In 1990, my father-in-law went through an “involuntary transition” in his work life. During two decades in public education, he had steadily worked his way up from sixth grade teacher to superintendent, enjoying every phase of his career arc. Following a few key changes on the school board, he suddenly found himself unemployed. After many years of career success and productivity, he had been put “on the shelf.” He soon realized how his job title had become like a hyphen to his name: “Terry T. Giboney—Superintendent of Schools.” Who was he now that he lacked a job title?
As a young married man still in graduate school, I found Terry’s example instructive and inspiring. His family and I certainly felt he had been unfairly treated by the board. Yet I never heard him utter a word of contempt against those who ousted him. He chalked it up to philosophical differences and politics and moved on with his life. I also got to observe first-hand that Terry was more than his business card. He made the most of his season of unemployment, investing time with family members, increasing his volunteer hours at church, doing more reading, enjoying down-time, and working on a variety of projects. His faith and his church family made a tangible difference in how he coped with his transition.
One of the projects Terry worked on between jobs was writing about his experience of unemployment. Terry was always about turning lemons into lemonade. I recently came across a piece Terry wrote on “Involuntary Transitions” during that time. His hard-earned wisdom is still timely. Below are a few of my favorite nuggets. May they be a blessing and encouragement to any who are going through such a season. May those among us who, like Terry Giboney, have been through the highs and lows of job loss, graciously share their wisdom and perspectives where needed. And may we all continue to encourage and care for those are experiencing involuntary transitions.
- “There is life after such a devastating, sometimes unfair, always difficult life event… as difficult and painful as this transition is, it had a beginning and it will have an end.”
- “There will always be some good in this transition. Try to find it.”
- “Carefully consider the very worst that could happen. If you could not get another job with as much responsibility, status, or money, what is the ultimate loss? Is a smaller house, an older car, less pressure, fewer hours, or a slower pace all negative? Are there some of life’s simple pleasures that we have missed while living in the fast lane?”
- “It is helpful to keep a job loss in perspective. Most of life’s most important things are not being threatened.”
- “Punishing those responsible is not as constructive as ‘shaking the dust (of rejection) from our feet’ and moving forward.”
- “Turn your anger into energy by deciding each day to do those things that are productive, not destructive.”
- “Find a Christian friend with whom you can share your struggle—preferably one who has experienced something similar.”
- “Use the time to develop a more intimate and loving relationship with your spouse and family.”
- “Take long walks and exercise more.”
- “Get up each day with a plan and use your time to enjoy projects or people, study the Bible or read helpful books, and perform some act of kindness or service to others.”
- “Enjoy some leisure, but do something each day in the pursuit of a new job.”