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Suddenly sacked? 4 rules that will shift your head space.

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.

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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.

Andrea on the set of Sky News with Derryn Hinch and Wendy Squires. (Image supplied).

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.

Andrea Clarke. (Image supplied)

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.

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Within a few days, I had tactfully joined a job application process that was well underway for a major advocacy movement, reporting to a true leader on human rights. Nine days after being sacked, I was offered this job. I was stunned. We worked the phones, were candid about the situation and found a job that was truly a great fit.

2. Ask questions you don’t feel like asking.

Being ‘walked’ from a job when you least expect it is nothing short of traumatising. I did not have the presence of mind, nor the energy to call the organisation’s HR department and ask any questions.

In hindsight, I should have asked a friend to do this on my behalf so I could have understood and taken advantage of my entitlements. In this case, I had a four-week window to cash out my superannuation contributions. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it would have made a huge difference to me at the time. I missed this somewhat key piece of information, as well as accessing a recruitment agency to support me in finding another role.

Laundry list questions and if you need to – hand it to someone to manage.

3. Check your attitude.

Working for the aid organisation turned my world three-dimensional. I travelled to Iraq to interview locals who lives were made significantly better because we were helping. I met disabled orphans in Tbilisi, I documented farmers in very remote areas of Afghanistan planting seed, instead of opium poppies. This job was the best on record for me.

It seemed truly unjust to be voted off the team. But whinging about being made redundant was simply not useful.

"I met disabled orphans in Tbilisi, I documented farmers in very remote areas of Afghanistan planting seed, instead of opium poppies. This job was the best on record for me." (Image supplied)

I have a rule – if something slightly shitful happens, regardless of the context, I ask myself “Will this matter to me in a year?” Usually the answer is “No” which shapes a more measured response.

We all want to be proud of the way we conduct ourselves and at such a critical time, we need to remind ourselves to see the lesson and let go of the politics. Attitude is everything and will likely be a deciding factor for your next boss.

4. Invest in others.

Managing a sudden redundancy, or any other career crisis, is far less chaotic and emotional when we are surrounded by a group of reliable friends and colleagues who support us without hesitation. This is why investing in others is so critical along the journey.

Regardless of our schedules, we need to take time to listen to others, offer our time and support, take a genuine interest in challenges so we can all be there for one another if things don't go to plan.

Andrea Clarke is a former Washington D.C. correspondent and international aid worker, now helping women across corporate Australia reach their potential with her online mentor program, ‘Be the CEO of Your Career’.

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