OK, here’s the story. After working for over 35 years for a steady paycheck, I found myself on the unemployment line. My first layoff came in February 2007 when Rainbow Media, a division of Cablevision Systems let go of almost all of its IT managers in an effort to save some cash and I guess to make the shareholders happier than they were already. The first time is the hardest, after all, it’s not something your ever really prepared for. Nine months later, I finally landed an IT position with a not-for-profit close to home so all was good as my unemployment had run out three months earlier. Too bad I got blindsided once again when after only four months on the job I got axed again for “cost saving” purposes.
Who ever really knows why you get laid off, management has its reasons but are usually loathe to share them for fear of a law suit for wrongful termination. Anyway, I was back on unemployment for another four months when I landed a one year consulting job working with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on a huge security project. That one ended in August 2009 in the midst of what the media was calling the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. All I can say is thank God for a Democrat in the Whitehouse as the unemployment checks lasted almost two years while I was sending out hundreds of resumes and getting few interviews and no offers.
As you’ve probably surmised from the length of my employment record, and my more formal than what passes for writing these days prose, I’m over sixty now and not exactly what most employers are looking for in a prospective employee. Age discrimination, maybe, all I know is that the economy stinks, and when faced with both a younger and older candidate, most employers choose the younger.
I was actually more fortunate than many in that my wife has a great job with benefits and I was old enough to collect early Social Security, so food, shelter and health insurance were not huge problems for our family. The big problem, was that a highly intelligent, creative human being with loads of experience in Information Technology and creative design had stopped producing and contributing to the world. If you let it, unemployment takes a severe psychological toll and creates a downward spiral which becomes all-consuming, I’ve been there and I’ve known many others who have been there as well.
This tragically common tale of woe, brings me to the point of this post, reinventing yourself. Once I finally realized that I may never again find employment in my chosen field and that I could easily live for another twenty years as one of the non-working wounded, I knew I had to take action to regain control of my life. I started by watching as many videos as I could on Lynda.com in the areas of web development, HTML, CSS, Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator. I scrapped together some cash to purchase a faster desktop PC and large LCD and worked on upgrading my design and development skills. This was rewarding in itself and gave me the purpose and direction I had lost.
With my enhanced skills I’ve landed several design and technical freelance jobs and continue working on marketing through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and old fashioned person-to-person networking. This is the most difficult part of the process as you have limited control of where and when your next assignment will materialize. However, with my new outlook on what’s possible, and lots of hard work on my part, I know that the future will present opportunities which I am now prepared to accept with an open mind and full heart.