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Column Lost your job? Here’s what you need to do…

Losing work leaves many people at a loss. Here John McGuire explains what to do when the news arrives – and why it may not be as bad as you think.

In an extract from his new book Sorted: How to Survive and Thrive When Money Is Tight, John McGuire answers the condundrum: What should I do when I’ve lost my job?

NOW YOU HAVE to ask yourself some questions.

Have you ever wanted to try something else and never had the chance? Have you ever wanted to set up by yourself ? What are you good at? Are you pretty decent with your hands? Have you ever wanted to run a small business? Every time there is a change, there is an opportunity. You need to look for the opportunity in this change.

As far as I’m concerned, this recession is far and away the greatest opportunity of our lifetimes. It’s never been easier to set up a company, rent an offi ce, buy equipment and advertise. Everything from printing to phones to property has become cheap and accessible. Most people can’t see it because everyone in the media is saying how terrible everything is. Bad news sells. But there are two ways of looking at the way things are at the moment. You can see the negative or you can see the positive. At the moment, as bad as things are, all I can see are opportunities. Warren Buff et says, ‘Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.’ As far as I am concerned this is the time to be greedy.

One of the best decisions I made last year was to stop allowing myself to be bombarded with bad news every day. I still keep abreast of the news, but I’ll mostly just follow the headlines if at all possible. I used to read two newspapers a day. Now If I read one I’ll go straight to the business or sports section. I stopped allowing my mood and attitude to be altered and affected every morning, afternoon and evening with bad news, and the quality of my life improved dramatically. Sometimes, censoring your influences is an option if the influences are all negative. I can’t control what is going on in Europe and around the world, but I can make a difference to what is directly under my control, so why allow myself to be influenced negatively by what I can’t control? Whether our economy grows by one per cent or contracts by one per cent has no effect on me on a day-to-day basis, so why allow my happiness and quality of life to be aff ected by a statistic? If the economy contracts by one per cent for two consecutive quarters we are in recession – that is how a recession is defined. If it grows by one per cent we are not. I don’t care.

‘The recession didn’t kill my business – the banks did’

The recession did not kill my businesses. The banks falling apart did. It’s not as though mortgages can disappear again on me and leave me with a company with fuck all to sell. If insurance, food, alcohol and the need to live under a roof or the need for offices disappear like mortgages did, then I’m rightly stuffed but, assuming they don’t, I can build my companies right up again regardless of whether we are in recession. I don’t need people to be throwing money about to thrive.

This may be completely unrealistic, but if you get a bit of redundancy or you have a little cash to spare and it’s in any way possible, get yourself away on holidays. They are really cheap at the moment. Losing your job is a very emotional experience and it pays to take a bit of time away to digest things, put the past to bed and work out the next option.

Could you set up a small business? Maybe doing something you love mightn’t earn as much, but could it make you happier? There is nothing like loving your job for great quality of life, and hating your job for terrible quality of life. Is spending more time with family a better option? Even for a year or two? There is a lot more to quality of life than money, and nobody ever looked back on their death bed and wished they’d spent more time in the office.

‘You need to treat it just as you would any other job’

Or do you simply want to get back into the working world as quickly as possible? If so, your new job is getting a job. You need to get up and start work at 9 am and finish at 5pm every day until you get a job. Take a lunch break and do all of the things you would normally do, but treat it just as you would any other job. If you put the same effort into getting a job as you would into keeping a normal job, you can’t help but find employment sooner rather than later.

Similarly, if you are going to set up by yourself or investigate the possibility of starting your own company, you need to treat it just as you would any other job. You need to be at your desk in the morning, because the opportunity you are looking for will not come looking for you. You need to find it.

There is no harm, either, in doing a day or two of voluntary work. Not alone is it worthwhile, but it also means you’re staying involved in working and it’s great for your confidence. It will also work a treat in an interview and on your CV . It says you did not give up, you adapted.

Far and away the hardest part of this process is the first step. The toughest part of a marathon for me is starting the training in the first place. I’m no runner. I’m six feet three inches, weigh fifteen and a half stone and I’m not particularly fast. Getting myself into a situation where I can run for more than four hours was daunting.
The hardest part of writing this book was getting myself to the PC . When I first got the notes from the editor, listing everything I had to do, I had a full day of writing planned. I made myself a cup of tea, sat down at my laptop, read over the notes, then read them again. I pictured the work I had to do, stared at the screen a bit more and then stood up, went over to my bed, fixed the pillows, lay down and slept for the day.

‘What you need to do is hand out leaflets’

It took me another while to get my head ready for it. But then, once you start, you find your rhythm and you don’t want to stop. I saw this recently in a Mongolian guy who does regular work for me. He helped me build Dax Café Bar. I used to call him ‘the fixing god’. ‘Can you do this?’ I’d ask him.

‘Yes,’ he’d say. ‘I just need some two-by-four, some bonding, a few slabs, and it will be done tomorrow.’ He was made redundant recently after his employer lost a contract. I had a meeting with him and gave him some advice.

‘Stop looking for work,’ I told him. ‘What you need to do is hand out leaflets in Dublin 2 just saying, “Handyman available at €15 per hour”. Say you do almost everything from plumbing to carpentry to painting and you’ll be inundated with work. When people find a good, honest, reliable handyman, they hold onto him forever, especially in Dublin 2 . These Georgian buildings need constant upkeep and repair.’

This was my second time of advising him, and I could see as I said this that that he really wasn’t keen on taking on the responsibility of finding work himself. It’s that intimidating first step again. So I took matters into my own hands. I got him in for a day’s work delivering leaflets around Dublin 2 for Dax, which said, ‘We now do offi ce deliveries.’

I also gave him a different bunch of leaflets: ‘Handyman available. Honest, hardworking, €15 per hour, etc, etc.’

When he got back that day, Dax had received no calls for takeaways, but he had three jobs.

When I was in Australia in 2001 , I was twenty-eight years old, on holidays and finding it hard to get casual work. The best I could get was about ten dollars an hour, and I had just been let go from a sandwich shop after a day and a half. Apparently, when you’re employed on a temporary basis in a sandwich shop, they don’t really need your tips on management. So I decided to see what I could do to generate more income. I picked up a bucket and car cleaning equipment and offered to valet people’s cars. Okay, it was not the most fabulous work in the world, but I could set up anywhere, work my own hours and make way more money that I could anywhere else.

The point is, you can make money anywhere and anyhow, especially if you are willing to do something that saves people time, money or heartache. It doesn’t have to be a great invention. You just have to be prepared to take that first step.

John McGuire’s book Sorted: How to Survive and Thrive when Money is Tight is published by Penguin Ireland and is available now, priced €14.99.

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