At 26-years-old, the worst thing that could have happened to me did – I was being retrenched. I was working my dream job as Copy & Entertainment Editor of Seventeen Magazine South Africa. I was the envy of all my friends, loved what I did and was earning just enough to get by. Then, after almost being at the company for two years, our team of 20-something-year-olds got called in for a very important meeting and told that the magazine was closing. I watched as hearts dropped, tears rolled and awkward jokes were made. For me, to be perfectly honest, it felt weird. I’d been thinking about leaving the company and discussing my options with a few people. Despite this, it was hard, I cried and went into panic mode, but after the dust settled, I learnt a few very important lessons from being retrenched.
1. Do Not Make Your Job Your Life
…because when you lose it, life feels like it’s spinning out of control. I learnt this the hard way when I lost my job. To be honest, it felt extremely personal and I felt like all my hard work, missed holidays and late nights in the office were for nothing. It is important to understand that if you do work for a big company, you are ultimately just a number and it is not personal. Your blood, sweat, and tears are valued when you create a beautiful product or have a satisfied customer, but if money is not made, you have to go! I gave most of my life to a brand that left me and I was left picking up the pieces of non-existing life.
2. Walk Away When Things Aren’t Working Anymore
After the closure of Seventeen, all former staff members of the magazine were promised a placement within the greater company. All other staff members got placed in jobs immediately, but as a copy editor, I found myself sitting in an empty office staring at a blank computer screen. It frustrated me so much and made me feel so worthless. As a result, I made the hard decision to leave the security of a paycheck and take the retrenchment package. It was liberating and unknowingly the bravest thing I’ve ever done.
3. Know The Purpose of Everything You Do
I came across this quote just after we had that important meeting and it helped me take control of a bad situation: “Choice not chance determines your destiny”. It embodies everything that I believe in right now. Don’t let chance determine your greatness. I refused to sit back and allow my career to be determined by an opening at another magazine or newspaper. I went to Seventeen with a purpose and because I liked the brand, not because it was the only thing available.
4. Nothing Lasts Forever
Like the magazine, nothing lasts forever! Tears will dry, you’ll pick yourself up and try again. I understand that I was super young and very fortunate to be retrenched without a family to support or five years before my retirement, but it happened. And even though it felt like my life was ending, I saw the opportunity to take some time off (make up for all those missed holidays) and live a little. Because life doesn’t last forever either.
5. Be Nice
I was very angry when I lost my job, but I refused not to be nice. I felt like I’d been given the short straw especially when I saw people simply be placed into other positions. It was so heartbreaking. I’ve had things said and done to me throughout my career that tested me, especially at Seventeen (Devil Wears Prada type stuff), but this was the worst. When I left I turned the other cheek and was more grateful for the thing I’d learnt than for the nasty behaviour of others.
6. It’s Not The End
Life doesn’t put anything in your path that you can’t deal with. It’s all about how you deal with things. To be honest, it is only the beginning. I was paid out a pretty penny and decided to give freelancing a shot. Now I get to build my career around my life – not my life around my career. And I can truly say I am happy!