My Story: Surviving a Job Loss
contributed by D
My Story: Job Loss Lessons
Out of Work? Volunteer!
Business Networking Pays Off
I'd like to share a few things I learned during the 3.5 years following September 11, 2001, when, for all intents and purposes, my thriving consulting business went down the tubes. There were, of course, many tragedies as a result of the terrorist attacks that day, but the economic devastation left in the wake tends to get swept under the rug.
At any rate, within a month of that unforgettable day, I found myself without a single client. For the sake of illustration, I'll also say that prior to that day, I'd been fortunate enough to have one full-time contract and three part-time contracts, as well as a variety of freelance projects. I was raising my rates every six months and still turning away work because there weren't enough hours in the day to keep up!
So, after the initial shock, I took stock of the situation. I worked in the information technology industry and that particular market was harder hit than some others because of the increased frequency of offshore contracting. (I'm not passing judgement; it's simply a statement of fact.) Freelance contracts had also dried up; people who'd been hounding me for months no longer returned my phone calls, if they were still at the other end of the phone at all.
I'd made a lot of money in the three years prior and I'd managed to have very little debt and put away a bit of money. Still, in the very expensive DC metropolitan area, I also knew that my savings wouldn't last for long. Obviously, I had to find something else to do.
First, I took stock of what I had to offer. I lived alone in a three-bedroom house, I had good marketing and people skills, and I had a lot of extra stuff that I could get rid of.
In some places, living alone in a three-bedroom house may have continued to be a liability and moving to a studio apartment might have been the best alternative. But in the hot and expensive DC housing market, I quickly understood that the spare rooms I'd turned into an office and a guest room could mean the difference between staying afloat or sinking. I furnished both rooms simply (with castoffs from the family as well as eBay and thrift store finds) and then rented them out. I used local housing bulletin boards to advertise (for free) and, given the market, I decided to focus on short-term renters so I could charge more. I was rarely without a full house in the following 3.5 years. And between them, my renters paid in full every month for the house and the utilities.
Next, I sought out some freelance marketing jobs that I found via online bulletin boards and networking. Yes, I do mean product demos in the grocery store, or at the mall. At one point, I even took the train out of DC every morning at 5 a.m. to do product demos on the way to NYC. Whatever it took to bring in some cash.
Discovering eBay was a real eye-opener for me too. I'd bought a lot of things there to furnish my rooms and, in doing so, had already established a user ID and a positive feedback score. I decided to give selling a try, since I had a lot of extra stuff that I'd been meaning to clear out anyway and all the necessary technology at my fingertips. Within a matter of months, I was consigning items from some friends and then through friends of friends. What was too big to deal with shipping, I posted for sale on the same local bulletin boards that I used to rent my rooms. It became a daily routine walking the 5 blocks to the post office to ship off eBay sales. (Good exercise too!)
One day on the way home from another shipment, I happened across a perfectly nice solid wood bookcase that someone had set out for the trash. After that, I paid more attention. Some of my best trash day finds included a new (still in the box) leaded crystal bowl, several antique wooden bed frames, an entire set of cookware, a fully functional vacuum cleaner, and a teak dining table with six chairs. What I couldn't use myself I posted to the bulletin boards.
Three and a half years later, I finally found a full-time job, but I'll never forget the lessons I learned during those tough times. I won't say I came out unscathed, but I survived and I never once had to resort to unemployment, food stamps, or food banks. And I even managed to have some fun along the way.
The key to survival, from my experience, is flexibility.
Debt from my past is preventing me from saving for my future! Tell us: Yes, debt is hindering my ability to save! or No, debt is not a problem but I am trying to get ahead financially!
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by MyStory@Stretcher.com
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor. Just Click Here and tell us what's on your mind.