My father once told me that a pessimist is nothing more than an optimist who has had his, or her, teeth kicked in one too many times.
As I approach the end of my severance period, and face the distinct possibility that I will have to find a way of living on unemployment compensation while I continue to look for a job, I have been thinking about the difference between being realistic and being pessimistic. I have also been thinking that maybe my father had a point.
When my husband was laid-off a few years ago, we had that nice cushion in savings that all the financial gurus recommend. We were able to cover the difference between unemployment compensation and what he made before he was laid-off. The cushion was something we believed we could build back up once the dust settled. Unfortunately, it didn’t. His industry was one of the first to start to feel the downturn in the economy. Our cushion dwindled down to nothing by the spring of 2008. In the spring of 2008, the company I worked for gave notice that headcount reductions were coming, and I realized that we both might be out of work for a period of time.
Despite my concern, I knew that I was going to be fine, regardless of whether or not my head was actually on the chopping block. My “day job” as a project manager is one of those professions that lends itself to both contractor/consulting or permanent employee status, so I was sure that, even in a down economy, I would find something since companies still need to get projects done. My husband landed a new job with good benefits, so if the worst happened, I saw my situation as a potential to recoup some of our financial losses through the generous severance package the company was offering. As it turned out, I was cut in the fall, but I still remained positive that I would have a job by January.
My optimism was rewarded and I did in fact get an offer for a six month contract to hire position to start in January. Unfortunately, for me, the company lost funding for the position and I found myself back in job search. I had a rough couple of days (okay, it was weeks) before I shook it off and got back in the game, even more convinced that I would have a job offer before my severance period ended. Again, my optimism was rewarded with another twelve month consulting opportunity that was to start in May. This time, I thought I had nailed down all those pesky little issues that might make the offer less definite – like did the consulting company actually have a real contract with the client company as opposed to a gentleman’s handshake. Unfortunately, again, due to circumstances beyond my control, the client company has pushed off the project start date, twice; changed direction for its project; and added more requirements that it wants in the project manager, some of which I am lacking. It is looking like I may not have a job after all. Unlike the last time, I never got out of the job search game, so I still have a number of possible opportunities that I am pursing.
On some level, to even contemplate filing for unemployment and looking into whether or not my family qualifies for food stamps feels a lot like being pessimistic. To consider these things feels like I am giving up. On the other hand, the reality is that I have one more paycheck coming to me and there is still going to be a mortgage payment, utilities, car payment, credit card bills, insurance, and all the other “stuff” that will come due next month. Even if one of the other job possibilities comes through for me, there is a slim chance that it will happen before my severance period ends. While I have tried to put aside a bit of a buffer, it isn’t going to be enough to buy me much wiggle room.
The mantra that all of the job and career coaches are spouting is that you must remain positive and optimistic in your job search; that you need to focus on what the opportunities are and remain open to them; that you should use this time to think about what you really want in a job or career; and that if you want it bad enough you can make it happen for you.
Um, at the risk of sounding negative – sometimes it is a bit hard to paste on the happy shiny face and think of the possibilities when the reality is that you need a job to keep from losing your home, your car, your good credit rating, and thus the potential for the type of job(s) that you are accustomed to working.
Let me take a moment to say that as rough as things might get, I do acknowledge that I am lucky, incredibly lucky and thankful, to have had a severance package that lasted as long as this one has. Most of the other displaced/down-sized/laid-off people I have met have not had severance packages, or if they did, the packages were small.
Do I still believe I am going to find a job soon? Yes. I am also still convinced that it will be a better position that my last one, but I am worried that I may cross the line between realism and pessimism if it doesn’t happen soon.
Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead reviews books for Crystal Reviews (www.crystalreviews.com) and writes paranormal romance. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.