of my past. I am more than the sum of my previous experiences and so are you. One of your vulnerabilities may be that you have no passion for the work you do. You, too, may only be there for the paycheck.

My career recovery came when I began to think of myself as something else more than a credit analyst and financier. I had always envied the entrepreneurs that I helped finance, not only for their wealth, but also for their freedom. What they had accomplished seemed to be out of my reach for a reason that I could never seem to remember.

My real career recovery started when I accepted that my career in finance was over. That realization was truly liberating. I became fully aware of the value that my insights and advice had given to former clients.

This was my chance to step up to being an entrepreneur.

I looked back at the entrepreneurs that I used to envy and realized I could have what they had. My talent for writing led me to marketing. How was I going to be fairly compensated for the value I created?

I created an online marketing business based on the principles of personal development. Now I work from my home office, the shortest commute possible. The crashing sound of waves comes through my window as I build my business serving others who have had experiences similar to mine.

8 Simple Steps to Building Your New, Happier Career

Start with the knowledge that you can start again. I do not know if you have the overwhelming desire necessary to be an entrepreneur. I do know that many sectors of our economy are growing rapidly. You must invest in yourself before you can take advantage of that growth.

You can grow with the sectors that are growing if you are willing to change. Take the following eight steps to build your new, happy career.

1. Relax.

You are dealing with circumstances that you probably resisted like crazy. That means you were focused on keeping what was slowly not working rather than creating a new life for yourself. Being confused as you change is normal, even when you change for the better.

2. Trust in yourself.

You are more than you currently believe you are. What has changed is the world around you. You grew to adapt to a world that no longer exists. Keep in mind that you were able to adapt before what you needed for your old career. That means you can adapt to a new career.

3. Confirm your own value.

You need to do more than think about what you can do about your lost career. You need to change the way you think if you are depressed by your lost career. Reading The Change Blog and other positive writing will start embedding a new, positive image of you within you.

4. Take the time to find out who you truly are.

Have you considered that your misery may be a result of you acting on what you were told to be? Not sure who you are and what you want? Now is the perfect time to find out.

5. Learn skill sets based on who you are and what you want.

You should gain skills that fulfill your burning passions rather than your previous job experiences. Very little in this world can resist the determination of a truly motivated individual. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and John Lennon were all nobodies until they became somebodies on their own terms.

6. Hangout with people that have the same interests as you.

You will accelerate your change to what you want in life when you learn from (and teach) people that are excited by the same things you are. Besides, you will be uplifted when they acknowledge that what you are learning is important.

7. Be a friend and help others first.

Others are experiencing the same emotional devastation as you. You have an opportunity to “pay it forward” when you think of others first. Your success will increase as you help others. Your comprehension of what you are learning will increase. The best way to learn something new is to teach it. The people that you help will also start looking to you as a leader as you help them cut a new pathway through their own confusion.

8. Build your new career with your new friends.

You are a friend learning valuable new skills with the people you hang out with. You are building a new community around your new reality. What better network could you have for building your new career? Continue to exchange knowledge and opportunities with your new friends and your new career will find you.

Maybe you aren’t happy now. That isn’t surprising if you are tied to a way of life that isn’t working for you any longer. You can be surprisingly happier if you are ready to make constructive changes in your life.

Imagine your smiles when you fit in with a new career, a bright future, and new friends who appreciate you for who you are.

You can make it happen, but you must change now.

Are You Ready to Build a Career that You Love?

Ironically, losing my career got me what I always truly wanted. I had always dreamed of being a writer. I had always wanted to live an adventurous life. Well, here I am.

Now I have the time to speak about the values on which a good life can be formed. Those values are important when times are easy. They are crucial when times get rough.

I never thought I could say this on the day I realized I had lost my career.

I am grateful that I had.

The key to recovering after losing your career is realizing you are not your career. It may feel like you have died, but you have not. You were born to love, serve yourself and others, and be grateful for another day in your own adventure of life.

You will find your new life … because you lost your old career.

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