I’ll be honest. When my friend Dr. Michael Froehls asked me to review his just-released book The Gift of Job Loss: A Practical Guide to Realizing the Most Rewarding Time of Your Life, my immediate thought was, “Oh no, not another career book!” I mean, there are so many good books out there for dealing with that uncomfortable time between careers, how to find your true path, how to market yourself, how to rewrite your career narrative, etc.
After reading his book, however, I was pleasantly pleased to discover The Gift of Job Loss is none of these things. It really is not another career book … it is far more powerful.
I met Michael when he was the head of international strategic planning for MetLife. He is German-born and a McKinsey alum, with an MBA from the University of Texas and a PhD in Finance from the University of Trier in Germany, among other degrees. He speaks four languages and has worked across three continents. Yet, despite his obvious horsepower and intelligence, Michael found himself without a job after 15 years on the fast-track.
Michael approached his challenge of dealing with job loss, and this book, as only a PhD-MBA-McKinsey alum with 15 years of solving complex finance problems could. His unique analytical perspective provides a fresh and profound look on a well-traveled subject. He challenges at least three fundamental beliefs we tend to link to job loss:
1.Time: we overlook the big picture. As Michael said, “We tend to underestimate long-term risk; we don’t think about life in decades, in fact are trained NOT to think in decades but to think in much shorter increments.” And if you think about the long-term, then going without a job for three months does not really change the big picture. It is just a long vacation. To add heat to the fire, in his classes he asks how many people expect they will live to their full life expectancy. Nearly everyone does. Then he asks, how many people know someone close to them who died before their time? Nearly 40% of people raise their hands. The point is, now is the time to lift your gaze off your feet and look at the horizon, think long-term, consider the unpredictability of life and that this period’s edges will be smoothed by the winds of time, so make the most of your time off … enjoy it!
2.Money: you have more than you think. “It is rarely as scarce as people think. We have a 401(k), some savings, get a severance, and if you look at it realistically, you see it’s not that bad.” You probably have a three-month buffer and can extend that by saving up and investing your time intelligently. Going to the gym, for example, is an inexpensive investment in your health that will pay off for the long-term. “If you want to go to Paris, consider Buenos Aires instead, where you can experience Parisian architecture at a much lower cost.” He also points out that if you want to learn Spanish during your time off, you can go to Guatemala, spend a week living with a family, and get 20 hours of one-on-one lessons, at a total cost of $240 per week. That is precisely what he did with his time off.
3.The resume gap: the prospect of a gap in our resumes sometimes stares up at us like an enormous bottomless fissure. But in reality, he has found, people are quite intrigued when you do something interesting with your time. If you do something exciting and valuable with your time off, employers will respect you for it. “You learned a new language?! You traveled around the world?!” These are much better responses than, “You sat in Kinko’s and printed resumes?”
So, at the end of the day, what this all means is … relax, step back, think about how job loss fits into your big picture, and consider taking a fun, active, and rewarding sabbatical. Even if you are not forced onto this sabbatical by a lay-off, considering taking one now. I know someone who takes every fifth year off and another who takes a three-week spiritual retreat every year. When you start thinking intelligently about time, money, and the resume gap, you may find that job loss may actually be the biggest gift you were too scared to give yourself.