Life After Layoff: Bill Jacob

After working as a Florida Power and Light line specialist who climbed utility poles and worked his way up to a human resources management position, Bill was laid off after 25 years of service. He was in his early 50s.

1. How did you end up training to become an addictions counselor which is such a different line of work than your previous career?

Well… I basically asked myself, “What do you want to do now?” I took a look over my past work life… Where was I happy? Where was I not? I looked at my inner self… I was asking “What are you passionate about? – What would you like to do each and every day? – Where in this picture could I see myself whistling each day on my way to work?”

These were really pretty easy questions to answer… I knew where my true interests have always been – psychology, philosophy, neurology, sociology… Humanity! And the fact that so many of us struggle every day to find happiness. I knew (and have known for many years) that I would love for my ‘vocation’ to match my daily longing to help others with their struggles.

The beginning chapter of this new career ‘book’ is to counsel in the field of addictions. It is so ‘front burner’ and poignant… Alcohol and other substance addiction absolutely devastates personal lives, individuals, families and communities. To state one single statistic, currently, in Florida alone, there are 7-8 prescription opiate deaths per day!

2. Can you discuss the issue of shame in relation to being laid off?

Personally, it was a great sense of shame when I was laid off from my position. I had put a lot of my identity into my work and employment. I took it very personally … not able at first to view it from a business sense (the employer’s POV). Overall, I believe that my sense of shame is probably a common feeling among my generation (Boomers) … I think most of us were instilled with a large amount of loyalty to employers and a very strong work ethic. These may very well be generational aspects that are being left in the past.

3. Do men and women experience being laid off differently?

I can’t say. I’d rather leave this question to be answered by women that you interview. I will say that I believe that you will find that any experiential differences found will be more generational (see previous Q/A) than gender specific. (I guess I’m predicting??)

4. How will the next chapter of your life differ from the previous one?

On this I clearly will not predict… I truly attempt to work my hardest at learning a new skill-set and put 100% of myself into this new direction and just see where it goes.

In many ways, I do not want ‘this chapter’ to be very different from ‘the previous chapter’ I learned so very much from my previous employment/vocation… all of it melds into who I am today and what I bring into my new direction.

I guess I’m saying. The book just wouldn’t be the book without this chapter … the previous chapter…and the next chapter. I am a book.

5. What advice would you have for someone considering going into a new field?

Look deeply inside – find what you truly want to do. Where and when and with whom are you most happy? Seek this when choosing a field or vocational endeavor. I think this is vocationally enduring … you will take your genuine self to work every day.

I have met way too many people (especially in my Boomer Generation – and I suspect it still happens a lot) that went into careers because “that is where the money is” or because it was the direction “Mom & Dad picked for me”. What they did (or are still doing) seems like it is “someone else’s career.”

I liken it to this: You know when you purchase a new wallet & it has a picture of a stranger in the photo section? Well, being in a career/job/vocation that you “ended up in” because of the money or parental direction is like keeping that photo in your wallet and producing it each time you are asked for photo ID (it must be me, it’s in my wallet every time I open it!).

One thought on “Life After Layoff: Bill Jacob

  • July 21, 2014 at 9:53 pm
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    I think Bill's question of what he wanted to do NOW is paramount to having a healthy sense of identity in order to move forward in a new direction. We are continually growing and must give ourselves enough room to accept the changes that life invariably brings – those we like and those to which we sometimes have to acquiesce.

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