There is nothing quite like the sting of losing your job without warning. Especially when it’s a job that you are utterly addicted to, a role that you felt was created for you.
This is precisely where I found myself in June 2009 when I was working for an international aid group based in Washington D.C. I was on a career high after five years filing news reports for Channel Seven, Al Jazeera English and Reuters.
I had successfully transitioned into the international aid arena, where I wanted to take a small stand for human rights in countries like Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan. If there was a crisis, we were there. I was thriving on being on the other side of the camera, gathering news on the ground – not to file – but to raise money for those who needed it most.
One afternoon, I was tapping away on the computer when my boss appeared and clutched the doorframe, glancing into the office to make sure no one else was there. He looked distressed. He softly and reluctantly told me that he’d just come from a meeting where the CEO had decided a few people were being let go.
“You are one of them.”
He was actually doing me a favour by giving me the heads up a few days before I was to be formally told.
I sat in front of him, trying not to have a complete meltdown. I was just flat-out gutted. I felt sick.
And the hits just kept on coming. My work visa was tied directly to the organisation. This meant that I had 10 days to find a new job or I had to leave the country. The clock was already ticking on by far the most important deadline I had faced in my career.
Here are 4 rules to follow when you're unexpectedly sacked:
1. Work the phone (and be candid).
I cried the ugly cry most of the night and asked myself questions that I knew no one could answer.
The alarm went off at 7am. I was beyond exhausted. I scanned the room, looking at souvenirs from a punishing five years on the road - the ‘go-bag’, a cat rescued from a French restaurant and a range of press credentials collected.
I wasn’t ready to pack up and return home to Melbourne.
At 8am, I hit the phones. I short-listed everyone who could help. And I don't mean just console me, but those who were true supporters – people who would work the phones and advocate on my behalf.
The first calls were to my closest and most reliable friends. I was brutally candid “I’ve been made redundant. I am completely gutted. This is genuinely f*cked. I obviously need to find a job but here’s where it gets interesting – I have 10 days to do it or I have to leave the country. I really need your help.”
The girls were all in. We divided up contacts and started working the phone, finding out what was going on, who was hiring and what jobs were ‘in process’. Phone calls, text messages, a thousand email exchanges. It was like running a mini campaign with a private recruitment SWAT team. Every time I spoke to someone, I was completely transparent about the situation – without sounding desperate.