Confession time: I got fired from my first 9-to-5 gig, and it was the best thing to ever happen to me.
At the age of 22, I had just graduated from university with a mountain of student debt and started looking for what I thought would be a “real” job. You know, that job that is supposedly the marker of making it into adulthood, with benefits, a salary, and working 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. After six months of searching, I finally landed that steady gig at a financial investment firm outside of Toronto doing administrative work for the company.
Quite quickly, I realized that this job was not at all what I was expecting. I struggled with the workload and expectations. I had never been in an administrative position before. As much as I tried, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the things the job required. And as I struggled with the workload, the work environment at this company was toxic. I felt alone, ignored, and unsupported by my fellow coworkers. The person responsible for my training often left me on my own and didn’t have enough time to show me how to do things properly. This was a workplace where people expected perfection right from the start, and as I tried to learn this new role, they were impatient with my mistakes. While I fully admit that I was struggling with my responsibilities, the environment at this company had me feeling stressed, and it definitely affected my work.
As this was my first “real” job, a part of me thought that this was just the way the “real world” worked. At the same time, I needed this job to pay off my massive student loans, so I stuck with it.
Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when they pulled me into an office and let me go. A part of me was relieved. I knew I had really tried my best, and the stress of it all was at least now behind me. The other part of me was worried — I still had this mountain of debt to pay off and now no income with which to do it. Thankfully, I had some savings that I could lean on for a while to get by, but I needed to find a new job and fast. Knowing that I did not want to be in a similar position, I started looking for opportunities that played to my strengths. From that experience, I knew I was not suited for the typical office environment, and that I was much better at working with the public instead of at a desk all day.
As luck would have it, after about a month of being unemployed, I found a part-time job at a local museum that had the potential for growth. It wasn’t full time, but it had a lot of benefits that the other job didn’t have. It was in a field that interested me and fit my strengths very well. I was passionate about what I was doing and felt confident in my abilities. The work environment was also much better than the other place! I now had a great relationship with my boss and colleagues and there was a strong sense of teamwork in our workplace. Finally, there was potential for growth. I started as part-time in this position on a six-month contract, and I was soon able to work up to being a permanent full-time employee.
Now, I am much happier at my job, I am actually making more money than before, and I was able to pay off my student loans. It is because I was fired from that first “real” job that I found myself on a new career path that I’m excited about, and more financially stable than before. So for you, dear readers, who may be experiencing a job loss similar to what I did, here is my advice:
1. Just take a deep breath and don’t worry. I know it’s easier said than done, yet I cannot stress this enough. Too often we put pressure on ourselves to be at a certain place in life based on other people’s timelines. You are on no one else’s timeline but your own. Everything will work out in the end.
2. Take this experience and learn from it. So you got let go from your job? Reevaluate. Look at your strengths and weaknesses, look at the job you just left and why it might not have worked for you. Think about the kind of job that would play into your strengths, and go from there.
3. Polish up your resume and send it out to those new opportunities you want to try. You literally have nothing to lose right now, so take some chances and apply for other jobs you haven’t considered before. Part-time jobs and side hustles are a great way to supplement your income as you look for something more permanent. Along with the part-time job at the museum, I also started doing yard work for my elderly neighbors to make some extra cash.
4. Financially speaking, the next little while could be a bit tight. I had monthly student loan payments to make along with my other regular bills like rent, utilities, and car expenses (insurance, gas, etc.). Luckily, I had some emergency fund money stashed away in a savings account in case this very thing came up. I also changed my checking account at my bank to one that had a lower monthly fee but some restrictions, like a limited number of transactions. This meant that I had to put away my debit card and pay for everyday expenses with cash, but in doing so, I also became conscious of the amount I was spending every day. If you find yourself in this situation, it is worth it to look into other options at your bank and find one that works the best for you and your money. Prioritize your money and determine the expenses you have that you absolutely cannot live without (things like rent, car, groceries, the must-haves) from the expenses you can cut back on for the next little while (like entertainment and going-out funds).
Losing a job can be devastating, but it can also be a blessing in disguise. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities, and you may just find yourself better off than you were before.
Emily is a 20-something museum educator in a small town outside of Toronto. In her spare time she likes spending time with loved ones, Netflix bingeing and playing ultimate frisbee.
Image via Unsplash