After the Layoff: If I knew then what I know now …

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The Roman orator Cicero was once quoted as saying, “Experience is a tough teacher because she often gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.”

To that end, here are 10 valuable lessons I’ve learned from my unemployment experience:

1 – The economy doesn’t discriminate. These days, nobody’s job is recession-proof. Companies big and small are cutting staff to protect their bottom line. Everyone is vulnerable, despite their position in the corporate hierarchy.

2 – Don’t assume you’re irreplaceable. Ironically, experience and seniority can sometimes hurt, rather than help you keep your job. In some cases, experienced employees earning higher salaries are being laid off to save money and their job duties are being distributed among employees earning lower wages.

3 – Don’t underestimate the difficulty of finding a job. Regardless of your skill set, it’s likely you’ll be competing against several hundred job applicants with skills either matching or exceeding yours. I was one of 12 people hired by my new employer, but I’m told more than 800 people applied for the job.

4 – Don’t be afraid to try a new line of work. I never envisioned myself working in an industry other than broadcasting, but today I’m working for a great company using many transferable skills I never realized I had.

5 – Never stop networking. It’s not always what you know, but who you know that gets results. Job search Web sites and classified ads are still a great source of potential job leads, but many times, the best jobs available are the ones never advertised.

6 – Pay attention when filing for unemployment assistance. Take it from me, be sure you fully understand all the rules and procedures regarding filing and processing your unemployment claim. My failure to ensure I had everything straight led to some costly mistakes that resulted in my being denied benefits the entire time I was unemployed.

7 – Save whatever money you can to prepare for an emergency. Had my wife and I not planned ahead, we would have been in serious financial trouble when I lost my job. Granted, we weren’t planning on using that money so soon, but the spare cash helped pay our bills. A financial cushion, regardless of size, can work wonders helping you cope with stress stemming from a job loss.

8 – Don’t be ashamed of losing your job. Remember, you’re one of millions of people in the same boat. In many cases, the job loss is directly linked to economics, not your job performance or lack thereof. I remember how uncomfortable I felt the first few times someone asked me, “So, what do you do for a living?” My favorite response? “I’m self-employed,” I’d say with a smile.

9 – Stay positive and never give up. Ever. It’s easy to wallow in self-pity when life nails you in the back with a nasty curve ball. Much like a pro ball player, do your best to walk it off and stay in the game. The game could be a long one, but it can be won with focus and determination.

10 – Be thankful for what you have. Always. I may have been without a job, but I’m eternally grateful I have my family and friends who were, and continue to be, a tremendous source of inner strength. I’m also mindful of how blessed I am to have food on the table, clothes on my back, a roof over my head and a safe, comfortable place to sleep each night.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re always learning, regardless of our age and station in life. Let that be a lesson to each of us.

Next: How many jobs does it take to make ends meet?

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Sean-Baker-op.jpgSean Baker of South Portland has a personal perspective on unemployment: his more than two-decade career in broadcasting came to a sudden halt in February when he was laid off by a Portland radio station. He’s writing about the experience in this series for The Forecaster, and can be reached at