Losing Your Job without Losing Your Dignity

Losing Your Job without Losing Your Dignity


Our identity can be wrapped up in what we do for a living. Lose a job and it can feel like we’ve lost ourselves — just when we need to be self-possessed.

Losing a job

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Next to family, the office often becomes our second home. Still, the workplace has changed its look and attitude. There was once a time when we expected to have the same employer until we applied for Medicare. Today, between downsizing, fewer new jobs and more job-seekers, “job security” has turned into scouting want ads, wondering if we should take that online course in Relative Computational Complexity Theory (whatever that is) or even start our own business. For singles, there’s even more pressure to watch your back. Let’s look.


Dear Marnie: I’m one of many who have been laid off from work. I’m a 32-year-old, with an Associate’s Degree in accounting. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed; rather, I am frustrated about the difficulty I’m having with finding a job. I spend all my time researching new companies, writing cover letters, and sending out resumes. But here’s the problem: whenever I get together with my employed friends they treat me as if I deserve to be embarrassed. They quiz me on my job status, ask insensitive questions, or make rude statements. It’s gotten to the point where I avoid them because I do not want to address the inevitable disapproving questions: “So what do you do with all that free time?” Marnie, how do I respond? — Losing Friends in L.A.

MARNIE SAYS: My highest kudos to you! With “friends” like these, personally, I’d consider hiring a food taster.

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

* First, tell yourself that “looking” is a job. It’s an all-consuming and far more stressful than having one.

* About “the friends”: Before I get all snarky, let’s figure out what’s behind their numb-necked remarks. They’re either nitwits or quaking. Your reversal of fortune may have landed smack in the middle of their latent fear. So they’re trivializing, criticizing, blaming or stuffing their egos with your misfortune. More, they’re hiding their wallets should, God forbid, you ask for a loan.

* Responding to “the friends”: Lay out what you’ve been doing and then simply say: “Here’s what you can do to help”:

– Connections, connections, connections. Everybody knows somebody who has a dentist with a patient who lives next door to Donald Trump’s (whomever) brother’s barber, or belongs to organizations with big networking events and bigger names. You want those names. You want those invites. You want intros and information. Interviews are better.

– Get into the muck, hands-on. There’s copying to be done, resume updating, research. Any volunteers?

– Cheerleading and confidence building. Respect for the odious task of job-hunting, plus optimism is a minimum daily requirement to ask and give a friend.

Here are my final words to all those with pals on the brave job-hunting journey: Someday, you may be there, too. The greatest joy is to help make success possible for another. Amen.


Dear Marnie: A good friend of mine has hit on tough times lately (she was laid off) and has asked to borrow $500. I’m a lawyer and in pretty good financial shape and can easily afford it, but my boyfriend, also a lawyer, says no, because I can’t be sure when, if ever, she’ll be able to recover and pay me back. I hate to refuse her because this is an old friend and a great person who has helped me out in so many non-financial ways. Would you lend her the money if you were in my shoes? — Arleen, in Doubt.

MARNIE SAYS:  No! Absolutely not!  I wouldn’t lend her a nickel! And neither should you.

Getting It!  Your Personal Strategy:

* Gift her. That’s right. Enclose your check in an uplifting card and write: “Dear Bosom Buddy (whatever) … for all you’ve done for me (and for all the birthdays I might’ve missed), please accept this gift. I know you’ll get through this!” Boom! For my readers who may be gaping, it’s incomprehensible to me why dear pals will proffer up godparent titles or expect each other to change their bed pans in emergencies — yet relegate the giving of a few dollars to a twilight state between sin and martyrdom. After all she’s done for you, consider it a small payback. Plus, it’s a better strategy. Here’s why.

– One: As you may not get it back anyway, you might as well be a sport.

– Two: It’s clean. No messy ick if she can’t return it on time, or ever. No awkward silences or blubbered excuses. No “I told you so’s” from your partner, whose sensitivity hovers around sub-zero (but that’s for another time).

– Three: Most of all, there’s no danger of losing this valuable friendship.

* Offer more than money. Your friend is devastated and scared. You can be her support. You can listen, make suggestions, help her draft resumes, and network.

* “What if she asks for more?” you wonder. It’s up to you based upon what you can afford and her situation then. For example, if she asked you to bankroll a vaca to Vegas – your bank’s closed.

But for now, it seems to me that true friendship sometimes requires your caring indulgence — and demands never (okay, rarely) having to say, “By the way … you owe me.”


Dear Marnie: I’m a grown college grad living on my own. I was recently laid off and refuse to tell my mom (who lives in another state). My boyfriend wants us to live together. My family is very traditional and would flip. I want to live with him as it will help the financial situation, but I am also scared.  Help! Time is running out. — Scared to Move

MARNIE SAYS: “Time is running out?!” Sister of Scurvy Excuses! Now that is exactly the kind of cockamamie doom speak that gives “destiny” a truly rotten reputation. Of course you’re quaking! You’re letting this lay-off Velcro stick you to this fellow. More, you’ll be leaking guilt like brake fluid in a ’67 Pinto.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:

* Kiddo, moving in with a BF to pay the rent is an idea that isn’t altogether “baked.” Trust me angel, if you fear mom may get a migraine from the lay-off, your “solution” may give her a stroke.

* Heed your fear. Sharing bed for “board” is not a nice thing to do and you may wind up paying more in grief.

* Madam Fate dumped salt in your latte. It stinks. It happens. Now get the heck off your sofa and grab the moment!

– Surely that wasn’t the only job, or even the best job for a smart young, educated tootsie. Make the rounds. While you’re searching for your dream job, do temp and part-time work.

– If your tongue’s scraping the pavement, consider a small loan you’ll repay from those you know.

– Or … go get a female roomie. One who’ll get you off the financial hook, without having to hook-up.

Listen Ms.Waffler, the choice isn’t between poverty and “him.” Life is just beginning for a woman who has the capacity to do more than beg drawer space for her anklets. If you did such a silly thing, you wouldn’t merely be strapped, you’d be bankrupt.

Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2015 Singular Communications, LLC

Marnie MacauleyAdvice guru Marnie Winston-Macauley — therapist, author, speaker — has been a radio, TV, and syndicated advice columnist and counselor for over 20 years. Witty, wise and totally irreverent with a self-professed loathing for psychobabble, she’s written over 20 books and calendars, along with  hundreds of relationship columns and features for prominent publications.  She has her MS degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work.  In media, her work has garnered her Emmy and Writer’s Guild Best Writing nominations. She is widowed and now living single. For personal advice, you can also find Marnie Macauley on Liveperson.com or on Presto Experts. She invites you to join her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 
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