Lately the news has been packed with stories of surprise job losses and long-term unemployment. More companies are downsizing or shutting down and their former employees are feeling the pinch.

Last year I joined the ranks of the unemployed when I lost my job after almost 10 years. It was an extremely stressful time because I’d suddenly lost my only source of income. Everything felt so uncertain after that. How was I going to pay my bills? Take care of my daughter? I can’t tell you how many nights I lay awake worrying about what I was going to do.

I didn’t see it back then but losing my job was actually a blessing in disguise. If I hadn’t lost it, I would never have found the opportunities I’ve enjoyed since then. I can honestly say that I’m in a much better place now.

Obviously, getting here didn’t happen over night. It took a lot of work and sacrifice but now I get to live everyday in my passion and purpose.

I want to share my story with you in the hopes that if you’ve your job or you’re interested in pursuing your passion, you’ll be inspired.

1. Press pause and accept your new normal

It doesn’t matter how long you were at your job, losing it hurts. When I got the news, it felt surreal. I kept thinking, “This is my worst nightmare. There’s no way this is really happening.” But it was. After almost 10 years it was, “See ya later…kinda nice knowing ya.”

What added to the sting for me was the amount of time and effort I’d invested over the years. I’d started as a customer service rep and worked my way up to account manager. I’d sacrificed late nights and weekends to put in extra time to make a difference in the projects I worked on. As it turns out, I was just a number.

But even though I was definitely angry, I didn’t allow myself to stay that way. The negative thought patterns that come with anger aren’t productive.

When it comes to your situation, I know you need to get back in the game and make money quickly but trust me, when I say, “Take some time to let it sink in and for the dust to settle.” I was laid off on a Tuesday and I think I sat on my sofa for about a week until I came to terms with it.

When I finally accepted what had happened, I bought a yoga pass at a local studio and spent my afternoons exercising. I booked a massage and even a hair appointment. This all played a big part in relieving my stress and taking care of myself because I knew there’d be a lot to do going forward.

2. Figure out your game plan and take action

Once I made self care a priority, my stress levels dropped and my focus went up. Because I hadn’t updated my resume in a few years, I dusted it off and went to a career center to get some pointers. After a major overhaul, I started applying to the same kind of job I had before. I’ve count of how many jobs I applied to in those first few weeks but I didn’t hear back from a single recruiter. I thought that with lots of experience and lots of education, finding a new job would be a cinch.

This is when I realized that I didn’t have a game plan, I was working on autopilot. You know what I mean. You lose your job and you immediately start pumping out resumes. I didn’t stop to really think about what I wanted to do.

Even though my old job had its good points, I wasn’t excited about it. When I stopped to think about it, getting the same job wasn’t appealing at all. Deep down I knew I wanted to do something different but I wasn’t sure of what that was or how to even get there.

To get to the bottom of what I really and truly wanted to do with my life, I had to figure out what would make me happy. I had to figure out what I was interested in. It was a little freaky but I was essentially looking at a complete career change.

To get started I asked myself a few questions:

  • What activities make me happy? Can I turn any of them into a job?
  • What do my past experiences tell me about what I’m good at?
  • What kind of job can I see myself doing every day?

What came to me after this exercise was writing. I’d already been blogging for a year and knew that writing was something I’d always enjoyed. I started to think about ways to turn that into a career. I did a little research and found freelancing. From there I explored freelance writing opportunities and pretty much closed the door on finding a marketing job. I was surprised to find lots of gigs early on.

Let me be real with you for a minute. I was new to the industry so the jobs didn’t pay much. What I got from those early opportunities was a foot in the door and much needed experience.

3. Turn your interests into job opportunities

Over the next few months I found more lucrative freelance opportunities that lead to more specialized jobs. I knew I was on the right path because I was making steady progress. It got to the point where I committed completely to freelancing and writing and stopped looking for a full-time office job. I know…yikes!

The longer I stayed at home writing, the more I saw myself doing it for a living. Could I really build a career that allowed me to work from home? Remote work has taken off with more and more companies giving employees the option to work from home exclusively. I pressed on.

I made a list of what I wanted my next full-time opportunity to look like. I wanted a remote job with flexible hours that let me balance being a single parent with a new career. On top of that, I wanted to write full-time and bring in an income comparable to what I was making before.

I wasn’t asking for much, right? I’ll be honest, it sounded like wishful thinking at first but I was committed to making it happen. From this point on, I only looked for full-time, remote writing jobs.

So what can you take from this? No matter how radical your passion seems, write it down. This makes it real compared to locking it away in your brain. Figure out what skills you need and start working towards getting them. Join Facebook groups and connect with people already in the industry. Find podcasts that specialize in your interests and listen to folks explain how they got to where they are and the advice they give to anyone who’s interested in the industry.

The goal is to find out everything you can and if you’re still excited about it after all of that research, you’re on to something.

4. Build your support system

As I was doing all of this research and planning, I built a support system with close friends and family. They  encouraged me and helped me stay focused on the goals I’d set for myself. It’s easy to give up when you feel defeated so a support system acts like a personal cheer squad. They push you forward.

Another stressor was my dwindling severance pay. They’re not designed to last forever so even though I cut back on a lot to stretch that money, the freelance income I earned wasn’t enough at the time. My support system was there to pray with me because I was down to the wire.

They even sent bible verses to encourage me. One that I turned to daily was Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

I memorized this verse and whenever I felt down and out, it reminded me that God has an amazing plan for me. I just have to do my part and keep pushing forward as well as hold on to faith and hope that He’s got me covered.

Whether your support group are friends, family or mentors, don’t be afraid to turn to them. They offer a safe space for you to be real and ask for help.

5. Be patient and learn as you go

I’m happy to say that all of that hard work paid off. Seven months after losing my job and one month before having to consider selling my home, I found a job! And you know what? It checked off every single one of the requirements on my list.

I work remotely for an amazing startup. I have the flexibility to pop out and do groceries at lunch or cook dinner during my breaks before my daughter gets home from daycare. I write all day, every day, and couldn’t be happier. The topics range but are mostly tech related.

The experience has helped develop my writing skills and grow my blog even more. I couldn’t be happier because I’m in a much better place than I was at my old job. I’m living my passion every day and it continues to evolve. Entrepreneurship is the ultimate goal for me but it’ll definitely center around writing.

My advice to you is to use every experience as a learning opportunity. As you get feedback from interviews, tweak your approach or your resume. Learn more about the industry you’re interested in and make connections with people. The goal here is to learn as much as you can during your journey to employment. It’s natural to feel discouraged at times but keep pushing forward and you’ll reap the benefits of your hard work.

It’s your turn

If you’ve experience unemployment, I’d love to hear about your story and how you worked through it.

I’d also love to hear about your passions and how you plan to incorporate them into your daily life. It doesn’t have to take something as drastic as losing your job to hunt for your passion or purpose. If you have a good idea of what you want to do but aren’t ready to quit your job, start a side hustle.

With this approach you learn as you go and who knows, maybe someday your side hustle will become your main hustle.

Good luck!