Unexpected Lay Offs in International Education: Insights from Guest Blogger, Tom Millington

Today’s post is written by guest blogger, Tom Millington. Tom and I recently had a discussion about the unique challenges of being an experienced professional who has been laid off. His contribution is very honestly written; I thank you, Tom, for sharing your insights and personal experience with Melibee Global readers.

Thank you, Missy, for inviting me to write a post for your blog. I will address my experience as a laid off international educator and what steps I have taken to protect my sanity, stave off frustration and direct my energies and talents in a positive direction. I will also include the names of a couple of books which I have found to be very helpful.

Before I begin, I would like to include a quote that I have been pondering for some time now and, or me, it especially speaks to my situation as an unemployed person.

‘I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.’ (from The Invisible Man, prologue)

As some point during our lay off we feel invisible, almost ephemeral. This is only natural since the notion of having a job is so deeply rooted in our society’s psyche. The approach I have adopted is to occupy my ample free time with a structured schedule that will keep me active and will prevent my mind from dwelling too much on my situation. Here are some points that have worked for me and I hope will help those of you who have been affected by lay offs:

  • Develop a daily schedule and stick to it. Make a list of things to do daily. For example, I dedicate 2-3 hours every morning to my job search and then the rest of the day I dedicate to cleaning my apartment, going to the library or the gym, volunteering, or walking in the city. The key is to keep yourself busy. Don’t let your mind wander!
  • Go to the gym-I can’t stress this enough. Physical activity is the best remedy for the frustrations and stress of unemployment. I go to the gym every other day and I feel great afterwards.
  • Volunteer-find a place where you can devote a few hours a week, i.e., reading to children, helping out at a soup kitchen, etc. Not only will you be helping others, but you will feel you have accomplished something. This is important. Only YOU can really provide yourself with positive reinforcement!
  • Spend time with friends-during this difficult time of your life, you will rely on your friends and you will learn who are the ones you can really count on when the chips are down. It is important to have someone to talk to; someone who will be a sounding board for you. For your health, you must give voice to your frustration (venting).
  • Pursue projects that you never had time to do while employed. Is there something you always wanted to do but did not have the time to do? Well, now you have time to devote yourself to it. No excuses!
  • Improve yourself-turn a negative into a positive. Is there a part of your professional development you always wanted to improve? Now is the time! I have been reading up on how to improve my leadership skills. Two books I have been reading might be of interest: John Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is very helpful in fine-tuning your leadership skills. The 100 Best Businesses to Start When You Don’t Want to Work Hard Anymore by Lisa Rogak, will provide ways to put your skills and interests to other productive and possibly employable use.
  • Avoid the 4 S’s. That is, do not become: 1) solemn; 2) somber; 3) sullen; 4) sardonic. Keeping a positive and cheery frame of mind is crucial to surviving your period of unemployment. Be upbeat! Being without work is a difficult enough situation without adding to it by being negative or pessimistic.

We all have our own techniques for staying positive during our period of unemployment. The bullets I listed above are things that have worked for me. Even if you decide not to use any of them, I hope that I was at least able to get you to think of how to remain positive during your (temporary!) period of unemployment.

I will end with several lines from a William Blake poem (Auguries of Innocence):

‘Man was made for Joy & Woe

And when this we rightly know

Thro the World we safely go

Joy & Woe are woven fine

A Clothing for the soul divine

Under every grief & pine

Runs a joy with silken twine.’

About the Author:

Tom Millington is an innovative and seasoned international educator, having held positions in Study Abroad at BCA and Emmanuel College. Tom has also taught Spanish to elementary through high school students. He holds a MA in History from Indiana State University and has been described by colleagues as “passionate, committed and devoted to work in international education.” You can read more about him at his linkedin.com profile.